Phoebe Strachan and the Scottish Surfing Movement
In the city of Edinburgh in Scotland lives a 19 year old who is hooked on surfing. Her name is Phoebe Strachan and she’s just been selected for the Scottish National Surfing team and will travel to the International Surfing Games next month.
Edinburgh is not the surfing capital of the world, you’re right… Phoebe travels along the coast to a small town called Dunbar to surf. It takes her 40 minutes but there are crisp lines on the horizon and mouth-watering waves that require no less than a 4:3 steamer.
“I caught my first wave in Dunbar when I was 12 and got hooked on it but at the time I was quite focussed on competing in Scottish Highland Dancing, so surfing took the backseat until I was 16. An injury sadly ended my dancing career but surfing stepped up and took it’s place and I’ve never looked back.”
It was the year she became a mermaid and embraced all aspects of playing in the water.
“I just love being in the water, whether its longboarding, short boarding, bodyboarding, or stand up paddle boarding, mixing it up to fit the conditions is the best way forward. If there are no waves then the skateboard provides excellent training on land.” Phoebe says.
She seems oblivious to the cold water climate that is passionate about her progression and on a board and in the waves. The sea temperatures in Scotland can dip as low as 4 degrees Celcius but you can’t tell the difference in the stoke levels between her and a girl surfing 25 degree waters on a tropical island. She says the cold is no deterrent when you crave the salt water… “I just love being in the water, whether its longboarding, short boarding, bodyboarding, or stand up paddle boarding, I’ve just got to be in it. I mix up my training and activities based on what the conditions are doing and if it’s dead flat and there are no waves then the skateboard provides excellent training on land.”
Last month Scotland became the 95th country to join the ISA and as a surf community they are growing each year and embracing the opportunity to step up and put their country on the map with a sport that is producing some stylish surfers and great athletes. Their sparse coastline and notorious perfect yet icey breaks are uncrowded and perfect when they’re on.
Phoebe says of the unexpected surf spot “The surf scene in Scotland is bigger than you think, but it is quite low key. Scotland isn’t seen as a big surf destination, but there are really good breaks all over the country and it’s a really friendly scene.”
The surf culture we have means being freezing cold, getting changed in the dark in the car park, wearing 5mm wetsuits all year round, surfer’s ear, frozen beaches, gloves, boots and hoods, mild hypothermia, brain freeze so bad you’d rather not duck dive, and 7 hours of daylight in the winter.” Says Phoebe “But the stoke of sharing amazing waves with friends and seeing all sorts of wildlife more than make up for it, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!”
“The best part about being a surfer in Scotland is that it is so pure. Everybody surfs for the love of the sport, not because it’s trendy. There is nothing cool about putting on a 6mm wetsuit with gloves, hood and boots in the snow. To surf in Scotland you really have to have the bug.”
Having good gear is crucial to making your epic surf comfortable and luckily each year surf companies are bring out amazing technologies in wetsuits and cold water apparel. Phoebe says “In winter I’m in a 6mm wetsuit with 6mm gloves, boots and a built in hood. and in summer I step down to a 5mm Lunasurf wetsuit.”
“I ride a 5’7 Doc Lausch New Toy in competitions and the bigger waves but I try and not stick to one board. I believe that you should mix your equipment up so that you are riding what ever is most suitable for the conditions, whether is a bodyboard or longboard or even just messing about on a foamie, its all about having fun!”
As the first event of the year, the Scottish Championships was hotly anticipated. Held on the North Coast at a surfing town called Thurso East the best of the best braved the April conditions to battle it out for their spot on the national team and title. The wave at Thurso East is world class, a consistent right hand reef break as Magic Seaweed says “In NW swells at mid tide a relatively simple drop leads into one of the longest, hollowest rides in Europe.” Big claim and awesome for the Scots.
Phoebe put in the hard yards in the months leading up to nationals, “I’ve been surfing through the winter in preparation for the event and it really made a difference this year.”
The weekend of the event the conditions were perfect for the girls, head high waves and light off-shore winds. There were lots of sections opening up for the girls to make the most of. Phoebe blitzed her early heats and made it to the final. She says ‘The Women’s Final was very competitive, Shoana Blackadder (the defending champ) was not for giving up her title easily and gave me a good run for my money. Right until the end it was very close but Shoana managed to snag a really nice wave which allowed her to keep the title. But I’ll be back with even more determination to win next year!”
As well as the Open Women’s surf division, Phoebe also won the Scottish Bodyboard Title and is stoked to walk away with a 1st and 2nd placing from Nationals. Both Shona and Phoebe will be representing Scotland at the ISA World Surfing Games in Nicaragua 31st May-7th June 2015 and we look forward to seeing them fly the Scottish flag amongst a big international field of surfers.
For inspiration Phoebe looks to the super athlete Sally Fitzgibbons, she has no limit to where she takes her water sports and for inspiration she looks up to Sally Fitzgibbons “She has great style and determination and even when she gets knocked down she just comes back stronger. Sam, Josh and Tim Christopherson are also a big influence in my surfing life. They’re a big part of the Scottish surf scene and have coached and encouraged me from day one. Sam runs Coast to Coast Surf School, where I first learned to surf and now work as an instructor. They are great surfers and I aspire to be as good as them one day!”