Riding the Waves of Empowerment: Celebrating IWD with Pro Surfer and Artist Sophie Fletcher

In celebration of International Women's Day, we are excited to share an exclusive interview with Sophie Fletcher, an extraordinary talent hailing from Phillip Island, Victoria. Renowned both as a professional surfer and an artist, Sophie first captured our attention through her hand-drawn decals on Fressko cups. Delving into her fascinating journey, we uncover the depth of her passion for surfing—a passion that has not only shaped her life's course but also perfectly encapsulates the essence of adventure and artistry. Sophie stands as a beacon of women's empowerment, honouring the legacy of those who have paved the way. Fressko is dedicated to fostering a culture of exploration, sustainability, and authentic self-expression—principles that Sophie embodies with every wave she rides and every piece of art she creates.


Can you share with us how you got started in surfing, and what drove you to pursue it professionally?

My parents taught me to surf when I was 4 or 5. I had a big foam surfboard that I got for my birthday! I also grew up surrounded by the ocean also, down on Phillip Island, Victoria. So it was bound to happen! I fell in love with it immediately.
Growing up I travelled a lot with my dad, chasing waves around the world. So when I started getting better and winning some small grass roots surfing events, I thought what an amazing way to keep travelling and surfing! Let's keep competing. I then began surfing State level, National and International.

Competition surfing makes you become very resilient and you constantly need to adapt to new things - like new countries, foods, waves, weather etc. I enjoy the challenge.

As a woman in a predominantly male sport, what have been some of the biggest challenges you've faced, both in the water and within the professional surfing community?

I have alway grown up with boys and men in the water. Thankfully I grew up in the best surfing community down on Phillip ISland, so I always felt very supported and encouraged by the boys.  In saying that, I have also experienced the opposite in other places. Being dropped in on by guys. Sometimes surfing in a male dominated lineup (most of the time) can be quite intimidating. To be honest though, girls are dominating more than ever now. It is the COOLEST! 

How have you overcome gender-based barriers in your career, and what advice would you give to young girls aspiring to break into professional surfing?

Surround yourself with people who inspire you and push you to be a better surfer and human. Go out with those people who cheer you on when you are out of your comfort zone, rather than those people that make you feel like you don't belong out there.

Who were your role models in the surfing world or outside of it, and how have they influenced your approach to the sport and your career?

I was lucky enough to have Nikki Van Dijk to look up to as a surfer. When I was starting my competitive surfing journey at 10 years old, I had her to look up to. Nikki made the world tour at a young age and it was pretty epic she grew up just up the road. My parents and community inspire me, they are always following along the journey as a surfer and small business owner. I am so grateful for where I grew up and the people who I have around me! And a lady named Michelle Mitchell from Surfing Australia. She taught me to learn my values and self worth as a surfer and as a human, she taught me to use these values to create meaningful purpose and start a business as well as compete. 

In your experience, how has the perception of female surfers changed within the industry, and what steps do you think are still needed to achieve gender equality in surfing?

It is finally changing as we speak! Equal prize money, girls and boys surfing the same waves on the world tour, more boss ladies in the industry! It's awesome.
Recently was one of the most exciting events for women's surfing, at Pipeline and Sunset, Hawaii. Surfers like Molly Picklum, BettyLou Sakura Johnson and Caity Simmers blew everyone away, surfing some of the most challenging waves in the world and absolutely dominating regardless of being male or female. They took surfing to a whole new level.

Can you describe what it's like to compete at the professional level as a woman? Are there any specific competitions or moments that stand out to you as particularly significant or empowering?

There have been a few empowering moments as an athlete that stand out to me!
One of them being, winning my first ever World Qualifying event in Western Australia. It is one of those moments that feel so rewarding and exciting as you work so hard! The whole journey is an exciting and challenging process, but that feeling of all the little steps you take to being a better surfer all came together on a specific day.

Another moment was being selected as the female athlete to join an ambassadorship for Lifeline Australia. Helping reduce the stigma around mental health and sharing our stories as athletes, all the high and lows we go through too. Sharing that athletes don't have a shiny high reel life. We are normal people also who have their personal struggles too. It is okay to not be okay, and reaching out to people shows courage and strength.

And starting my own business that now supports myself whilst competing. That feels super empowering. I've started my own brand. 

How do you prepare for competitions, and do you believe there are any differences in how male and female surfers train or are coached?

I used to train everyday. Surfing, filming, boxing, personal training, yoga etc.
I recently started a business during covid, Sophie Fletcher Designs, and I am just as passionate about that as I am surfing, so I am finding a different balance between training and running my business. I still surf everyday, but rather than the gym, I am doing more body weight exercises and lots of admin and designs haha!

When I was younger I spent a lot of time at the high performance Center in NSW. Men and women train together, rather than it being different training depending on gender, it is training depending on you personally. You set your own goals, but we all work together. There were always super inspiring women that would come in to mentor aswell; Layne Beachley, Chelsea Hedges, Tyler Wright.

How important has the support from sponsors, family, and the surfing community been in your career, and how can companies like Fressko further support female athletes in surfing?

It is hard to make money from professional surfing! There is not a lot of money on offer. Support from sponsors , family and the surfing community is so important to any surfer. I think the nicest thing about my sponsors is that they have never put pressure on me or have never set expectations on results. Rather they wanted to support me because “they liked me as a person, not just a surfer”. This makes me so proud to ride for brands like this. We have similar values. They have always supported everything I do! Whether that's doing a mental health ambassadorship with Lifeline in 2019, starting up my own brand, or pursuing any dream I have.

Brands should always treat women athletes as people, not a commodity. Yes, you work together to help each other grow as an athlete and business, but support female athletes because they are absolutely incredible in their sport, hard working, committed to do what they love, we all have a story to share!. Not because of the way they look! 

What are your hopes for the future of women's surfing, and how do you plan to contribute to the growth and recognition of female surfers worldwide?

I hope to keep being inspired by all women! As a surfer and business owner, I am so proud to be a female. I want to continue seeing more young girls in the lineup, more girls charging, more girls celebrating each other and their successes, it’s so exciting to see. My dream is to keep growing my business so I can sponsor or support girls financially to chase their dreams too. 

Lastly, in celebration of International Women's Day, what message would you like to share with women and girls around the world who dream of following in your footsteps or breaking barriers in their own fields?

I want to encourage everyone to keep chasing what makes them feel fulfilled, put yourself out of your comfort zone, feel butterflies in your stomach because that's how we grow. Don’t let fear of the “unknown '' stop you. Say yes to opportunities.
If we keep chasing the things that we love and make us explode with happiness, all the right things and right people will always fall into place eventually when you least expect it.  

Like what mum and dad have always taught me : “from little things, big things grow”



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