How much do you know about women’s surfing? My knowledge used to begin and end with the movie Blue Crush. So, essentially, I knew next to nothing. But I recently had the pleasure of chatting to Lucy Campbell, England’s Women’s Surfing Champion, about the sport and I’m finally a little more clued-up.
Lucy somehow managed to find an ounce of time between travel, training sessions and championships to share the ins and outs of her 9 to 5 with Coco’s Tea Party. So read on to discover what life is like for a professional surfer…
How did you get into surfing? And at what age did you start to think about pursuing the sport professionally?
I was always a water baby. Mum and dad would struggle to get me out of swimming pools when I was little. And whenever we went to the beach I would always end up in the sea. I’d leave shivering like crazy, but with a massive smile on my face.
We moved to the coast of North Devon when I was about 5-years-old. And I remember one year my older brother Stuart saved up his birthday and Christmas money to buy a surfboard. From then on he spent hours in the sea with my dad.
I did Surf Life Saving from a young age, and that really helped me learn about the sea. So by the age of 10 I was allowed to go out with my dad and brother. And I immediately fell in love with surfing, too.
I dreamed of surfing professionally, and competed throughout my teens. After finishing my A level exams I worked really hard to make sure I could afford to continue competing. I’d work 16-hour days, switching between surf instructing and bar or cafe work.
This has actually been the first year that I’ve been able to focus solely on surfing without working silly hours on the side, because I now have sponsorships in place. This year I’ve travelled non-stop, and I have to pinch myself sometimes because I’m actually doing what I’ve always dreamed about.
How do surfing championships work? And which countries do you get to compete in?
Surfing competitions are structured into 20 minute heats. There will be four girls in the water at a time, and your waves are scored between 0-10. The judges are looking at your manoeuvres, how you carry speed, and how you power and flow through the waves. The two girls with the highest scores go through to the next round.
This year I have been competing in the World Qualifying Series, as well as the UK Pro Surf Tour. Both championships work on a points system – surfers are awarded points based on their placing at the competitions, and these points are then added together to create the world ranking. The top 10 women in the WQS then go on to compete in the championship tour.
The World Qualifying Series runs throughout the year, and stops in different countries all over the world. This year I’ve competed at events in Portugal, Spain, Mexico, Peru, California, Newquay and France. It’s been incredible!
What does your typical day look like? If such a thing even exists for you…
My days are mostly planned around the surf forecasts and tides. Twice a week I have strength and conditioning training, so I’ll be up at 6am, grab a coffee and a banana, then head straight to the gym. Training lasts for about an hour, and then I’ll have some breakfast. I usually go for eggs on toast with sautéed mushrooms, tomatoes and avocado, or a big bowl of porridge made with almond milk, cinnamon, chia and flax seeds.
After breakfast I’ll rest for an hour and get a bit of admin work done before I head into the water. I surf for an hour at a time, so that I can keep focused. I tend do two hour-long surfing sessions a day. But if the waves are good I can easily spend five hours in the water!
How do like to unwind after a long day?
In the evenings I do yoga to help with my balance and muscle recovery. And I’ll also pop a movie on to help me unwind. But, if it’s been a long day of training, I’m usually fast asleep my 8pm! Travelling is so exciting, but I love coming home from competitions and spending time with my friends, family and boyfriend.
What is the biggest challenge you currently face in your career?
Choosing which bikini to wear… Just kidding! I absolutely love what I do and I wouldn’t change it for the world. However, it’s hard work to make sure you’re physically and mentally at your best in order to train and compete almost every day of the week. It’s a constant battle to find the balance between cooking healthy meals, getting in the water as much as possible, training, staying on top of emails, blogging, spending time with friends and family and managing to get the right amount of sleep.
And, on the flip side of that, what’s the biggest perk of your job?
I honestly feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world to be travelling, meeting amazing people and doing what I love every single day.
What are your tricks for staying motivated and keeping a positive attitude?
For me, I think keeping healthy is the key. If I’m eating right and sleeping well I have more energy. So finding the motivation to jump into the sea at 6am is much easier.
This year I actually reached out to a sports phycologist for some advice. It can sometimes be frustrating when you’re putting all of your energy into training, but don’t perform at the same level in a competition. This year I’ve definitely learnt that even the best in the world make mistakes and have days where they can’t find the right rhythm.
It’s impossible to compete without facing mistakes and disappointments. And you learn more from your mistakes than you do from winning. They help you come back stronger the next time.
Which other women working in your industry inspire you on a daily basis?
I’m always motivated by the girls competing in the world tour – they are constantly pushing women’s surfing to new levels. But I think that all women who are out there working their butts off and chasing their dreams are an inspiration!
What is the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given, and who gave it to you?
The sports phycologist I’ve been seeing once said to me, “Don’t talk to yourself any differently than how you would talk to a friend.” That’s something I think all women should hear, because we can be so self-critical.
There’s a clear double standard on how we talk to ourselves and how to we talk to others. So go easy on yourself! Think about a driving test: what would you say to a friend if they failed? And what would you say to yourself? Then talk to yourself like you would talk to a friend.
Psst… Are you subscribed to the Coco’s Tea Party email newsletter? Because now, along with the weekly update on Tuesday mornings, I’ll also be sending out a Mini #My9to5 Q&A on the third Sunday of every month. Each profile will feature an awesome lifestyle blogger or YouTuber! Sign up now to receive the first edition on October 22nd.
Follow Lucy Campbell on Instagram at @lucycsurf. All images courtesy of Lucy Campbell.
Catch up on the previous #my9to5 interviews here >>