An Afternoon with Serena Brooke, Part Two of Two
JettyGirl Online Surf Magazine’s Interview with a Living Legend
(If you missed Part One of An Afternoon with Serena Brooke, click here.)
JettyGirl: The Serena Brooke Days back in the early 2000’s inspired hundreds of young girls to follow their passion for surfing. Do you ever run into surfers who were first introduced and/or encouraged to surf due to participating in your events?
Serena Brooke: Definitely. There were a lot of young girls that came to the events back then. I remember Courtney Conlogue, Anastasia Ashley, Karina Petroni and lot of other girls that I’ve met since that I didn’t even remember because they were little groms up in Huntington when I’d go up to the US Open. They had started surfing and would come to my Days up there. It’s really cool. It’s something to be proud of and to look back to. Hopefully I put good positive spin on helping some young girls get the encouragement and confidence to start surfing and do what they love. Once you get into surfing, it speaks for itself but those days were really good because they put a lot back into the younger girls and into women’s surfing. They were really fun to run.
( JG: We asked a couple of surfers who participated in Serena Brooke Days to share their experiences from back when they were groms. Check below to see what Courtney Conlogue, Anastasia Ashley and Amy Nicholl have to say about Serena Brooke Days. )
“Serena Brooke Day was at 9th Street (Taco Bell Reef) in Huntington Beach, CA. I will never forget Serena Brooke Day. It was very special for me. This was actually the first surfing event and contest I had ever done. I was only 9 years old. I remember being stunned when I saw Serena driving up in her yellow Ford truck to the event. The event was so much fun and there were a lot of girls participating too. My mom joined in and participated in the surf clinic. The surf that day had so much current and some good waves. I wanted to perform the best that I could because I wanted to get on the podium to have Serena Brooke hand me my trophy. Mike Morgan was also the announcer for the event and that’s where I met him for the first time. I ended up winning my division and getting Overall Best Performance. I still have the trophies. After this day I wanted to become a World Champion! The day left a big impression on me and I’m currently trying to qualify for the WCT and competing in all the WQS contests this year. Thank you Serena! ” -Courtney Conlogue
“Serena Brooke Day was the best day ever! I remember when Serena Brooke Day would come along every year and it was the contest I would look forward to the most. There were great prizes, a fun atmosphere, and it was really empowering for women’s surfing. It represented what surfing was about, having fun at the beach, and showing that female surfers are the future. Serena Brooke was someone I looked up to. She was a pioneer for women’s surfing. She is beautiful with a polished surfing style and a great personality…she is the complete ultimate package. Serena showed that you could be a beautiful girl both inside and out, and still rip just as hard as the guys. That was inspiring. Serena Brooke Day also showed how much Serena gave back to women’s surfing and how much time and energy she put into the event so that young girls could really have one day at the beach. Serena helped push women’s surfing to the forefront to where it is now.” -Anastasia Ashley
“2002 was the year I went to Serena Brooke Day and I was twelve. I think it was in Cocoa Beach or St. Augustine FL. I won the little girls division. I remember the waves were one foot and really glassy and I got Serena to sign my surfboard. My board had a slightly rounded nose, pink with colorful hibiscus flowers up the rails. LOL. It was a big deal seeing a pro in town since Lisa had already moved away. I was super excited, and I also won a $500 scholarship which has come in handy! The experience definitely gave me inspiration and I made an awesome friend that day who I still keep in touch with. I think that same year Rochelle Ballard had her surf camp too, so the influences really helped my surfing. I am sure I blushed when they gave me the award. And by the way, I still have the trophies!” -Amy Nicholl
JG: In addition to the legions of young surfers you encouraged during Serena Brooke Days, you also used the events to reach out to the community …giving thousands of dollars to local non-profits like youth shelters and child abuse prevention centers. Do you recall any particularly touching moments that resulted from you reaching out to the community like that?
SB: Yes, there were a lot of really good and touching memories from donating and putting back into shelters and those types of organizations. I went to some of the shelters and met some of the girls. A lot of them were really timid and shy and I’d just have them come down to the beach and even if they didn’t want to surf but just hang out and watch, I’d give them a pack and things like that. For me it was just good to see them smile and get them stoked for a day. There are definitely a lot of memories for me that made it all worth it. To me those types of charities are really things in the community that you want to give back to because they are defining the next generation. Many of those women are probably going to be mothers themselves one day and they’re going to continue the cycle in either a good way or negative way. The direction they take will determine whether there’s going to be some kid who has a mother with a lot of problems or a mother that had some problems but got over them and moved on.
JG: Since you have sisters who surf, when you were at the height of your professional career and would return home for a visit, did your family treat you any differently than when you were a regular grom?
SB: I didn’t spend a lot of time at home when I was going back in between trips because I have five sisters and they’re spread out all over the country. Not really, no, they were exactly the same. They say things like, “Um, you’re never here. Where are you? Where have you been?” I remember more so when I first started getting in the paper all the time and I was a young girl, my sisters were like, “People want to be my friend because I’m your sister so screw you!” type of thing (laughs). I had to weave through that side of life …being treated differently in school or by my sisters’ friends and things like that but none of that stuff ever bothered me. I was just the same.
JG: In your Firsthand on Fuel, Megan Abubo mentioned that while on tour you’d pull random pranks like pouring honey outside their door. Growing up with surfing sisters, did you ever soap each other’s wax or anything like that?
