Free surfer, coach and founder of Corinne's Surf Tour and Surf Betty's Festival, Corinne Evans on how surfing keeps her mind, body and soul happy...
Tell us a little about your backstory. How did you discover surfing? You say you were born a city girl – when was the Eureka moment of finding the surf?
Growing up on the West Midlands, I never dreamt that my life would become so focused around the surf and although it took me a few years to feel confident and comfortable surfing, it's now the only thing I wish to do.
As a child, I always loved spending time in the sea. We would visit Cornwall for holidays in the summer and I would spend hours upon end in the water on my bodyboard. I remember thinking surfing looked really fun, but it wasn't until we moved here and I couldn't escape surfing any more that I finally decided to pick up a board and give it ago.
And when did you realise ‘hey, I could actually be rather brilliant at this’?
It wasn't until I worked at my local surf shop at 19. I remember one of the sales reps coming in asking me to send some images to their brand, as they might want to sponsor me. At the time I didn't think much of it and just got my mum to take a few photos of me holding my surfboard and in the surf. When the brand wanted to sign me as a surfer and pay me as a model, I didn't quite know what to think. I had always dreamed of being a professional surfer: it turns out it was more achievable than I had thought.
Is there a secret to it or is it a talent you were born with?
I think the secret to my own personal success is hard work – and not just working hard in the surf. I put in the hours blogging, emailing brands, working with magazines to raise my profile. I knew nothing would fall into my lap and that I would have to work hard to get recognition because, essentially, I was a little late to the game and had a lot of catching up to do.
What would you say to a beginner who has never surfed but would like to try?
I would say with all my heart, learn to surf! It is the most exhilarating, magical experience. Yes, at times it can feel a little scary but this is ok. Book a few lessons and learn to surf with a coach, they will help boost your confidence and teach you about how to stay safe in the sea. Don't ever let fear hold you back.
How do you stay motivated?
I am lucky enough to have a husband who wants to surf all the time, so I always have someone pushing me to get in. Over the winter it can get harder because the daylight hours get shorter and the water gets colder, but I try to think ‘what's better: not surfing or surfing?’ - and surfing always comes out on top.
Please tell us about Corinne’s Surf Tour?
Corinne's Surf Tour started in 2010 as a pilot event to get my local female surf community in the water. The event was such a huge success I decided to do it all again and have been running the tour annually ever since. Surf Betty's came along a few years later, as I found women were still too nervous to give surfing ago; I knew I needed to create an event they would feel comfortable at.
The motivating factors are the same as the first day I started out: to empower women and girls through surfing. I know first-hand how intimidating it can be when first starting out: had I found more women to surf with I would have progressed more quickly.
The first dates for the surf tour have been announced: 9th - 10th June, with more to follow. The days included surfing, pilates and a mindfulness workshop. The aim is to get everyone surfing, smiling and feeling more confident.
How do you feel when you surf?
I feel completely free. Any worries or stresses I may have had are washed away. It the one place I feel truly at home and happy.
You’re a professional free surfer, but you tend not to compete – why is that?
The few times I have competed (which I think I can count on one hand), I have hated the whole experience. I don't enjoy the pressure, but I know some people love this feeling! I much prefer free surfing for my own enjoyment.
What’s the most valuable lesson surfing has taught you?
To be brave. I am not naturally an adrenaline junkie or an adventurous person, but surfing has helped me become a little more daring, which I love.
We're interested in hearing about how it’s shaped you: is it a way of living as well as a sport? How it affects who you are? How do you feel about your body?
Surfing is very much my entire lifestyle. It dictates how I spend my weeks, weekends, holidays… It keeps my mind, body and soul happy and without it I would be extremely lost. Surfing has made me happy and comfortable in my own skin, I love my body and the way that it has been shaped for a purpose, I am strong for my sport.
We love that you encourage women into surfing – to build their confidence. Why do you think there’s a need for this? What type of women do you teach? Can you relay a little from your first-hand experience of how it helps women?
I work with a wide variety of women and girls, all from different backgrounds, which makes the job so interesting. However, there seems to be a consistent theme of women lacking in the confidence to push themselves out of their comfort zone. They desperately want to learn to surf, but are scared to do so, which is where I come in. I help them boost their confidence through surfing and share my own experiences.
We assume there are certain things that apply to all sportspeople, but it would be interesting to hear – particularly in the current climate – if you think there are particular obstacles that face women?
I think they face many obstacles, but not as many as they once did. Sport is changing and the face of women in sport is changing for the better. Even though there are many sports that men dominate, women are slowly but surely coming up through the ranks. We all have the same opportunities – some just have to work a little harder to get them. We must remember we are all equal and sometimes the only thing stopping us is fear of failure.
What’s next for you - and for your projects?
I am in the process of developing weekend/week-long retreats, which I will pilot this year with the hope to launch in 2019. Stay tuned for more information.
When are you happiest?
When I am in the ocean; sat on my surfboard; surrounded by the people I love; waiting for the waves to roll in.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Don't ever wait for things to come to you, you need to go out there and make your dreams happen.
What would you tell your 18-year-old self?
Don't worry about what other people think or say about you. Just focus on keeping yourself happy and the rest will follow.
We think female friendships are to be celebrated and treasured – what one quality do your friends share?
We support one another. We all have different interests and careers, but no matter what we are doing, I know we will all have each other back one hundred per cent.
You can pick six women – dead or alive/famous or not – to spend the evening with. Who? And where do you go?
Stephanie Gilmore, Melissa McCarthy, Oprah, my mum, Dame Jessica Enis and Adele. We would go out for a banquet dinner, to chat over wine and share stories.
Three words that describe you…
Stubborn, Loving, Passionate.
Your favourite holiday destination?
Favourite place to surf (the UK and abroad)?
Fistral Beach (my home break); Jails, Maldives.
Favourite Cornish spot?
Over or underdressed?
Lark or owl?
Sunrise or sunset?
Spring or winter?
Word you over-use?
Cosy nights in with comfort food.
Last time you laughed out loud?
Daily (I laugh a lot).
One thing you can’t live without?
Motto for life?
Live the life you want.
Follow Corinne on Instagram @corinneevans and visit her blog here!