British pro surfer Lucy Campbell fell in love with surfing at the age of ten when she hit the waves under tuition from her dad and brothers. Fast-forward 13 years and the 23-year-old Devon native is a now a three-time British Champion competing on surfing’s World Qualifying Series circuit.
Here, the Dryrobe ambassador chats about her running background, training week and Olympic hopes.
Let’s rewind – how did you get into surfing and did you love it from the start?
I started surfing with my Dad and older brothers, we would all just play around in the sea for ages it was so much fun!
You were a pretty talented middle distance runner as well – was this your focus prior to surfing?
Thank you! I got in to running after winning an inter-schools cross country race in year 8 – I actually only entered because it was a day off school. I then qualified for some bigger events and decided to join a local running club to train. I was then competing and training in surfing, running and surf life-saving all at the same time… still can’t thank my parents enough for giving up their time and driving me all over the country for events. I often had both races and surf events on the same weekend!
It was tricky through my A-levels to find a balance between college work and competing at national and international level, but I think it taught me so much – and getting out in the sea or running along the coast paths has to be the best kind of revision break.
Surfing makes its Olympic debut in 2020 – is competing in Tokyo on your list of goals?
Yes – super-exciting, I will definitely be giving it my best shot!
Can you explain the format of surfing competitions and how they work?
Okay, so you generally have 4 surfers out in the water in a 20-minute heat. Every wave you catch is scored (like gymnastics) between 0-10, and the 2 surfers with the highest wave scores go through to the next round, and so on, until there are only 4 surfers remaining which is then the final! In the final your position is based again on your two highest wave scores.
What physical attributes do you need to be a successful surfer?
I guess stamina for long paddles out battling against the waves, then definitely some agility and power when riding a wave. Oh, and balance helps too!
Where do you tend to feel the effort of a couple of hours on the board?
Surfing uses your whole body, but if I’ve had a good few long surfs my arms and shoulders will definitely be feeling it!
What does your training look like at the moment?
I’ve been working with guys at the Cornwall High Performance centre when I’m home for about a year now and absolutely love it – I can most definitely feel the benefits in the water! It’s mostly resistance training, so deadlifts, front squats, pull-ups and all that jazz and then some plyometrics, speed work and movement patterns mixed in too.
As a former runner do you still grab your trainers and head out now and then?
Yes! I love getting out on the coast paths and finding that sense of freedom it gives you! It’s also very handy for aerobic training.
What does a typical week of training look like for you?
My weeks vary depending on the waves, tides and where I am. At home, I like to surf once or twice a day, add in two gym sessions and two cardio, usually running, skating, mountain biking or, if I’ve got heaps of emails etc to do, I’ll get some done sat on a bike machine. Then a good old stretch or three thrown in too!
You’re a fan of yoga. Have you found that it complements your surfing?
Yes! I do love a bit of yoga. I think it’s so great for surfing not only for flexibility, relaxing and stretching out my muscles after a long day, but for the body awareness side of it too – in surfing you will often have to be adjusting your feet, making sure your arms and body are in the right position at the same time as reading the wave, I find yoga a great way to help with that.
Is it difficult to get the wave quality you need in the UK, and does honing your pro surfing skills mean a lot of travel?
We do get some amazing waves in the UK. However, when competing on the World Qualifying Series against girls that come from places like Austrailia or Hawaii that get pumping waves almost every day, you have to be getting in the same amount of training. I do travel a lot to surf more consistent waves, especially over the UK winter time. I feel super lucky to get to do this as surfing new, fun waves is my favourite thing to do!
Would you say surfing is a mental challenge as well as a physical one?
I think surfing competitively is, like every competitive sport, very mentally challenging. There is so much in surfing that is out of your control and you really have to learn to focus on what you can control… Surfing on the World qualifying series there are so many incredible surfers on it, one of the biggest challenges is learning how to lose and not let it knock your confidence.
I noticed you’ve worked with a sport psychologist. Has this helped your performance?
I have! Last season I really struggled with nerves, it was my first year where my sponsorship allowed me to surf fulltime and so I think I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. I did lots of hypnotherapy and mindfulness with the psychologist and although I didn’t start feeling the benefits until the end of the season I really feel that now it’s helped and have felt much better this year.
Have you ever had a dangerous wipeout or hairy experience on the board?
I’ve had my fair share of bumps and bruises, reef cuts, fin cuts, close calls with rocks, hold unders… I’ve spent a good amount of time paddling in rips and recently I managed to knee myself in the throat, which I didn’t even know was possible, resulting in me losing my voice for a few days! But nothing too bad – touch wood!
Have you had any close calls with wildlife while surfing abroad?
I’ve been lucky enough to see lots of dolphins, whales, turtles and countless pretty fish from my board and have also had to get out of the water a few times because of sharks!
What are your favourite items of kit for surfing and training?
Obviously I have my favourite boards, for training I’ll always take a resistance band and skipping rope away with me… so handy for lots of different workouts.
Who are you sponsored by at the moment?
I feel so fortunate to have Olympus cameras, korev lager, ION, Dryrobe, Ocean mountain explorers and Beach beat surfboards supporting me.
What’s next on the horizon for you in 2018?
I’ve just finished my World Qualifying Series season, and I have a few different British events and filming projects. Then I’ll try to head away for a few months over winter to get some solid training and free surfing in.