© Tegan Blackford/roxy-uk.co.uk
Although just 14-years-old, Tegan Blackford is already winning surfing competitions designed to test the best English surfing talent under the age of 18. Most recently crowned U16 Short board National Champion and U18 Long Board National Champion, the Cornwall native is part of the English Junior Development Team and is also a Roxy ambassador – nice!
Here she chats about her surfing bloodline, swapping neoprene wetsuits for bikinis in Bali, and her hopes and goals for the future.
How did you get into surfing?
My parents, auntie and uncle all surf and my Grandpa was one of the pioneer surf crew in West Cornwall, so it’s a bloodline. My dad would take me down to our local beach at Crantock in the summer from when I was a baby and sit me on the front of his board. Over the years, I grew in confidence and by the time I was six he was pushing me into green waves.
As you’re still at school, when do you fit surfing in alongside your studies?
My favourite thing about living in the UK in the summer is the long daylight hours and being able to surf late into the evenings without conflicting with studies. However, there is something special about surfing early morning when the line-ups are quiet and most other people still are tucked up in bed. School are really supportive and allow me to surf every Wednesday afternoon and during games lessons. I have quite long holidays at school which I take advantage of to go abroad surfing.
Do you travel during the summer holidays specifically to surf?
I live in Cornwall and we get year-round waves, so we camp out a lot around the coast chasing waves. This summer I’m off to France to try to improve my surfing in heavier waves and try to get some barrels. In the winter I like to escape to warmer waters to take a break from the cold. I have family who live in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, which has great surf and climate all winter.
You’ve also surfed in Bali – coming from Cornish waves, did this take some getting used to?
Bali is amazing, not only for its waves, but also its culture. It’s so nice to ditch my wetsuit after the long winter as it gives you such a sense of freedom to surf in a bikini.At my home break I can sometimes be one of only a handful of people out, so I find the hardest contrast the crowds. It takes a lot for the majority of people to take on the unforgiving cold of an English winter wearing 99% of 5mm neoprene, but it’s a lot more appealing to surf in a bikini which makes it really crowded in Bali.
You won not only the U16 short board title but the U18 long board title at the English nationals. Do you prefer short board or long board, and do they require different techniques?
I prefer to short board as it’s faster and you can perform more critical turns. But, long boarding is so much fun when the waves are small. The boards are so different for me;whilst I’m still small, my short board is only 5’4” and the long board 9 feet, so without the body weight turning a longboard takes a lot of technique. It’s fun though, as you need to show style and be far more graceful in competitions, while on a short board the judges are looking for speed, power and flow.
Speaking of comps, do you get nervous before a surf competition or are you pretty relaxed?
I’ve always been into competitive sport. From an early age, I’ve been competing in swimming, tennis netball and hockey; I’m always hungry for a challenge! I think it plays to my advantage playing so many different sports, because I’m used to competing on many different levels on a regular basis so I don’t get nervous. The only time things can get stressful is when I’m surfing in more than one
division and don’t have time to prepare before the next heat. In the National English Championships, I had my longboard final directly before my under 16 final so I had to paddle in and change colour rash vest and surfboard before paddling straight back out, which didn’t give me time to warm-up on my shortboard like the other competitors so was it quite stressful.
How do you like to prepare for a competition?
I have made some good friends through surfing in competitions from all different parts of the UK. It’s like a big get-together every time we compete, we all hangout, eat lots, free surf and generally cause a bit of havoc skateboarding in the carparks between heats.
What is it you enjoy about surfing?
I enjoy how every wave is different so it’s never boring. You don’t get that in any other sport so that’s what makes surfing so special. Surfing also gives you a sense of freedom and release; nothing else seems to matter when you’re out surfing. I love the point that you lock into the wave and you feel like you become at one with the wave’s flow. It’s such a magic sensation which always keeps you paddling out for just ‘one more wave!’On the flip side, I enjoy the contests because every event’s conditions are different – it’s not like a 100m sprint which has a fixed and predictable course, and you know Bolt will 99% win before he even crosses the line.
Which female surfers do you look up to and has anyone helped mentor or support you?
If I could take elements from any three surfers, I would really aspire to surf like the Queen: Steph Gilmore because of her style, grace and flow. I would then take the power of Caroline Mark’s backhand snap and lastly Sally Fitzgibbons for having the biggest smile and positive attitude, not only towards surfing but also her whole health and fitness focus. I met Sally in France at the World Surf League in 2017 and she had so much time to give to me and some great tips for the future.
Do you do any other training alongside surfing?
I swim on a regular basis to keep up my fitness and paddle strength. I also compete in surf lifesaving, which really complements my surfing. In the winter I play more hockey and netball, competing for my school and local club. It’s nice to also be involved in team sports as surfing is so individual. My flexibility is definitely my weak point and my mum keeps trying to drag me to yoga, but as all of my friend will tell you I don’t think I could stay quiet for that long!
What plans have you got for the rest of the year?
This year, I’m going to continue competing in the British competitions and I’m entering my first women’s professional event this summer at Boardmasters. I’m in the English Junior Development team so will also be fighting for a place in the ISA World Juniors to represent England in the autumn.
Next year, I would like to try a couple of Junior Pro events in Europe and, long-term, my aim is to try to get to the 2024 Olympics if they hold it in France.
How do you feel about surfing being an Olympic sport now?
It’s amazing to get the sport recognised at such a high level. It’s really good that the Olympics are including sports that appeal to the younger generations. I think it will give the whole industry a boost.
Have you ever had a scary experience or bad wipeout on the board?
In November 2017, I broke my leg skateboarding and spent four months out the water and two months in a wheelchair. It was really tough getting my strength back, but my physio made a huge difference making my leg strength even better than it was before. I’ve had a couple of encounters with the reef and fin gashes, but most of the time I’m more worried about getting injured by other surfers if I’m at a busy break with lots of beginners ditching their boards.
You’re sponsored by Roxy! What are your favourite items of kit for surfing and training?
Roxy have turned me into a bikini addict, I just can’t get enough of them! I love surfing in warmer waters and if I had my way I would fill a suitcase full of nothing but bikinis. I think the bright and vibrant colours in the collection really reflect my personality. In tropical climates I also wear the Roxy long arm swimsuits and leggings which are perfect for protecting myself from the midday sun.
Tegan Blackford is an U16 Pro Surfer sponsored by global action sports brand Roxy.
Find out more about the latest Roxy Surf Collection here www.roxy-uk.co.uk/surf
You can keep up with Tegan’s surfing via her social channels: www.instagram.com/teganblackford.