Philippa Anderson - WQS Surfer

As the stage is set for the inaugural Florida Pro, the first QS,6000 of the 2018 World Qualifying Series, we catch up with QS surfer Philippa Anderson. Sitting 20th in the world, after yet another year on the cusp of qualification, Philippa talks family, gratitude and the highs and lows of competing on the WSL’s Qualifying Series. Born and bred on the shores of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Philippa and her family made the jump to Australia when she was twelve. They eventually settled in Merewether, the heart of Newcastle’s surf community, and home to a thriving melting-pot of talented surfers. Sharing the water with the likes of surfing legend, Mark Richards, and of course her brother Craig Anderson, fueled her passion and the start of her competitive surfing career was launched. 

How and when did you start competing?

I started competing at 10 years of age in the “Under 12” boys division in South Africa. There were hardly any girls besides myself and my best friend. For about two years my family and I travelled all around South Africa competing. Mainly for my brother, but when there were the opportunities for the “under 12’s” boys I would hit the water. After our first year of living in Australia, we noticed how many more, younger girls there were surfing, and many more competitions that had divisions for girls.  A lot more opportunities to surf in contests and it kinda just all took off from there.

What’s the best and worst thing about competing on the WQS?

The best thing about competing on the WQS is honestly the lifestyle. We get to travel all around the world surfing, exploring and meeting new people, it’s one of the best experiences as a young individual that you can come across. The worst thing for me would probably be, losing early in a contest. After traveling days to get to places, investing money and all your efforts, to then unfortunately lose in the early rounds of a contest … it’s a hard emotion to digest. 

Do you have a favourite place or event to compete in?

After this year I’d have to say my favourite event to compete at would be the SuperGirl Pro in California. It might not be the best waves but as an event we get treated really well and the team go above and beyond to make us feel as close to Professionals as they possibly can. My favourite place is definitely the Philippines, a tropical destination, great waves, amazing people with such a welcoming vibe … it’s hard to not have the best week whilst visiting. 

If you could pick a spot anywhere in the world to add to the WQS, where would it be?

We have some really great places already but it would great to possibly add different events with more variety to mix it up a bit. I’d love to see a heavy right hander or a point break somewhere tropical. 

What WCT event would you be most excited about?

Definitely the new event added this year; Kelly Slaters man-made wave, but for a natural wave, I’d be most excited to surf JBay. Being back home, with only 3 girls in the water, what more could any surfer want!!

What do you think about the new CT schedule? And Kelly’s Wave Pool being included?

It’s really great to see the new events added to the schedule, especially giving the women’s opportunity to showcase their power at Jbay and the rippable wave in Indonesia [Keramas]. Kelly’s wave pool will be unbelievable to watch. With the wave being so perfect, everyone will be pushing surfing to another level.

It’s an expensive thing, travelling and competing on the WQS. How do you fund your year, what support do you have?

Surfing professionally is probably one of the more expensive sports, mainly due to your funds being used on travel, flights, car hire, accommodation. With so many events to travel to, unless you have a big company financially supporting you, it’s hard. I have four jobs which help pay towards my travel expenses, it’s hard to try to earn money, surf, train and still try have a social life to balance things out. I also have help from a few great sponsors, ION Wetsuits, Hayden Shapes, Future Fins, Creatures of Leisure, Tapareef, Arbonne PhytoSport. They support me with surfing gear, accessories, health products and of course the money they invest in me helps so much. 

What advice would you offer young aspiring female surfers, looking to compete at the top level, surf wise and otherwise.

Competing in any sport really, you have to deal with more losses than wins. I find, especially in surfing, that sometimes your fate is in the hands of mother nature and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about the outcome, no matter how hard you’ve tried, trained and prepared. Some advice for young surfers would be to understand that there will be huge losses, out of your control and you’ll need to be ready for that. Try and learn to accept them, learn and move forward. As much as surfing is a very physical sport, there’s a huge mental side to it too, so be willing to give it everything! 

Who on the WCT do you look up to the most, and why?

There so many amazing surfers on tour and everyone enjoys watching and supporting their favourite surfers. I really do admire and look up to Steph. She’s just an all-round great human, humble, graceful but yet still so powerful and stylish. It’s also inspiring to see all the surfers that don’t have a major sponsorship, and have to work hard in others ways to compete, as I know how hard it is. It’s inspiring to see them succeed. 

