Going Deeper: Presents Australian Professional surfer, Felicity Palmateer. Born in Perth, Western Australia, she spent her childhood surfing alongside her family, competing in her first surf contest when she was only 12 years old.
Since then Felicity has been busy winning surf comps across Australia and going on to be sponsored by some huge names in surfing, such as Billabong, Subway, Future Fins and Sticky Feet. Felicity is well known as the first female to surf Cow Bombie (Cowaramup Bombora, Western Australia), a big wave open ocean surf break, sometimes producing huge waves in excess of 40 ft (doesn't that give you an adrenaline rush just thinking about it?). Felicity (Flick to her friends and followers) is also a passionate artist and global ambassador for the Marine Stewardship Council.
We got to know the inspirational surfer, discussing favourite memories, overcoming setbacks and what the ocean means to her...
Tell us where your love of surfing came from, can you recall your early memories of it?
My love of surfing came from my Dad. He is the eternal grommet and still more stoked to go surfing than me these days! He taught me to surf when I was six years old and I fell in love with the ocean. My Dad would take me surfing every opportunity we got, both before and after school. It was when I was 12 years old that I realised there were surf contests and that I could make a career out of surfing. That’s when I started competing.
You seem to spend 90% of your life in the water, are you ever out of your swimwear!?
Haha! Yes I feel like the ocean is my second home, or maybe my first! The surfing tour pretty much follows the summer all year round, so I’m often wearing a bikini. I grew up in Western Australia and I’m based here when I’m not travelling. It does get cold in the winter, so i'll usually wear a full suit wetsuit.
Have you ever suffered any major setbacks in your career - tell us about how you overcame them to be where you are today…
Yes I’ve had a few. Setbacks in my personal life and then injuries as well. I’ve torn both my MCL’s, had lower back problems, fin chops to the head and to the thigh and plenty of bad wipeouts in bigger surf. I think a lot of the physical injuries gave me a better perspective of career and what was really important in life, they also taught me to never take my health for granted and to put more time into my recovery to prevent further injuries in the future. In saying that though, injuries are tough and it’s hard to be on the sidelines. One of the other most important things I’ve learnt is having a positive internal dialogue. The conversation that we had with ourselves is the most important one will ever have. I’ve also been very fortunate to have great sponsors and surrounded myself with positive people to help me through it.
At age 12 you competed in your first competition, which is pretty young for any sports person to compete. How old were you when you realised you had a talent for surfing?
I was 12 when I realised that there were surf contests and that there was a pro tour which I could make a career from. My Dad originally didn’t want me to compete because he thought that if I lost, I would end up hating surfing and he would lose his surfing buddy. So I actually entered myself into my first surf contest and ended up winning! After that there was no looking back haha.
What does the Ocean mean to you?
Experiences in the ocean keep me incredibly present with what is going on in that exact moment, it’s a tap into a pure energy source and nature for me. Surfing is my escape, my meditation, my motivator, and creates an inner drive to express myself within the freedom of the ocean. It dictates where I live and where I go. It also allows me to be feminine and strong at the same time.
What’s your favourite memory of being out in the Ocean?
Over the years I’ve had some incredible moments in the ocean, in all types of waves with my friends and family. But my best memories are with the sea creatures that live in it. Surfing the same waves as dolphins, being just metres away from whales and just the beautiful landscapes that I’ve been lucky enough to travel to and experience, all because of surfing.
How do you define success and what do you do to stay motivated to achieve it?
Success means different things to everyone. For me, success is living a passionate life and taking everyday as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Who was your biggest inspiration growing up and why?
My Dad has been my biggest inspiration. Not only did he inspire my love for the ocean but also my love for art. I was doing art with my Mum and Dad before surfing, it was always encouraged. My Dad is a really amazing ceramicist and has always encouraged the creative side of my life which is where I’ve experienced the most joy, so I’m forever grateful.
Tell us about a typical day for you when you’re not working, what do you like to do with your down time?
I don’t know if you could call my job working haha! No, there is a lot that goes into being a professional athlete. Spending time with my friends and family is a priority for me, because I travel so much I only see them for about a month of the year. Surfing is more of a lifestyle though so I do like to surf in my downtime too.
In another world, where surfing doesn’t exist, what career do you think you would be doing?
When I was younger I dreamed of being in the circus, doing acrobats haha! Maybe I could still fulfil that dream!