SB: Oh, we did pranks all the time. Growing up with my sister Christine we’d play tricks on each other continuously. Putting stuff in wax, vegemite in the hair while you’re sleeping or drawing on people. I did all that stuff growing up. I thought it was rather funny to play pranks and do silly stuff and that continued on in my first season on tour. There was a lot of craziness overseas. Growing up and being in different countries and learning about the different cultures and incorporating those into pranks was pretty fun actually.
JG: Which is most memorable …the first time you stood up on a surfboard, the first time you got barreled, or the first professional surf contest you won?
SB: Probably the first contest I won because it was from the trials to the main event and it was unexpected. I surprised myself.
JG: Which event was that?
SB: The 1996 Rip Curl Pro in Hossegor, France. I had only been on tour one year and everyone that I was competing against were my idols. I’d have a heat with Pauline Menczer, or Neridah Falconer, or Pam Burridge or whoever it ended up being and when I beat them, I was like, “Wow, I beat my idol” type of thing and it kept rolling on from there. It was pretty special. I was stoked!
JG: When you stood on stage that first time, was it surreal?
SB: It was definitely surreal just standing on stage at that first pro contest I won. I remember getting sprayed with champagne and holding the trophy above my head, just being super stoked and people congratulating me. I definitely took it all in. If I look at photos of it now, it’s hilarious. I don’t think women’s boardshorts had come out yet. I had these long boardshorts on and it’s just funny. I just laugh when I look at it. I was a grom. Yes, I was pretty happy with the whole thing.
JG: Regarding your equipment, do you prefer the tried-and-true or do you like to experiment with different boards and fin setups? Do you have a favorite all-time board?
SB: I’m not as experimental as a lot of people are. I don’t really go for the big twin fin, massive fish tail type boards. I still ride fairly conventional equipment, a little bit of a fishy board but it still has the thruster setup even if it’s a 5’4″ with a rounded nose. I do like trying different boards but I generally stick to a thruster or something that I can still get speed and do a bunch of turns because I like to turn. If I want to cruise I’ll ride a Mal, or a longboard or whatever you call it here.
Yes, I’ve had a magic board. The best board I ever had was a Rusty. I got a bunch of photos on it. I snapped it in Indonesia after one of the longest barrels I had ever got in my life at Lance’s Right. The very next wave I snapped it clean in half. Oh well, at least I scored that wave before.
JG: In this awesome April 2000 Surfing Girl cover shot that I’m holding right here, you’re wearing a one-piece swimsuit and in all the other photos we’ve seen of you over the years, you primarily wear modest bikinis. Do you think the current trend of ‘wear a thong, get the shot run’ is detrimental to women’s surfing?
SB: I feel like it’s an individual’s choice. If a girl is choosing to wear one because she feels comfortable in that and she’s not wearing it because that’s the only way she can get a shot or attention, then great, go ahead. I think it’s detrimental to the girl herself if she’s wearing it for any other reason than that she thinks it’s totally comfortable and that’s what she really does want to surf in. Regarding it being detrimental to the whole of women’s surfing …it should all come down to an individual thing where it’s what each person chooses. If it becomes where society is expectant on every girl wearing a g-string because one girl likes wearing a g-string, that’s where I think it becomes detrimental.
JG: In one particular double page ad a decade ago, it looks like you’re surfing a gnarly reef pass while wearing red trunks, a long-sleeve rash guard, a face full of zinc and even reef booties. It seems like there was a little more freedom back then to look however you liked or wear whatever you wanted. Would the girls be able to get away with that today?
SB: I definitely don’t think they’d run a photo of a girl in a long-sleeve red rash vest, long boardies and booties (laughing). I don’t think that would be as accepted today because there is more emphasis on wearing the thong, the two-piece or the sexy bikini. We did go through phases where they tried to tell us that we couldn’t wear sunscreen while we were on an Indo boat trip because the magazine didn’t want there to be any zinc or sunscreen in the photos. We were like, “Pfffff! Fine, don’t take the photos then. Hello, we’re surfing on the equator. As if we’re not going to wear zinc.” That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. So that didn’t last long. (laughter) There definitely isn’t the freedom to wear what you would have worn then. I mean, I had a bowl cut and was wearing boys’ boardshorts but that was pretty cool back then. It’s a different world today that we’re living in. It should be the same, like if you want to wear long boardies and booties and if you’re doing a rad turn, then they should run it. But I don’t think there’s really the freedom to do that like there used to be which is a shame.
JG: Big subject change …let’s close this out with something light and simple. Since you’ve become a recent fan of Bull Taco, we have to ask …is there good Mexican food in Australia?
SB: Awww, the old Mexican food in Australia question. Everyone pays out Australia so bad about our Mexican food. There’s not good Mexican food in Australia …we’re a long way from Mexico. It’s like Mexican food Australian style. It’s not authentic and a lot of the food is not real Mexican style. I know a lot of Californians come over and are like, “Are you kidding?” We have great Thai food though (laughs). We have more Thai restaurants than Thailand I think.
JG: Thank you Serena! Any parting thoughts or shout-outs?
SB: Really, just have fun and don’t take life too seriously. I think we’re here to have fun and enjoy life and not feel guilty about it. Everyone just have fun and keep surfing.
Photo Credits: CHRIS GRANT/JETTYGIRL.COM
Return to PART ONE of An Afternoon with Serenea Brooke
Read more about Serena Brooke at serenabrooke.com
Watch Serena Brooke surf on JettyGirl’s YouTube Channel