Origins | Rachel Murphy, Founder of Women and Waves

When things gather momentum and get more and more exciting, it can feel only right to look back and remember how it all started.

We catch up with Women and Waves founder, Rachel Murphy, whose brainchild has blossomed into a global community of wave-riders. She shares the when’s, the why’s and the biggest piece of bulls**t she’s ever heard about surfing…

How did Women and Waves come about, Rachel?

It was back in 2017 when I finally had the guts to do what I had always wanted to do, which was ultimately to set up Women and Waves.  I had worked with surf camps and retreats for years but felt there wasn’t somewhere that I’d personally like to join – there was always something missing. To cut a long story short, I just wanted women to feel confident in the water and as good as I did after being in the sea. Before I knew what endorphins were, I was convinced the sea was some sort of magic trick!  I didn’t even have surf lessons when I was younger, I just chucked myself into the deep end in mid-February, zipped into two wetsuits on top of each other from Trago Mills, whilst I face-planted for hours.

I have lost confidence when being out in the water – many times, but I’ve learnt how to gain it back even stronger. It’s a cycle but I feel I now know how to overcome a lot of obstacles, which I just wanted to share with other women and make sure everyone was having a good time. No pressure, no bootcamp, just a feel-good place to surf our brains out with the odd pretty detail. 

What were your hopes for this community? Have they changed as the group has grown? 

I wanted to create a group of women who all supported each other as people and surfers; a place where you could meet like-minded women, surf together, read up on all the latest surf lifestyle topics from not just surfing but fashion, boards, interiors, travel, food, environmental issues. Even a place to meet other surf mums with whom you could tap in and out of surf whilst your bubba was in good hands. Basically, a community I would personally love to have around, feel safe in and have fun with.

How has surfing influenced your own life? 

Oh god. It’s been in my life for as long as I can remember, before Blue Crush even came out on video. I used to cut out Hawaii deals from the back of the newspapers and beg my Nan to take me when I was probably about 10. I was born in Cornwall so I guess I’ve always been brought up around the ocean. I was bodyboarding on a little polystyrene board with a picture of a dolphin on it. 

At the age of 14 i did my first work experience at a local surf school and was completely hooked on the lifestyle and good vibes everyone brought to the centre each day. At 16 I did my beach lifeguard course, dropped out of school and joined a surf life-saving club and then went on to study Watersports at college (yes that’s actually a thing). I then worked at Newquay Activity Centre when I was 19 and moved into working with Surf Travel companies. I travelled a lot to surf, married an Aussie surfer who is even more obsessed with surfing than me and here I am today! So I guess it’s influenced me a lot now I think about it!

What excites you about the way the surfing landscape is changing and evolving? 

Women are kicking ass in the professional surfing world! From equal pay to generally shredding harder than before, it’s an exciting place for surfing to be in at the moment. Surfing is now going to be in the 2020 Olympics which is insane! This is the most attention it’s had for a long time. I feel like it’s been a tough time for the industry for the last decade or so it’s great things are looking up.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in Australia this year where local authorities are designing man-made reefs for environmental reasons but with surfers in mind – to spread out crowds apparently! I thought this was amazing to even consider surfers. They also have great surf clubs in every surf town, who regularly run competitions, not to mention the incredible Surfing High-Performance Centre, it blew me away! I’d love to see the UK going in this direction. I’ve been so inspired to see where surfing could potentially go.

What is the best lesson you’ve learned from being in the water? 

It’s ok to fail, bail, nose dive, fall flat on your face from time to time. If you don’t just try it, you’ll never know. You need to make mistakes in order to learn from them. I spend a lot of time falling off and ‘learning’ – but it’s all a part of it. 

Over the years I’ve also learnt that every surf is different and not to put pressure on myself. The beauty of surfing is that there are so many changing elements – you can’t compare them!

Tell me your beach-bag essentials – what products are you loving?

I wish I had some good stuff to tell you, but I’m hopeless and share an old stinky wetsuit bucket with my husband which normally has something festering at the bottom of it. So It’s time to upgrade! I’m currently in Aus, so we pack pretty light. I mainly always wear my high waisted neoprene bottoms from Neon for most surfs, paired with a bikini. Now that it’s a little cooler I pack a wetsuit top to keep the wind off.

I always pack my boogie/swim fins – always good to have the choice whether to swim, bodyboard or surf! I also pack my Salt + Stone zinc stick and sunscreen. I also have this Piz Buin bronzing lotion SPF 30 which is great for when sunbathing – but don’t apply that before surfing, it’s mega slippery! Hey look at that, I do have some essentials! 

What’s the biggest piece of bulls**t someone’s ever told you about surfing? 

‘If in doubt, paddle out’ – the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Please don’t paddle out if you don’t feel 100% comfortable. DO paddle out if you’re up for the challenge. I listen to my intuition a lot and if I think it’s too big, 70% of the time I’m right and not conditions I’m comfortable in. The other 30% I’m just being lazy and would prefer a dry hair paddle out.  I’ve come to terms that I don’t like surfing anything that’s too big, I’ll happily swap my board for a bodyboard instead if I really want to surf something bigger. But I’m completely ok with surfing smaller fun waves for the rest of my life. 

A big question, but what would you say to your younger self about finding balance and happiness in general?

Ahh, I have a few pieces of advice:

  • Do four things you love every day – I learnt this trick from Fearne Cotton’s – Happiness book – even if it’s small like reading a magazine, walking the dog or having a coffee out.

  • Don’t worry about what others are doing, worry about what you’re doing. I don’t like to waste energy trying to compete with others, I just focus on my projects even more.

  • There will always be more surfs. Don’t get surf FOMO! I still do even now! Sometimes you’ll have family events or work stuff which you don’t want to be at because the surf is pumping. I have to remind myself that there will be more surfs and to be present where I am (I’m still yet to master this one).

  • Keep practising. Small changes accumulate to big changes.

Is there anything I haven’t asked about that you would like to share? 

I’d like to say huge thanks to everyone who has supported me and Women + Waves so far. We are so stoked to have everyone onboard. I honestly still get excited with every single enquiry and member request. I don’t think that will ever change! So thank you for supporting our awesome surf community, we can’t wait to share so much more with you. We are working super hard to deliver some really epic trips and events for next year and we hope we get to see more of you. Rachel xoxo

Interview by Anya Gilbert

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