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tammy lee smith Five minutes with Tammy-Lee Smith. Surf photos of Tammy Lee Smith.

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tammy-lee smith

"Africa is just home! I love the culture of the Zulu people. I love the language too. I have learned so much from the Zulu people over the years. The waves are great too. There are good waves all year round and it's still one of the few places where you can get perfect uncrowded waves. I might be a little biased when it comes to talking about South Africa! Once you get me talking about, it I won't stop!"

 

Five Minutes with South Africa's Tammy-Lee Smith - Photos: Chris Grant/JettyGirl.com

Over the course of the past two summers, we have tried to meet up with Tammy-Lee Smith while she's been in Southern California for the US Open. Unfortunately, our schedules never meshed and surf sessions never materialized. However, a few weeks back Tammy decided to stop off in Huntington for a few days en route to her winter season on the North Shore. Long story short, we were able to connect on one day only and in the course of a few hours, hit up sessions in both Huntington and Newport Beach.

First off, it is clearly evident while watching Tammy surf that she must have grown up surfing a number of South Africa's amazing rights. Her style is super smooth and her barrel-riding is in a class that I have rarely seen in person. My only regret is that I wasn't able to do some shooting from the water when she was scoring all those rights in Newport. I'm sure we would have come away with some amazing images inside the barrel.

Surfing aside, the greatest memories of the day for me were just listening to Tammy talk about life in South Africa. It is clear that she has a deep love of her homeland and it was interesting and humbling to hear about the differences between our two countries. Tammy-Lee Smith is an amazing person...funny, intelligent and with a deep sense of love of her family and friends. It was a true honor for me to hang with her for the day.

(After you read the interview, check out the video of Tammy and her good friends Sara Taylor and Jenna Balester...all three of them rip!)

--Chris Grant


JettyGirl: Where does Tammy-Lee Smith come from?
Tammy-Lee Smith: I live on the North Coast of Durban, South Africa in a town called Ballito.

JG: From what we've read, you really love your homeland. What is it that makes Africa such a special place?
TS: Africa is just home! I love the culture of the Zulu people. I love the language too. I have learned so much from the Zulu people over the years. The waves are great too. There are good waves all year round and it's still one of the few places where you can get perfect uncrowded waves. I might be a little biased when it comes to talking about South Africa! Once you get me talking about it, I won't stop! :)

JG: Describe your local surf scene. What types of waves do you normally surf? When you're back home, who do you usually surf with?
TS: I live in quiet a small town and my parents own a Surf Camp/Backpackers by the name of Secret Spot. There are always groms around and we also run a surf club from the Secret Spot. I mostly surf with all the groms. It's good because they keep me amped up to surf what ever the conditions may be like. In winter Ballito (my home town) can get some pretty solid swells. It's a down the line kind of wave. It's got some power behind it and can barrel off its head on its day!

JG: Is it easy or tough being a female surfer in South Africa? Is there a good amount of support for the girls?
TS: I think I'm really well-supported from the people around the area where I live. But other than that it's kind of hard, especially with our exchange rate at the moment. We have to multiply everything by 10.

JG: Much of Africa is known throughout the world by its diverse wildlife. Perhaps a dumb question, but...have you ever seen a giraffe or other wild animal walk down your street?
TS: Yip, I have had plenty of questions like that. Sometimes I ride people's ignorance just for a laugh! :) Actually though, there was a wild leopard around my house for a while. They knew this because they found a dead buck and saw paw prints. A security guard also mentioned he saw a big cat with spots. Another story is that about two months ago I got a call from our national news to come do an interview on my local beach with a hippo. The hippo had come from up north and probably come down a river and got stuck in this bay!

JG: Speaking of wildlife, and specifically sea creatures...have you had any close encounters with sharks in your homeland?
TS: People have this impression that South Africa is really sharky but I don't really get that vibe in the water. I haven't had close encounters myself but I was in the water for a dawn session during a junior contest in J-bay where Joseph got attacked! The guy is so blessed. He came out without a scratch.

JG: We've read in various places that you have a fondness for flow riding. Tell us about that.
TS: Yip, I enjoy it but you can get injured pretty easy. I would like to do it more but I'm concerned about getting injured and spending time out of the ocean. It's a fun thing to do when all the tour girls come into town.

JG: Who shapes your boards and do you have a favorite design?
TS: I ride for a big wave charger Jason Ribbink's company Bilt! Elton Frusman shapes my boards. I have been working with him for about 3 years now. It's paid off because my boards are going amazing right now. I ride a 5'7 squash tail. It comes off one of Davey Weare's models.

JG: We hear you’re working on airs? Have you had some success and is there a specific variation you’re trying to perfect?
TS: Nah, I really like trying them but I should practice them more. I watch girls like Silvana, Mel and Bevo. I think they're really pushing the progressive stuff at the moment. They're the girls I want to surf like. I have a lot more work to do on my airs!!

JG: You're headed over to Hawaii to get a head start on the winter season. Do you do any special training to get prepared for the powerful surf on the Islands?
TS: Just basically what I always do at home. I love the gym!

JG: When you first visited California, was is the same or different than what you expected and why?
TS: To be honest I thought the waves were going to be better! Hahahahaha. But I seem to get lucky when I'm there and always have fun waves. I haven't traveled to Northern Cali yet. I have had fun waves in Rincon, Santa Barbara...that's the furthest north I've gone. I would like to go surf Santa Cruz though. Heard great things about it.

JG: Describe Tammy-Lee Smith's perfect day.
TS: I would say a good day of surfing in my home town. With some good barrels, hanging on the beach with my mom and dad filming me and all the groms. Follow it up with a flow riding session and skate session. Finish my day off with a pizza evening with surf club kids at the Secret Spot! Perfect...


Watch Tammy-Lee Smith surf Newport and Huntington with good friends Sara Taylor and Jenna Balester


Tammy-Lee Smith is sponsored by Red, Oakley and Bilt! Surfboards.


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Tammy-Lee Smith Caption Index

1. One of the best barrel riders I've ever seen, Tammy-Lee Smith threaded her way through pit after pit.
2. Early morning flight. Tammy in Huntington Beach, California.
3. Air drop on the way to Tammy's wave of the day in Newport. (See the video for proof.)
4. The barrels went from green to brown as they churned through the inside section.
5. Without a doubt, one of the nicest people I've met through JettyGirl, South Africa's Tammy-Lee Smith.
6. Tammy's been working on airs lately. Here's a little pop off a small inside section.
7. If I had the chance to live this day again, I would have been in the water shooting Tammy's endless run of frontside barrels.

 

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