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“I’m Happiest when I’m in the Ocean”
Lucy Campbell is as at home riding a wave as on dry land.It takes courage and skill to tame the waves. But, as Lucy Campbell explains, earning the title of best British and European female surfer on numerous occasions also comes with a price to your personal life. WYLDE Woman, Lucy Campbell is used to spending months away from friends and family as she travels the world, often taking to the sea on the bitterest of days and getting changed in freezing cold car parks. On the plus side, this 26 year old from Devon, gets to have two breakfasts a day as part of her training routine (not to be sniffed at) and feels the ecstatic buzz as the hours spent training enable her to tame the wild ocean in moments of pure, unadulterated joy.
How did you start surfing and when did you discover you were good at it?“I went for my first surf at about the age of 10. I probably wasn’t the most naturally talented at it but I am naturally athletic and loved being in water with my family, so I was always happy to put in the hours.”
How does it make you feel when you are in the water or riding a wave?“It’s a hard feeling to describe, the buzz from going fast mixed with harnessing the speed of something that’s naturally made and then the satisfaction of landing a move that you’ve been working on. I guess the closest word would be ecstatic.”
Does it feel wild?“Yes, it definitely feels wild when it’s stormy, big and rugged. These days are so energising and you’re constantly reading the ocean for danger. Then in juxtaposition, there’s the calm, windless, small days that are dreamy and calming.”
How do you make yourself go out in the ocean when it is snowy and cold?“Those days are the most rewarding! It’s always worth it, to pride yourself on having just got stuck in, for that happy hormone and invigorating feeling of being out in the elements. When you’re all cuddled up in a snug warm wetsuit, sitting out in the ocean it’s like that feeling of sipping a hot chocolate and watching the rain pummel the windows. The worst part is getting changed in the sub-zero car park before and after!”
How did you turn a passion into a profession?“I lived in a seaside town and so starting out I worked as many jobs as I could through the six months of summer. I was often doing 16-hour days in the surf school then on to restaurant and bar shifts. I saved up as much as I could so that I could go away to train and compete. Gradually I gained sponsors and decided to treat it as a job, I learned as much as I could and tried to offer the best of my ability. I won’t lie, it took a good four to five years of scraping by until I got to the point where things are comfortable.”
Do you think you could ever do an ordinary 9-5 job?“It depends what day you ask me, ha, ha. I’m sure anyone who works freelance or runs a business will understand the times when you wish you could just work a normal work day and go home and switch off, rather than working into the early hours on a weekend. But really, I love the flexibility and freedom and feel so unbelievably lucky to be able to do what I love, day in day out.”
“It’s always worth it, to pride yourself on having just got stuck in, for that happy hormone and invigorating feeling of being out in the elements.”
When are you at your happiest?“It would have to be when I’m out in the ocean with a handful of my best mates, cheering each other into fun waves (and with a belly full of yummy food!).”
Do you have plans for what you want to do next? How long can you be surfing champion for?“With the Paris Olympics around the corner and a change in how the world surfing tour works I’m in super-motivated training mode at the moment. It’s taken a while but I’ve got such incredible support around me now, I know I may be a couple of years older than a lot of athletes on the world qualification series at the moment, but I feel I’m coming into my best years and everyone’s pathway is different, right? I guess with any athlete we know our years in the profession are limited so I’m soaking it in while I’m here and have plenty of exciting things lined up for the future.”
Is it a harder sport for women to do well in?“It’s definitely getting easier for women. Surfing was one of the first sports to introduce equal prize money and sponsorships slowly followed suit. There also seems to be a direct correlation with the level of female surfing sky rocketing ever since… funny that, isn’t it? However equal opportunity still has a little way to go.It’s often the case that the women’s competition will get put in in the worst waves of the day. I do think that social media has evened out the earning potential around sports too, creating another avenue.”
Are you away from home a lot? Do you find that difficult?“I’m writing this in June and I think in total I’ve spent a little over one month at home so far this year. I absolutely love being on the go and on the road, exploring different incredible beaches around the world. However, I do, one day, look forward to the time when I can be in one place for longer than two weeks and spend time with friends and family.”
What sacrifices have you made to make it to the top?“I guess the biggest would be a four-year relationship. Neither of us wanted the other to sacrifice their career to be able to see each other (there were other reasons that came with only spending three months of the year together too). Then there are the many weddings, birthdays, family events, girls’ nights, new babies etc that I have had to miss out on. And lie-ins!”
Has it all been worth it?“I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m so unbelievably grateful for the opportunities that I receive, the people I meet and the places that I get to see and surf. I treasure the people I have around me so much, they are so understanding and incredibly supportive.”
Tell us a bit about your environmental work?
“Being in and around the ocean every day, I see a lot of the small and big changes that happen. Plastic pollution is at the forefront of this and so I try to show what I see and make being a part of the difference seem a little less daunting. I’ve recently teamed up with Nivea to spread the message that it’s about all of us making small changes, being imperfect but trying to keep remembering and taking those few extra minutes a day. That is what will make a difference.”
A few easy tips to be more sustainable;
- Use up what you have before buying new… I’m guilty for discovering a new face cream or serum and wanting to slather it on my face asap too.
- Recycle your bathroom waste too. Take a few minutes to rinse out our bottle etc and pop them in the recycling. Get an extra bin in the bathroom if it helps.
- The old faithful – use your coffee cups, refillable bottles and shopping bags.
- Try getting your next outfits on sites like Depop, Vinted, Versitere or By Rotation.
- Support companies that are using sustainable ingredients and recycled packaging if you can.
Tell us about your average day – do you need to spend hours in the gym?“A typical day wherever I am in the world is I get up, stretch/ mobility, coffee and first brekkie, surf, second brekkie, gym, lunch, surf, cook dinner, stretch and enjoy the evening. My laptop hours are fitted in and around these, usually when the tide isn’t at its best or when it gets dark. With surfing you are so reliant on swell, wind and tide that you have to be pretty flexible. If the waves are amazing, I’ll be in the water for a good five hours a day. If not, I’ll surf for less time and get in the gym.”
What is the strongest part of your body?
“Physically I’d say my arms and shoulders. These bad boys help me to paddle all day long.”
What advice would you give your younger self?“You don’t need lots of people in your life. Just the right ones. You are not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, as long as you are considerate and kind to others, you do not need to change a single thing to fit someone else’s tastes. Also that it’s all part of the bigger picture. The ‘mistakes’, wins or losses, those tough days, they’ll all get you to where you want to go. All those harder times need are kind words to yourself and a change of perspective.”
Thank you Lucy, for sharing your story with us.
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