Suffering losses at crucial events and having to swallow scores that seem unjust must be really tough. What gets you through the tough times?

It’s hard when you’ve given your all and it just doesn’t go your way, it’s hard to take it on the chin. Everyone is different and handles things differently. For example, my father is a very strong minded man, he’ll tell me to learn from it and move on then and there. It takes a lot more time for me to digest and move on but over the years it’s become easier to take those losses. Surrounding yourself with the right people helps a lot and I turn to God to help me get through those times too. 

Where would you like the WSL to take Women’s surfing moving forward?

Honestly, the WSL has improved the Women’s side of surfing over years and it’s been so great to see that, but there’s always room for improvement. Obviously there’s speed bumps such as money and sponsorship, but it would be great to see the Womens World Tour extended to top 20. Personally I think there’s definitely more than 20 female surfers that deserve to be represented on the World Tour, as they are the best in the world and that why they compete right?

What are you known for?

I can be really shy around people I don’t know and feel uncomfortable, but when I’m in a comfortable situation around friends and family at home, probably known for being loud, clumsy and a bit crazy at times. 

What are you most proud of?

I don’t really know, I haven’t reached my goals yet of making the WCT, but if anything I’m proud of my family and how we’ve managed to get to a really amazing place in our lives here in Australia and we are really blessed. I’m really proud of my mother and father for everything they gave up, my brother and his new step in a different direction with this surfing career and of course my sister, whom to me is the most lovely, soft hearted amazing young women. 

Who or what is your greatest inspiration?

Serena Williams, for never giving up as a young kid growing up in a very white-dominated sport and at her age last year, still managing to smash her opponents, as she has done for the last 10 years. And Nelson Mandela, he doesn’t even need an explanation. 

Do you have a guilty pleasure?

Anything chocolate haha.

What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life.

Seriously I’ve learned so much through competing and traveling that sometimes my brain can’t handle it haha. But I’d say there are two great things learned; mentally understanding and learning how far you can push yourself and realising how fortunate and blessed your life is. You look at the world in a different way.

What brings you the most happiness in the world?

When people do nice things unexpectedly without anything in return 

What are you most grateful for?

I think, just to be healthy with a loving family, is something everyone wakes up and forgets to be thankful for. To get to do what I do is amazing and I’m so blessed, but to be healthy, live in a country where things are safe, to have food on the table every night … I’m grateful for such an amazing life God has blessed me with. 

How did your passion for surfing start?

I’d say my father helped a lot at the start, when I was young, doing nippers, driving us around to compete, taking us to the beach every day. He really helped shape the love our family has for the ocean. 

What does surfing mean to you, and how has it changed your life?

There’s actually been a lot happen through surfing for me and it’s given me a huge appreciation for how amazing my life is. Surfing means a lot, not the physical side of surfing but everything that has come with it, the traveling, competing, meeting so many new people, exploring amazing places. It’s really changed my life. I honestly didn’t think as a 10-year old, I would be where I am today.

Favourite place to surf?

The Philippiness for sure

Most memorable session? 

Probably my first proper barrel as a kid, I actually got really deep and got spat out. My friend saw it too which was pretty epic. I remember the whole session, it was awesome.

Favourite surfer?

I really enjoy watching John, Steph and Felipe they all have amazing things about their surfing, which is why they’re my favourite.

Biggest surf mission or most hardcore surf spot you've visited?

I’ve had a few mission trips, where things have just gone wrong. Missed flights, lost baggage, over two days of travel, but in the end when you turn those frustrating things into something positive, you always end up learning something and having a great time. Probably most hardcore surf spot was my brother making me paddle out at Pipe one day, when it was legit 10-15ft. I honestly thought I was going to die. 

Do you have a magic board? 

My magic board would be my 3P (Paul Parkes), 5’6 with a drawing of about 200 pandas on the bottom, I won my first WQS on it and it’s in the garage, kept as a memory. 

Finally, finish the sentences:

I love ...

... sleeping (seriously, if it wasn’t frowned upon, I’d always be horizontal haha)

I miss ...

... my friends and family in South Africa

I wish ...

 that poverty didn’t exist.

I want ...

... for weapons, guns, all those bad things, to disappear on this planet.

Where can we find you online?

Instagram: @philippa.anderson


Posted by: Emma Gibbons, on January 17, 2018
Categories: Interviews