An alumna of the same school as Barack Obama and a fanatical scrapbooker, the serial winner now has her sights set on success at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Surfing is on the programme for the next Olympic Games, you are a three-time world champion and are currently ranked inside the world’s top five – you must be feeling pretty good?
I am super excited. The first few events of this season have been fun. One of them did get cancelled in Australia unfortunately, but apart from that it’s been a good year so far.
It was the Margaret River Pro event that had to be cancelled due to safety concerns following shark attacks in the area, how do you deal with things like that?
It is not something I think about all the time. Usually I feel pretty safe in places I choose to surf. It is such a sensitive subject. For some people it’s a very tough issue. For me, I would rather be safe than sorry. I felt pretty safe with all the different protocols the WSL (World Surf League) had in place, but ultimately they made the right decision. It’s all good.
Can you explain what it is about surfing that means you can put worries like that out of your mind?
I love feeling that connection with the ocean and being connected to the elements. The rest of the world disappears when you are out on the ocean. It is just such a different feeling to be surrounded by such power. And at moments, you are able to almost be in tune with it. It’s pretty cool.
You’ve been a pro since 2008, has women’s surfing changed a lot in that time?
For sure, you need to do more and more to stay at the top of the sport. The level is increasing all the time, every season, 100 per cent.
You are famous among your peers on the WSL for being a great napper, where is the strangest place you have fallen asleep?
I don’t know if I have had any ridiculously strange places, but I have definitely fallen asleep under physio tables at (surfing) events, on the ground. I would put that up there as one of the weirder places. I like airport floors or quiet spots in the big tents at our events, somewhere no one can find me.
You married your high school boyfriend in December last year. Did you guys seek out or avoid surfing on your honeymoon?
We went to Iceland and Greece. We weren’t going to surf, the whole goal was to go someplace that didn’t have surfing at all, but I found out there was surf in Iceland and it’s always been on my bucket-list to get suited up in a full (wet) suit with hood and gloves and booties and we did it. It was amazing, there was snow everywhere. It was so cool. It was chilly, there was like four hours of sunlight.
Barack Obama also went to the same school, Punahou High. Have you guys ever met?
I have never met him. But I was in high school when he got into office and everyone was super excited. It was a very proud moment for my school.
I did meet (professional golfer) Michelle Wie, which was pretty cool. She was a senior when I was a freshman and I was really star-struck when she was on campus. And I got to talk to her.
It sounds like a pretty good school…
It was a great education and they really do a great job of supporting athletes and individual dreams, which is cool. I was surrounded by a lot of greatness. I was pretty one track-minded at school though – it was do well in classes so I could surf after school.
You have often been vocal on the issue of body shaming, can you explain what it means to you?
For me it all stems from the fact I have struggled with confidence and body image throughout my life. When I was going through body changes in my teens and I started to gain a little bit more weight and stuff, one of the things my dad always encouraged was to just be upfront.
At some points there were people talking, saying some things about how I looked, and it was just better to be honest and share my story. And what I found from that was that there were other people that were going through the same things and that kind of helped me.
It is important for young women to have people talking about these things. I think maybe the most inspiring thing for me is when people are 100 per cent authentically themselves and aren’t afraid to be vulnerable. That is much better than making it all look perfect, because it never is. No one is perfect.
It says on your website that you love ‘scrapbooking’ – can you explain please?
I have a scrapbook for every year of my life. It is like a photo diary, I cut out really fun shapes and I glue them in and I get fun stickers and stuff. It’s not just a normal photo album, it’s a lot more. It’s a little bit of art.
I wish I could show them to everyone, but most of the time they are these big clunky books. There is not really any place we can show them off in the house and then I feel weird, going, ‘Hey, can you come and see my scrapbook’. But any chance I will for sure, I take great pride in them.