A few months ago I was able to contact Jess Laing and do an email interview with her. Unfortunately, it’s taken me a little while to publish the article that resulted. But alas, here it is…
Surfing Is Her Way of Life
If you have seen the film, First Love, then you know who Jess Laing is. I was fortunate enough to contact her and do an email interview with her to learn more about her story and to see what she has been up to these days…
Jess Laing, 20, comes from a surfing family. Both her father and brother are avid surfers. As a child, she was surrounded by surfing and eventually decided that she belonged out there in the line-up too. “Naturally, one day I decided I was sick of sitting on the beach; I wanted to be out there in the water!,” she said in the interview. From age 8 until she was 19, Jess surfed competitively. She chose to take her favorite pastime and “just [go] along with it.” Jess saw success at competitions, where she began winning, and even signed on with Roxy at the age of 12. She knew to listen to herself though. When her desire to surf competitively dissolved, she chose to simply surf for fun.
Surfing is more than just a sport for Jess Laing—it’s a life style and a movement. Surfing at home on Phillip Island, Australia, Jess was often the only girl in the water alongside all of the male surfers. She has fortunately seen surfing evolve from “a handful of girls who surfed,” to, “now you can go down the beach and see girls surfing everywhere!”
“Surfing as a female used to be hard and intimidating as it’s always been such a male dominated sport but times are changing and women are making their mark in the sport. The girls are surfing better than ever, they’re beautiful and marketable and there are more girls in the water than ever before. Everyone wants to be a part of the lifestyle!”
First Love follows the lives of three teenage girls from Australia, one being Jess. During the making of First Love, Jess injured her shoulder while surfing, and had to undergo shoulder reconstruction surgery.
During her recovery, Jess experienced a significant amount of introspection and transformation. Throughout her adolescence she battled Chronic Fatigue, which was only compounded when not able to surf after her surgery. The hiatus from surfing gave her time to examine her life, and understand her love of surfing like she never had before.
“My friends we’re all in school still and I couldn’t do much so I had a lot of down time and time to think. Being in the place I was mentally and physically I think it gave me a new outlook on certain things in life. I learnt so much about myself… Surfing was something I always did because I loved it.”
Jess continued to compete after her recovery from injury. She felt as though she had to in order to not let herself and others down. After a while though, she realized that her passion for competing had completely dissolved, and knew it had come time to stop competing and “go with [her] heart.”
Jess’ passion to compete transformed into a passion to educate girls about surfing. She noticed that while there was a large growth in female participation in surfing, there was a lack in female coaches. “I decided it was time to change that and encourage girls to get in the water and enjoy the beach lifestyle,” she said. With that, Girls On Board was born.
Not only does Jess see an opportunity in female coaching, but she also sees a responsibility in being a mentor to the young kids of her generation. I cannot agree more with her words of advice:
“My advice to the young kids of our generation is to be yourself. Get outside and enjoy nature, and don’t spend too much time inside playing computer games! GO TRAVELING! I’ve learnt so much and had the most incredible experiences traveling, there’s so much to see and do out in the big wide world of ours, make the most of it! Lastly, listen to your elders… They DO know best! Ha ha.”
Jess has been inspired by her mother, father, and brother. It is with their love and support, that she has been able to do all that she has done so far in life. She will be surfing the waves of Indonesia alongside her father and brother in July. In the meantime though, she’ll be concentrating on organizing Girls On Board, and making sure that everything is set for the Southern Hemisphere’s coming summer.
“Other than that I’ll be surfing, smiling and spending time with friends and family!”