Surf Coach, Gemma Harris tells us how she made a career from surfing which is of course every surfers dream…
Hi Gemma! Where did you grow up and who introduced you to surfing?
‘I was brought up in South Wales in a surfing family, my dad made surfboards, my brother a champion shortboarder and longboarder and my mum was my lift to the beach and beach babe.
I therefore grew up loving the ocean and the beach. I’d go on lots of surf trips up and down Europe with my parents.’
Have you always been a surfer?
‘No actually. I competed at international and national level as a competitive bodyboarder, my highest rankings being 10th in the world and 2nd in Europe.
I travelled all over the world to compete; Australia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Morocco, and central America to name just a few.’
What was it that gave you the motivation to keep getting into the water?
‘Having a twin brother who surfed gave me my competitive drive and at the age of 19 (relatively late), I started surfing more than bodyboarding. I felt I’d got to the peak of bodyboarding and wanted a new challenge in the water.’
So you’ve converted from a sponger to a surfer forever?
‘I love surfing, I feel like I’m constantly learning and I have a completely different view of the wave from bodyboarding. However, if the waves get huge and it’s a 6ft hollow dredging peak on a slab, I’d take out my body board, but I’m a total convert to surfing these days.’
Has surfing continued to take you all over the world like bodyboarding did?
‘Travelling comes hand in hand with surfing and I’m forever grateful for the opportunities surfing has given me.
Of course travel is not cheap so to help fund my travels, I began lifeguarding the beaches of Cornwall, it gave me the chance to train and surf all summer. This is the closet thing to being paid to surf :-).’
How has surfing changed your life?
‘I felt I wanted to give back to surfing and show others what surfing has shown me; opportunity, lifestyle and most of all fun.
I trained and coached the Jr Welsh team and got involved with developing a local surf lifesaving club.
I also started my own surf school in Cornwall. The Surf School and I got involved with the Wave Project UK, which was in the very beginning stages of starting up one of the most rewarding surf schemes I’ve been involved with. The Wave Project supports children from difficult backgrounds to experience surfing and escape the everyday. It was a great success.’
After a few years the travel bug bit again, so I left the surf school and headed for tropical shores; Hawaii, Sri Lanka, Australia and Indonesia.
What are you doing at the moment?
‘I have been travelling and working for Outer Reef, my fiancée’s company all over Europe. I have been training new ISA coaches and SLSGB lifesaving to become surf coaches at the best surf camps in Europe.
As well as this, I have been doing some private coaching in the Channel Islands. I also coach all levels at the Outer Reef Surf and SUP school in Pembrokeshire Wales.’
As a Female surfer, do you have any female specific retreats?
‘Yes. Outer Reef runs a women’s only surf & sup weekend that is aimed at all abilities. These weekends are run in a friendly, safe and laid back environment with top quality equipment supplied by Billabong.
…I love working with the ladies, it sometimes feels like I don’t have a job!’
What other hobbies do you have?
‘I enjoy Yoga and Stand up Paddle boarding around the coast of west Wales as part of my amazing job, and generally being active outside.
I love the Ocean and love to surf so I guess I’m living the dream. :)’
All dates for the women’s weekends and ISA coaching / beach lifeguard awards can be found on the Web site www.outerreefsurfschool.com