Steph’s dynamic kind of magic looks something like this: the 31-year-old won the first of her seven World Titles during her 2007 rookie season (the first surfer, male or female, to do so) and made history when she claimed number seven in 2018. She now matches Aussie icon Layne Beachley for the most women’s World Titles ever. (“I smile a lot already, but [my grin] would’ve split in half if I’d smiled any more,” she recalls of that seventh win, which was enthusiastically celebrated with “a tour of dancing and drinking and having a good time!”)
At the time of our photoshoot (BTS highlights: Steph dancing to disco tunes and fielding 1001 surfing questions from our photographer), she’s also looking ahead to the small matter of Tokyo 2020 – the first time surfing will be included at the Olympics. “It’s a huge opportunity for our sport, and it’s great to think that there’ll be a whole new audience of people who have never seen surfing before, and maybe they’ll become fans and want to watch it in the non-Olympic years as well,” says Steph. “We’ve had so many inspiring athletes and Olympic gold medallists come out of Australia – Cathy Freeman, Stephanie Rice, Ian Thorpe – who have inspired me like crazy. So to finally have that opportunity in my career is really special.”
Steph's approach to fitness transcends the waves. Travel can throw her routine out of whack, but she aims for 90 minutes of exercise daily. Think: an hour of strengthening yoga (“It’s so great for flexibility and balance”) followed by a 20-minute run (“I’m doing a bit lately to keep my cardio up – I change my training a little around each event, depending on what the waves will be like”) and finally some plyometric work, so “my body feels dynamic when I’m surfing”. It’s got to be fun, though. “If one day I didn’t do anything, then maybe I’ll go out with my friends and we’ll dance for a few hours. Or, go hiking. It’s about making it fun rather than feeling guilty for not going to the gym.”
Like many athletes (and yogis, for that matter), she places huge importance on breath work. “I’ve learnt a lot working with different people around the world who really like to tap into the Wim Hof techniques,” she says, referring to the Dutch extreme athlete, known for his ability to withstand freezing temperatures. “[Like] learning how to use your entire body when you’re breathing, not just the shallow breaths up in your chest. If you’re stressed and freaking out, doing some breathing exercises can really bring you back to centre, bring your heart rate down and help you focus. You can also use it at the start of a heat or before you paddle out to kind of get the blood flowing and get the oxygen happening and get your body switched on. It’s crucial, I think, for everybody, not just athletes, to really pay attention to how they breathe.”
In case you’re wondering, her daily training includes actual surfing, too. This champ will get in the water at least once a day, whether it’s for a high-intensity catch-as-many-waves-as-poss 30 minutes or a three-hour session, with a practise competition heat thrown in for good measure. It depends on what the ocean’s doing, though – kind of like a fiery toddler, it’s always the one in charge.
Read our full chat with Steph in the January issue of Women's Health, on sale now.