Sometimes life takes you to unexpected places and something as simple as learning to surf can be a life-changing experience.
I know it was for me, and I’d like to share Claudia Hirschberger’s story – she went from living in a land-locked country and working in advertising, to learning to surf, moving to Bondi and starting up Venus Goes Gidget – a lifestyle blog, knowledge base and travel company for female surfers. It’s a great story, and proof that you can do what you want with your life, you’ve just gotta be brave and get out there… commit to that big scary wave and paddle like a maniac till you get where you’re going!
I’m Austrian. I’m a woman and a Ranga. Not quite what you think of when you are describing a typical surfer.
For those who don’t know, Austria is landlocked and is pretty much one big mountain. I grew up with ski boots strapped to my legs and the cold frozen sorts of water under my feet. I was 21 the first time I saw the ocean and discovered the waves during a stint as an exchange student in Australia. And it was love at first sight. You would not get me out of the water. I was like a little kid playing with the waves. I could not get enough of it. Although the concept of riding waves on a board was still somewhat strange at that point in time.
I returned to Australia a couple of years later on a round the world trip. In Byron Bay, I had my very first surf lesson. It was just me and another dude and the instructor. That was back in the days when Byron was still a sleepy surf town. I will never forget the first words of my rather good looking surf instructor: When you slide on your board, be really careful and tender, it’s like sliding onto a guy. Wow. I’m still blushing thinking back. I think that’s when I was hooked to surfing. No, no, ok I actually I think it was when I got the rush of catching a wave and then the excitement when I first managed to stand up. Not so much when I could not feel my arms the next day. What people don’t tell you about surfing: it does not matter if you’ve snowboarded or skated before, you first gotta get that paddle thing sorted which can be pretty painful at times.
Long story short, I fell in love with the waves and decided to move to Australia when I was 24 to properly learn to surf. I went surfing every single day, no matter how the conditions were…small, big, onshore, offshore, and she was determined…very determined. Fast forward, nine years later, I’m still frothing and I’ve turned my back to a career in advertising and founded my own surf business called ‘Venus Goes Gidget’.
I started Venus Goes Gidget as a blog initially and found real joy in sharing my knowledge and insights from my own surf journey. Through Venus Goes Gidget I’ve discovered my passion for teaching and mentoring people and decided to extend Venus Goes Gidget beyond a blog and developed my skills for personal surf coaching.
Every woman can have a great surf experience. If an Austrian Ranga can do it, you can do it. With ‘Venus Goes Gidget’ I hope to encourage more ladies to experience the joy of surfing and just giving it a go regardless of their age, gender or level of fitness.
When I first started surfing, there were only two types of girls found in the surf…stereotype anyway…but it was either blond blue-eyed surfer babe or the butch lesbian tomboy surfer. Not growing up on the beach, I was completely oblivious to these stereotypes and just gave it a go.
Having said that, since I’ve started surfing almost 10 years ago, women’s surfing has come a long way and it’s good to see more and more women surfing. The girls on the World Tour surf absolutely amazing. I just watched the highlight video from the Fiji Pro World Tour. But not only on the Worldtour, even in my local break Bondi I can tell the difference. There were only a few of us amongst 50 guys on a typical Bondi morning, and now you find heaps more girls out there.
I think the challenge is not to try to surf like the boys but instead bring the feminine spirit back into the water. It’s the beauty and gracefulness of a female surfer as opposed to the strength and the power of male surfing. There is a place for both but I guess like with everything it’s about the balance and for too long the line-up has been a testosterone heaven. It does not matter if you are male or female, surfing is a way to connect to nature, the ocean and yourself in a world where many of us are disconnected from nature.
Surfing has changed my life and ultimately, I want to bring other ladies the joy I found in my passion that is surfing and hopefully inspire them along the way.