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The Women's Sports Alliance


Lucy Campbell – How getting ‘kicked out of ballet’ led to surfing success

“Surfing felt like the coolest thing ever and I just fell in love with it,” Lucy Campbell tells the Women's Sports Alliance.

Credit: @Lucycsurf

Whether you are an elite athlete, part-time hobbyist or a holidaymaker who fancies a splash on (but most likely in) the water, you will be aware that surfing is – as Lucy states – an inherently ‘cool’ sport.

What you will undoubtedly also realise within moments of attempting to stand on a board yourself is that surfing is an inherently challenging sport too.

“The sense of achievement you get from working on a new move for so long and then finally landing it, is just incredible,” says Lucy. “It's definitely addictive!”

She was a typically active “Duracell bunny” type of child and competitive too. Mainly motivated by having two elder brothers who she would “try to beat” at everything they took on.

“I think my mum and dad signed me up to everything to try and tire me out, so there was swimming, surfing, lifesaving and types of dance, but I was kicked out of ballet,” she admits with a laugh. “I don’t think I was that good at it!”

A Move to the Ocean

Credit: @Lucycsurf

Lucy excelled in many other sports, including distance running, but after her family relocated to the north Devon coast surfing became more than a hobby and more a ‘way of life’ for the now seven-time national champion.

She found the challenge, presented by the unpredictability of conditions during training and competition particularly exciting.

“There's so much that's out of your control,” Lucy reveals.

“Even in competition you can go in with a plan to do a certain thing, or have a strategy; then the tide changes and the waves completely move from where you were planning to start.

“You've always got to be ready to adapt, change and progress!”

Surfing, Sponsors and School

Despite the incredible level of dedication it takes to hone the skills needed to combat those conditions, traditionally only a relatively small group of international athletes have been able to earn a full-time living from the sport.

Acceptance into the Olympics – for the first time at Tokyo 2020 – has given a new generation enhanced opportunities to carve out professional careers.

Lucy is among those benefitting from the recent transformations within the sport and she aims to become Team GB’s first-ever Olympic surfer come the Paris 2024 Games.

“For so a long time even representing Great Britain was all self-funded, so we’d have to go and pay for ourselves to compete for our country,” she states.

“Initially, I was sort of working in (surfing) schools, cafes and bars to help fund getting to competition.

“Fortunately, when I started to get more sponsorship, I didn't need to ‘work’ quite so much and I’ve really enjoyed the campaigns I’ve done with Nivea and Ralph Lauren for example.

“It’s taken maybe five or six years to get up to this point, but it’s great that there’s also now a (national) structure in place with a governing body, physiotherapists and funding to help get us to Olympic qualification events.

“It’s become a really professional sports team which is just incredible because for the next generation of surfers coming up they now know there’s a legitimate career pathway!

Changing Perceptions About Female Surfers

Representation at the Olympics is equal, with the same number of places for women and men, but according to Lucy the sport in general is still weighted in favour of one gender and that is something she is determined to help change.

“I read the other day that it’s still 80% male dominated and even now, I'm still often the only woman out in the water some days and it can be a strange dynamic,” she admits.

“Some of the guys kind of bend the etiquette in their favour, you know, they'll sort of try and take your waves when it's your turn.

“Growing up with two brothers, I wasn't treated any different to them, it was sort of ‘whatever they could do, I could do as well’, it pushed me a lot and I think it definitely helped that my parents gave me that mindset.

Lucy continues; “I know I represent a niche sport, but the main thing for me is that more young women do more physical activity. It can be hard work, but it can also be fun and there are so many options out there beyond surfing, like football, track or rugby they can try.”

Mission Paris 2024

Credit: @Lucycsurf

The surfer herself is committed to one sport these days though and with a year to go until the Paris 2024 Olympics, she is entering a crucial period of not only her sporting career, but her life.

“I think once I'd sort of stopped running, the ultimate goal (the Olympics) hadn't even entered my headspace as surfing wasn’t in the Games, but to now have it in surfing is incredible,” she tells the WSA.

“It was always the aspiration to make the World Tour and win a world title, but there’s the Olympics which will put not only more eyes on the sport but encourage more people to get in the ocean.

“It’s hard to describe what I feel about it (qualifying for the Olympics), but it’s a massive aspiration of mine and it would be amazing to represent Great Britain (in Paris) next year.”

Credit: @Lucycsurf


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