Since her debut over a decade ago, Steph Gilmore has racked up unrivalled accolades and achievements to become one of the biggest names in international surfing and Australian sport. We chat to the six-time world champion about everything from her exercise routine to fight for equal pay.
What comp are you working towards at the moment?
I’m focused on the Maui Pro in Hawaii right now. It’s the last tour event of the year and the world title race has come down to it. Maui’s a special place to me and I’m excited for some great waves. still get a buzz every time I compete, which is healthy. I am a competitive person, just sensing the crowd and the atmosphere of the event propels me forward.
What does a week of training look like for you?
My training is governed by the surf, so the first thing I do when I wake up is check out the waves. If there’s good surf, I’ll surf a few times in the day. If not, I’ll do a training session. It changes daily and weekly depending on where I am in the world. I’m loving yoga at the moment, its strength and flexibility in one which parallels well with surfing.
I work out with my trainer in the gym also. He likes to keep me on my toes, so every session is different – but for me, it’s all about strengthening my glutes. We do a lot of balance work, plyometrics and sprints which is insanely good cardio building for competitive surfing.
Do you still get nervous before big events? How do you work on your mental strength?
Yes, I still feel the nerves, but I’ve always been able to turns nerves into positive energy and focus that into the heat at hand. That came pretty naturally to me from a young age, but there are many ways to work on it too. Mental training for competition involves lots of breath work and honestly something as simple as reading or playing music keeps the mind balanced and helps my overall approach.
Do you have any pre-comp rituals?
The most important thing I’ve found is keeping fun and light people around me. I also like to make sure I am well rested and energised. I surf as much as I can to dial in on my boards and don’t train as heavily. I need to be up early every day for competitions, so it’s important for my body to already be in that routine with my body clock set, which is hard for me because I like to sleep in. The world tour has 10 stops across as many different time zones, so it’s best to get to a location early and dial in your body. Because these events also go across many different countries it’s hard to keep a regular diet. In the last few years I’ve found taking vitamins and supplements as a way of keeping a consistency in my intake. It’s been a huge help to stay balanced. As much water intake as possible as well.
How do you deal with disappointing results, has that changed over your career?
The art of letting go. It’s difficult to learn but I’m lucky it’s also very much a part of my nature. Like anything that happens in life, you have to deal with the ups but also the downs, a strong mental game helps with this. As I have progressed further in my career, I’ve acknowledged and accepted that it’s all about picking yourself up and getting back to it, and not spending too much time focusing on the disappointing results. Often, the disappointing results give me the kick I need to succeed in the next comp.
How did you feel when the WSL announced equal pay for women and men in surfing? How important is this decision?
It is a huge step forward and win for females and society in general. I believe for it to start happening in sport is important as the dollars you earn from completion is public knowledge. It’s an opportunity to show the general public, in particular young girls and boys, that this is normal, and that equality shouldn’t even be a thing, it’s a fact of life. I was honoured to see it happen during my career and I’m and more than honoured to be able to speak about it to the world from the perspective of my sport. This affect will be far beyond sport - if it starts in the public arena like this, it will hopefully start to be considered the norm behind closed doors in business. It’s a huge step in the right direction and thanks to all the women and men before me for standing up for what they believe in.
What does your morning routine look like?
I usually wake up at 6am and start my day with a big glass of water and take my vitamins and supplements. I always look at the ocean in some form, be it going for a drive, or walking to the beach near my house. Depending on what’s happening in the day, I’ll make breakfast at home with some good music in the background or make a smoothie to take on the road with me.
What is your day on a plate?
Good nutrition is so important to my strength as a surfer and also my wellbeing, so I keep a balanced diet.
I tend to rise at around 6.30am, drink a glass of water and check the surf. Around 8am I’ll make or grab a smoothie. There’s one from my local smoothie place called The Alchemist that I love, it’s blended kale, cucumber, spinach, mint, fennel, mango, ginger, lemon and MCT oil. I like to add some almond milk and dates to it as well.
I love a coffee in the morning. I drink piccolo’s as I don’t like anything too milky, I change it up between full cream or almond milk. I wash this down with a The Natural Vitamin Co. Women’s Multivitamin — I take these with me on the road to keep my energy levels up and to make sure I am really giving my body a natural vitamin boost. If my hair and skin are suffering from too much sun, sand and surf I take The Natural Vitamin Co. Hair, Skin and Nails for collagen formation, it makes a huge difference to my hair’s thickness.
Through the day I make toast with coconut oil, avocado, tomato salt, cracked pepper and lemon juice.
At 2pm I'll have a large salad of fresh greens, beetroot, cucumber, feta, pepitas or walnuts, different types of sprouts with lightly drizzled olive oil/vinegar, salt and pepper.
At 5pm I have a green and peppermint tea with celery and hummus. If I need a sweet pick me up at this time, I'll make some crackers with goat’s cheese and honey or chutney.
Around 7.30pm I make dinner. I like to cook as much as possible when I'm at home. A regular dish is Moroccan fish stew (fresh snapper, onion, garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, tomatoes, sea salt, chickpeas, honey and pepper, fresh coriander and flaked almonds). I serve it with brown or wild rice.
Dessert will be a glass of red wine and usually some dark chocolate.
You’re obviously spending a lot of time out in the sun, what does your skincare routine involve?
I like to leave my skin as natural as possible and use natural products where I can. Being in the salt water dries out my skin so I like to stay hydrated with oils at night under my moisturiser. I’ve been using Vitners Daughter lately, but it’s quite activated so only a couple of times a week, but it definitely makes a difference. I love honey facials too. Honey has very healing and antibacterial properties and helps with any sun burn. My cleanser is Eminence organic skin care, a Hungarian brand. It’s gentle but does the job. I’ve also been obsessed with Goop’s salt scalp scrub to replace a shampoo. It’s great and smells insane. For sunscreens, I always try to use a zinc base as it acts as a protective barrier between my skin and the elements, instead of cream sunscreens which work based on a chemical reaction in your skin. Again, natural is better but it’s also most important for protection. I’ve started surfing in hats as much as possible and use long sleeve lycra suits for my body’s protection.
I also take Hair, Skin & Nails from The Natural Vitamin Co. to boost collagen which is important for keeping skin looking and feeling healthy. And ‘It’s a 10’ leave in conditioner. It’s an American product but the one that all surfer girls I know swear by. Most importantly - hydration. Water. All. Day. Long.