Claudia Hirschberger - Venus Goes Gidget
When and where did you first start surfing?
I’m a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to surfing as I grew up in a land-locked country with ski boots strapped to my legs, and the frozen version of water under my feet. I guess I’m not quite what people picture as a typical surfer…. I’m Austrian, female and a ranga.
I was 21 the first time I saw the ocean and it was love at first sight. I loved the waves and I would spend hours playing in the water in Bronte at the time. I was only here for an exchange semester at the time but could not forget about the waves. A few years later I packed my bags and moved to Bondi (as you do when you are an expat), bought myself a mini mal and went surfing every single day, no matter what the conditions were like …small, big, onshore, offshore, and I was determined….
What made you want to move to Australia?
Well, officially, I moved to Sydney for my ‘professional development’ and to study a Masters in Communications at UTS. Really, I moved because I wanted to learn how to surf and live in a place where I can go for a surf before work. I could only think of a few places where you could to that and I knew Sydney already…so Australia it was.
Oddly enough, learning to surf ended up being more useful for my professional development than any degree...
What is it that you love about surfing?
Surfing just makes me happy. It’s the best feeling. I love that I’m just in the moment when I’m a riding a wave and I forget everything around me. It’s just me, my board and the ocean and ok admittedly in the case of Bondi the odd 50 surfers around you :-S
I would actually go as far to say that surfing has changed my life. Even though I’m a bit of a country bumpkin growing up in the woods in Austria, I moved to the city and got a bit lost in the rat race. Learning to surf was the best thing I’ve ever done. Being in the water did re-connect me with nature and in a way, to myself again. It’s started with little things like paying attention to wind and weather again. I guess not many people have the privilege to find out what it feels like to catch a wave next to a dolphin or what it’s like to duck-dive through a breaking wave.
Do you have a session that stands out as your most memorable?
Hmm that’s a tough one. There are so many but I clearly remember one session I’ll never forget down the South Coast of NSW. I was on a weekend trip with some mates and we had awesome surf all weekend. We went for our last session of the day in perfect conditions. The water was glassy and crystal clear. 3-4 foot perfect peaky waves were rolling through. The sun set and lit up the sky in orange. No wind at all. It made the water resemble a turquoise mirror. It was just so beautiful. Just me and a few friends. More waves than we could catch. I was so happy and grateful for being a surfer. And just when we thought it could not get any better two dolphins swam by. Just magic.
What kind of education do you have?
I’ve got a Masters in Business from Vienna and one in Communications from UTS (the cover for my surf studies !)
What was your very first job?
Oh dear, I almost forgot about that one. It was a summer job during school holidays where I was meant to work in the office of a kitchen factory to help out with admin. However, the dude I was supposed to help couldn’t be bothered training me and never gave me any work. Eventually, he got annoyed with me asking him what to do, so he found better use for me in the kitchen factory : gluing kitchen cabinets together for the rest of the holidays…child labour in Austria..who would have thought ?
Can you tell us a little bit about Venus Goes Gidget and how it started?
Venus Goes Gidget started off as a blog about my surf experiences as a woman who started surfing in her mid twenties. The original intention was to share what I’d learned about surfing from a woman’s point of view. I found that most content/education material around surfing is targeted towards men and written in ‘surf lingo’. I never felt like all these ‘rad’ surf magazines were written for me as a surfing woman. When I started the blog, it got really positive feedback and people kept asking me about teaching them to surf. Then I discovered the joy of teaching and it kind of snowballed from there. Last year, I decided to leave my day job in advertising and fully focus my energy on Venus Goes Gidget.
The Venus Goes Gidget mission is really to inspire and empower women through surfing by providing unique surfing experiences - like our surf and yoga weekends, as well as surfing education and surfing stories from a women’s point of view. We believe that every woman can have a surf experience that will enrich her life and inside every woman (ie Venus) there is a Surfer Girl (ie Gidget) just waiting to escape. We are also about to launch the first piece of the Venus Goes Gidget surf clothing collection and we’ve got many more exciting plans in store to help the ladies to nourish their inner surf goddess before, during and after the surf. Stay tuned :)
What is your role on a day to day basis?
As the managing gidget of Venus Goes Gidget every day is different. That’s what I love about it. Looking back I was never made for 9-5 work. My typical work day starts with going out for my own surf to kick off the day; then back to my home office for a couple of hours of email and admin for VGG surf weekends; meet up with a gidget for a personal surf training session or for a board-shopping session; write a blog post for Venus Goes Gidget; meet up with the VGG yoga teacher and nutritionist Ali to discuss the menu and plan for the next Surf retreat; afternoons I usually do a bit more admin or if the surf’s still good…maybe go catch some more waves J The home office has a great view overlooking Tama and Bronte beaches, so I do need to stay disciplined in the office to keep my eyes off the water !
What is it that you love about your job?
Sharing that passion and joy that I’ve found in surfing with others and making a difference in people’s lives. And putting smiles on people’s faces. Seeing a gidget come alive when they catch their first wave is just the best.
And I get to spend a lot of time in the water J
And what about the Austrian surf team? How did you come to be involved with that, and what kind of opportunities does it present?
On a surf holiday in Indo, I bumped into a Swiss girl who was involved with the Swiss surfing team and asked me if I was in the Austrian surf team. I had no idea that there even was such a thing as an Austrian surf team given that the lakes in Austria tend to be rather flat.
As it turns out there is the Austrian Surfing Association who runs Austrian Surf Championships and sends a team to the ISA World Surfing Games. I contacted them to say hello – excited by the fact that I’m not a lone species and there are other Austrian surfers on this planet. They seemed excited too and asked me to send some surf pictures of me. That was my trial into the surfing team…I made it. I was meant to compete in the Austrian surf championships last September but unfortunately I got ‘dropped in on’ by a car while riding my scooter and ended up in hospital rather than on the plane to Portugal (the surrogate location in absence of Austrian shores). It was bad luck but the championship will run again this year and I aim to be there competing. And from there maybe to the ISA surfing games…and who knows maybe one day surfing becomes an Olympic discipline after all…I could be the Austrian Cool Runnings.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Carrying the Austrian flag in the opening ceremony of the 2024 Summer Olympics ;-) … What’s that saying again…You have to allow yourself to dream before your dreams can come true….until then I’ll keep living and enjoying my other dream that is Venus Goes Gidget.
Where can we find you online?
Posted by: Matthew Ryan, on February 21, 2014
Shannon Glasson - Ocean Photographer
James McMillan - Byron Bay Surf Festival Director
Shannon Hughes - WSL & ISA Commentator
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