Pro Surfers Courtney Conlogue And Coco Ho Talk Being Female Athletes And How They Stay Motivated At The Swatch Women's Pro Surfing Competition
The stereotypical "surfer dude" may be the first thing that comes to mind for some people when they think of surfing, but it's definitely not just a guy's sport. Pro surfers Courtney Conlogue and Coco Ho, for example, both recently competed in the Swatch Women's Pro Surfing Competition in Trestles, Calif. The competition (which is still going on now) is a part of the largest event that professional surfers compete in each year, the World Championship Tour — and while neither Conlogue nor Ho took home the title this year, having been sadly knocked out of the competition early on, both have been an inspiration for countless women in a male-dominated sport the larger world of professional athletics.
I had the opportunity to sit down with both Conlogue and Ho, who are ranked first and 11th respectively by the World Surf League, during the tournament to chat with them about how they got their start and how they cope with the constant pressure of being a pro surfer, as well as to get their take on what it means to be a female athlete.
BUSTLE: You both started surfing from a young age. What initially led you to be interested in it, and how did you turn that passion into a professional career?
Coco Ho: I became a surfer, first and foremost, from being born and raised in Hawaii. It was kind of the thing to do after school. Once my dad saw the love that me and my brother had for surfing, my dad — who is also a pro surfer — stepped in and gave us all the help we could need.
Courtney Conlogue: I was four years old; I started in Mexico on a camping trip that my family took every year. I decided I didn't want to boogie board anymore. I saw my dad out there surfing and I asked him to teach me. He gave me that passion for surfing and took me to a surf shop here in San Clemente, and he's like, "You have $150 bucks and you can get anything from this [used] section." So I just picked out the brightest board and said I wanted that one. Ever since then I've loved surfing.
BUSTLE: Coco, you come from a family of professional surfers. How do you think your background has either helped or hurt you in the sports world?
Ho: Having family in the industry, and successful family members at that, has been nothing but great encouragement for me. It's given me all of the advantage I need... just knowing that it's possible within the family is a huge thing. I have so much history in the sport.
BUSTLE: What are your thoughts on being a woman in surfing? Do you ever feel like the industry is male-dominated?
Conlogue: It definitely is a male-dominated sport, but I think right now it's in transition. A lot of us women who have been on the [World] Tour, there's only 17 of us, we've been trying to evolve our surfing to take it to a whole other level from where it's been. The WSL has backed us quite a bit and over doubled our prize purse. I won the US Open [of Surfing] in 2009 and my prize purse was a 10th of the men's. But now, we're at half the prize purse of the men. It's better, but it's not all the way there.
Ho: I think there's no better time to be a woman athlete. Just the awareness and success all the women have shown lately... the dominance, the strength, the ability has been through the roof. Prize money has been being raised for almost every sport and the equality is getting there. We're getting so much respect from the men and it's a beautiful thing, because you do hear about terrible situations in sports where it was very male dominant. I'm so stoked to be a woman surfer and I couldn't be more proud.
BUSTLE: Many people would like to try surfing but don't have a clue as to how to get started. What are your tips?
Ho: My advice for learning to surf is to obviously get a lesson. There's so much more to surfing than just standing up and riding the wave. 80 percent of the groundwork in surfing is knowing the ocean and knowing the currents. Be very ocean aware and definitely get a lesson.
BUSTLE: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about professional surfing? What are some stereotypes you've encountered?
Ho: The biggest misconception might be how easy we have it. It does seem like the easiest lifestyle, but we compete through 15 events a year in up to 15 countries a year.
Conlogue: I love how everyone thinks surfing is easy! You put them on a board and it just humbles people.
BUSTLE: If you could send aspiring female surfers one message, what would it be?
Conlogue: Just go for it. You have so many naysayers in whatever you're doing; you just have to flush those things down the drain and create a process to get yourself there. Set goals, work hard, and don't forget that passion that initially got you started into what you enjoy. That's what keeps me level headed and ready to hit tomorrow.
Ho: Don't be discouraged by the amount of men in the lineup. We all have the same opportunity and you should take what's yours. Stand your ground.
Images: Courtesy of Swatch