Alexa Hohenberg - Owner of Still Stoked
Alexa is a one woman tour de force, on a mission to inspire and encourage women to chase down their dreams and progress in the sports that they love. Alexa has successfully channeled her ever evolving ambitions into popular Women’s surf, snow and action sports website, Still Stoked. Packed full of inspirational women, with empowering stories, accounts of far flung adventures and good old fashioned advice from woman to woman, punctuated with humour, Still Stoked grew from strength to strength with a hungry, under represented audience.
With a background in Pro Snowboarding, one she left behind due to injury, Alexa pursued her career in advertising, which eventually took her to the sandy beaches and wave-filled coastlines of Australia. Here she made the personal leap to surfing. After years of juggling her passions, Alexa finally managed to carve space in her life for everything she cares about. Outside of Still Stoked, she holds down a prosperous career in advertising, via contracts, backcountry guides in Japan for the snow season, and spends the rest of her time travelling and following her own journey in surfing progression.
Inspired by the women around her, Alexa hoped to harness this supportive environment, and move it online, for everyone to access. Authored predominantly herself, Still Stoked serves as an open and honest forum for like-minded ladies to connect and be encouraged to aim high and follow their goals, something Alexa wishes she had access to growing up.
So let’s start at the beginning. Where are you from?
I’m a British born, Australian transplant that also has a Croatian passport! Work that one out! I came to Australia 8 years ago for a job in advertising, following blowing my knee out, yet again snowboarding. Wanting to put more time into surfing and my rehab, I chose to live in Manly and am now lucky enough to call it my home.
Tell us about your website Still Stoked. When and why did you start it? And how did you grow it to the huge success it is today?
In 2004 I made one of the first female snowboard movies called Snow Balls, with sponsorship from 26 major companies including Red Bull, Whistler Blackcomb, O’Neill and Burton. I have always been incredibly passionate about supporting and celebrating the progression of women in the sports I love. Still Stoked was essentially an extension of what I started with Snow Balls. My mission has always been to create and curate, the female-focused stories that I wished were available when I was a kid. It’s super hard to think you can achieve something when you don’t know if any other girls have done it before. Those female-lead stories are so important to showcase.
Is there a story that you’ve told or an article you’ve written that sticks out in your mind as your favourite, or most significant?
As a professional snowboarder I have had my fair share of injuries. An article I wrote called Losing my Identify – How injury forced me to question who I was , was particularly poignant as I was in a really dark place with doctors telling me all sorts of negative stuff. Writing about it enabled me to share those feelings and the subsequent journey with others going through the same thing. I have received hundreds of emails from people telling me what an impact it had on them.
How important is it, in this day and age, that women and young girls have strong female role models to look up to? And why do you think this is particularly important in surfing?
It’s incredibly hard to be what you can’t see. That’s not to say it is impossible, as women have been pioneering their own way for centuries, but it is bloody tough. Role models and mentors show women that their goals, no matter how lofty, are achievable. In surfing, it is still such a male dominated sport. You paddle out and often you are the only girl. Knowing that other girls have smashed through those challenges and succeeded on their own terms is incredibly inspiring. I would like to see the brands in surfing championing women for their strength, progression and style rather then their bodies, backside or bikini. There are also some bloody terrible female ‘role models’ in surfing that seem to have support from brands for all the wrong reasons.
What are your plans for Still Stoked in the future?
I’m working on building a booking website at the moment. I want to bring the best women’s actions sport camps and retreats to my audience. If Still Stoked inspires them to want to progress, the booking site will make it really easy to take the first step in making it happen.
You’re a very busy lady, tell us about your other career paths!
Gosh, I’m so lucky (although I believe you make your own luck!). I have a very successful career in advertising which is what brought me to Australia in the first place. I have had the pleasure of working with great brands like Google, Qantas, Volkswagen, and many more, to tell their stories and make cool stuff like TV shows, apps, or web films. It’s been a blast but it’s hard work and long nights. The last three years I have got a great balance in that I take contracts and spend about 6 months of the year doing what I love: working on Still Stoked and guiding clients in the backcountry of Hokkaido Japan!
With a background in snowboarding, what caused you to take the leap to surfing?
Surfing was always a dream but it could never become a reality until I moved close to the ocean. As my snowboard career started to wind down and with the move to Sydney, it was a sort of natural progression.
Who inspires you most in the surfing world?
Keala Kennelly is one of my heros. She is a warrior in every sense and I admire her persistence, her strength and that she speaks her truth. The world needs more women like her.
I also love Stephanie Gilmore for her relaxed, soft approach, and for always staying true to her values. Steph is a bit of an enigma. Mysterious. Doing her thing and not pandering to the social media, tits and arse crap that so many of the other girls on the tour are succumbing too. And my god hasn’t she got incredible style!?
You have travelled to some pretty incredible places. Tell us about a few of your favourites?
