“IMAGINE HAVING A WHOLE YEAR OFF…”

FROM SW412: Late last year SW interviewed Steph Gilmore, who’d spent most of her year locked down in a one mile radius between Duranbah and Kirra. No tour, no Olympics… but a whole year of surfing at home and her best mates hanging out with her. Gold Coast filmmaker Dan Scott filmed the whole thing as the days and waves blurred into each other, and the result is… Surfing. 

Steph: “I feel like every day is bin day. I wake up every morning and feel like I need to put the bins out because the weeks have gone so quick. That’s how sad it is. That’s the measure of my life right now.

“At the start of this year I was reassessing my schedule anyway so when the Olympics came around I was fresh and wasn’t jaded from having been on the road for six months already. I was kind of looking at maybe taking some time for myself which I’ve never really done. I got more than I wished for. “We’re just going to cancel the tour for the whole year.” Shit, okay.

“It was obviously a bit of a shock at first but now I’m really feeling guilty for how much I’m enjoying this strange lockdown. To be honest, we were so lucky up here on the Gold Coast. We were able to surf and be outside and apart from having to stand in line outside of a coffee shop for 10 minutes and not being able to travel to Byron or Angourie, for the most part it was pretty relaxed.

“We had an amazing run of surf and it didn’t really stop. There were days I’d wake up and pray it had gone flat because I was so sunburned and tired from sitting in the barrel at Greenmount, but then I’d stop and think, if we’re still here in November and its northerly and one-foot I’ll be kicking myself because you didn’t paddle out that day back in April.

“It’s been great for us in one way because we always wanted to film and surf and we’ve had that time. We had Dan Scott filming us to make a little film project out of it… look at me I’m already doing the PR for it. But we’ve also had a lot of time to just be friends. Tyler, Nikki Van Dijk moved into my house for three months, Dimity and Macy… we all travel together but when you travel and compete you hang out, but it’s very different. This was like, ““What’s on today? Well, surf’s pumping, sun’s out, I guess we’re going back to the beach.”

“I live right on the border, so that was a bit of a nightmare. When it first came in there was so much traffic it took an hour to get from Tweed Mall to Coolangatta. I’d often just park on the NSW side and walk across the border. It was an inconvenience, but we weren’t locked down in Melbourne, not being able to go outside and see the family so it wasn’t a big one.

“Maybe because of the border, the crowds at Duranbah were the worst I’ve ever seen in my life. I’d be down checking it when it was small and onshore and there’d still be a million guys out. Everyone’s been out there. It was funny though in those early weeks to see how protective surfers became. Going down to Lennox and having grumpy locals call shit on Queenslanders, it was like, hang on a second. What’s the deal here? It’s funny how pissed off people got. Are you guys for real? Surfing’s true colours shone through for a bit and it got territorial. Some perspective would’ve been nice.

“All of us had so much fun surfing the points at home though, I don’t reckon I went left the whole time. To be honest I had grand plans to get really good at airs and working on weaknesses in my surfing, but then I’d just go over to Greenmount and stall inside the barrel for 20 seconds which seemed like way more fun. I’d rather do that than try a hundred air reverses. I wanted to surf fun boards, but in the end mainly rode my normal boards because the waves were too good. I did try and ride some epoxies because I wanted to dial them in for Japan, but then the Olympics got cancelled too. Tokyo was the goal this year, but who knows now? Tokyo 2020 might become Tahiti 2024.

“This was the first time in like 14 years I haven’t been dragging my shit around the world, and I thought I’d get itchy feet pretty quick, but I didn’t at all. I enjoyed the time at home and hanging with family and friends and picking up my niece and nephew from school. I think the only time I got itchy feet was when all the Americans started turning up in Indo, and I’m like, hang on a second, I’m not even allowed to drive across the street because it’s Queensland, but everyone’s flying to Indonesia? But then I’d wake up and Snapper was four-foot and perfect again and I realised this really is the best place to be right now.

“It was funny, I had this conversation with Ozzie Wright last year and I said, “Imagine having a whole year off, all the cool stuff you’d do and create.” Well, it’s October and the year’s just about gone and I’m like, “Wait… what did I actually do? I just went surfing.” But I think that’s okay too. The time to chill out is totally fine. It was okay to fully take a break and not stress about not creating anything.

“We were so lucky. We’ve been so spoiled it’s a joke. Having someone like Nikki living here, she was speaking to friends back in Melbourne telling her how gnarly it was for them and here we are surfing Greenmount and having lunch at the café. We were in this weird dream bubble. Then you’re watching the crazy election madness in America and the conspiracies flying around. It’s certainly strange times around the world, but a total bubble here. I think we’ll look back and it’ll be a moment in time, a year in time.

“It’s been the toughest year for so many people around the world. People are struggling more with mental health than the actual coronavirus. But they’ve learned the value of being outside and a healthy life and they’ve worked from home and spent all that time with family and friends. I also think as surfers we’ve spent so much time in the water at our local beaches there’s a new appreciation for how lucky we are to have them, and that they need to be protected.”

SW