I just came back from Sri Lanka. While the waves are kinda soft and chill, the whole vibe is out of this world. Having grown up in London, Sri Lankan people were really familiar to me. I felt very comfortable there. It is such a magical place. Elephants in the road, incredible food, an abundance of spices and fruit, and the kindest of people. You REALLY feel like you are traveling when you go there. All your senses come alive.
What’s the best thing about what you do with Still Stoked, and what is the most challenging?
Connecting with people and sharing their stories is most definitely the best part of it. Knowing that something we publish resonates with someone and they get inspired by it. That’s what drives me to keep doing it. The most challenging thing is staying consistent. When I’m working on big projects or doing long days in the Japanese backcountry, it can be hard to write or answer emails. But consistency is why the site has been so successful so I work hard through the night to make sure I can keep great content coming.
It can be very daunting sharing your thoughts and ideas with the masses. What advice would you give people looking to set up their own websites or blogs to share their stories?
There have been a few posts that I have really opened myself up on. I definitely sat on these for a while and didn’t publish them right away for fear of being judged, heavily critiqued or laughed at. As the saying goes, ‘fortune favours the brave’ and it is good to put yourself out there, especially if you have an inkling that it could help other people. I always try to link what I’m experiencing and writing about, to the bigger picture. Back it up with some research or make parallels to another athlete going through the same thing. That helps put it in perspective and give it greater content and meaning.
The personal stuff:
What are you known for?
My persistence, drive and work ethic is how I’m able to live the life I have created for myself. I get told all the time how I inspire others which is amazing. But it didn’t come easy. I created every bit of it with hard work and determination.
What are you most proud of?
Still Stoked. I love that so many women now want to share their stories on the website and that it has truly inspired so many people to live more meaningful, adventurous lives. That is my greatest achievement
Who or what is your greatest inspiration?
I am finding so much inspiration in Tim Ferriss podcasts at the moment. I love hearing the strategies and habits of successful people. I highly recommend listening to some of them.
If you could spend a day with someone who inspires you, who would it be and what would you do?
I’d like to spend the day with Keala Kennelly. Obviously we would go surfing but I’d be more into chatting about her career over coffee. What it was like beating Andy Irons in his first ever contest, how hard it was for her to pretend not to be gay while on tour. How she thinks the future of women’s surfing will go… I really need to interview her! She really inspires me.
If you could be someone else for a day, who would it be?
A big wave surfer like Greg Long or Ian Walsh. I’d like to know what it feels like to stand up in one of those huge barrels. I’d also like to know what it feels like to paddle out to a break as a man. Do they feel the same insecurities and judgment that women feel?
Quitting my job in 2015 and going all-in, in my trailing and qualifications to become a professional HeliSki guide in Alaska. It scared the shit out of me and I was the only girl on the course (the first girl to do the HeliSki US mechanised guide school). But I did it any way and got a job the next year working as a guide in Japan.
I don’t have any. I’m all out unapologetic about all of my vices. I take pleasure openly!
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Gratitude and kindness. I did my yoga teacher training in 2018 and it completely changed my perspective and subsequently, had an incredible impact on my life. Kindness, helping others, being grateful – without these things you can never been content. It all starts with being selfless. This is something I’m working on day-in-day-out.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Seeing others achieve their goals.
What are you most grateful for?
My health, my family, and ability to let go of the things that do not serve me well.
When and where did your passion for surfing start?
It started in Manly when I could surf consistently.
What does surfing mean to you, and how has it changed your life?
Surfing has this inept ability to put everything in perspective. It reminds me to just go with the flow and not fight what I can’t control.
I almost wrote the exact wave! Oups… there were a few dreamy right hand point breaks in El Salvador. I wrote about them at length in this El Salvador surf guide on Still Stoked. I’d love to go back there again now that my surfing has improved.
Most memorable session?
Sadly, the one where I knocked my front teeth out. That cost me $12,000 in dental!
Tyler Wright. Power house.
Biggest surf mission or most hardcore surf spot you've visited?
Some days when it’s pumping and we leave Sydney to go to The Central Coast and I get smashed. Those are the days I’m scared. We surf heavy beach breaks… once I was so worked from the paddle out that I puked on the beach.
I love my Misfit Shapes beach Burn.
Finish the sentence:
…women wouldn’t worry so much about what other people thing of them and just do it anyway
…to build Still Stoked into something greater, and be free to work online from anywhere in the world I want
Where can we find you online?
Posted by: Emma Gibbons, on August 23, 2018
Craig Sims - White Horses & Surfing Life Publisher
Luke Kennedy - Editor of Tracks Magazine
Simon ‘Swilly’ Williams - Surf Photographer
Jarra Campbell - the Bondi Alchemist
Greg Gordon - Owner of CR Surf
Shayne Nienaber - Surf Photographer
Alexa Hohenberg - Owner of Still Stoked
Christine Deveney - TapaReef Owner & Creator
Russell Ord - Surf Photographer
Richard Kotch - Surf Photographer