Tass Swallow is a young professional surfer living in St. Ives, Cornwall. At the tender age of “17 years, 223 days and 12 hours old!” there’s already a lot of buzz around her. She’s got a team of sponsors behind her as well as big-wigs from the international circuit following her progress. She’s currently sponsored by O’Neill, Calypso Soft Drinks, Nigel Semmens Surfboards, Pull-In Underwear, Vans, Electric, Surfplugs, FCS and Gorilla Grip. She’s in the top 20 of the World’s Junior rankings and has been recognised by surfing’s world governing body by being given 1 of 25 ISA individual scholarships.
How has having sponsors changed your life?
Even when I was 8 years old, starting surfing was expensive for my parents. It has been right from the start. However, my parents have brought me up to fight for what I want in life, so I used to beg borrow and steal to get to the beach, get hold of my first surfboard and find a wetsuit suitable to be able to surf in all year round. My parents have been amazing since the beginning and they have paid for as much as they ever could with 5 other siblings to look after and feed too.
However, when I hit 13, and got picked up by my first sponsor O’Neill, it was a huge weight off my shoulders and no doubt my parents too! That was the first time I realised I could live the dream I wanted with my surfing and I was getting recognised for it by a worldwide surfing company who were helping me figure out and progress that dream! It felt amazing. And since then it’s just got better and better. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had to work so hard for what I have now, and I still have a lot further to go, but I have the most amazing support off all the sponsors mentioned above as well as still having that support from Mother and Father Swallow and the rest of my unit back at home!
And so yeah, to sum it up in one last sentence, Having the help from all my sponsors has immensely changed my life because now, everything I dream about doing, achieving and everywhere I dream about travelling to can now be seen as realistically able for me to go to and do. I can’t thank them enough!
Where were you born?
In the middle of nowhere in North Yorkshire. That’s what I want kids all over the country to realise- Wherever you come from, anything you want to give a go, you can achieve!
Do you like where you live now?
Now I am living in St.Ives, Cornwall. For those of you who don’t know it, it’s a small town in the south west of Cornwall, which has progressed from an Old fishing town. It is home to one of 3 of the ‘Tate Galleries’, some of the best surfers in the United Kingdom, a lot of super talented underground artists, and not to mention the best pasties and ice cream in the WORLD. Yeah I’m putting that out there!
If you have a university degree, what subject is it? If you don’t what has been the ‘University of Life’s’ greatest lesson so far?
Well I’m not at University, but I am at college studying a national diploma in Sport and Exercise Science. The University of Life’s greatest lesson for me so far has been to never give up on things you have a big enough passion for. Along my road to being where I am now, I have hit so many obstacles that seemed like it would stop me getting to where I wanted to go. But when you care that much about something that you feel like you have to fit it into a slot in your day everyday of the week, you can’t give up on it that easily, so you smash through those obstacles every time they come up.
I think it really helps having a family unit as strong as I have, and I know I’m lucky to have that. Another lesson I have learnt growing up, is that it’s good to admire people but never rely. Relying on people just sets you up for disappointment when those people can’t be there, or they abandon you. It’s great to look at other people and try and be like them in some aspects, but you should never trust or rely on someone more than yourself.
Do you enjoy your job? What are the best bits and what are the worst bits?
Do I enjoy being a Pro Surfer?! There are no bad parts, just challenges. There are so many amazing parts; travelling the world, finding new countries you didn’t even know existed, that feeling when you win a competition and you are stood on the podium shaking that cheque in the air, jumping off a boat into an empty line up with some of the best waves in the world staring right at you, surfing with my boyfriend all day, trying to beat the boys at home and seeing the look on their faces when they call something that you pull off before them, teaching my brother and sister to surf so they can experience everything I have. The list goes on…
If you could have a superpower, what would it be and why?
I would like to be immortal so that I could keep everything I have right now, forever.
Sum up your outlook on life in 5 words or less…
Life isn’t long, live it!
What are you most looking forward to during the remainder of 2011?
Doing some competitions in the U.K, hopefully a couple of road trips up north with my boyfriend and some of the boys, maybe hit up Thurso and surf some reefs up in Scotland. And also hopefully a trip to France September/October time and a College surf trip to Portugal in November.
What are you most looking forward to in 2012?
Surf Trips, Surf Trips and more Surf trips!!
Do you have a party-trick? If so, what is it?
Not that I can think of, they’re always pretty spontaneous if I do!
What are you most proud of in your career so far?
My 20th Place at the Junior World Surfing Games in 2010 in New Zealand, I was proud to represent my country and to bring back a top 25 place home. I was also really happy to win the Uk Pro Surf Tour at the end of last year!
What are you most proud of in your personal life?
I am proud to be one of 6 children in my family and to be able to have a positive influence on my younger brother and sister and be able to help them out whenever they need it. I am also stoked I have got into a really great college and I am getting some good grades too that I can use at a later date.
What makes you sad?
No waves for long periods of time.
What makes you happy?
Travelling and surfing with the people I love.
What is your favourite smell?
Who do you most admire and why?
I really admire my older siblings as I know they haven’t always been sure about what they want to do, like me, yet right now they are successful and loving life with the people they love. It just goes to show that there’s never a right time to decide anything, things always happen for a reason. I also really admire another person on the O’Neill Team, her name is Melanie Bartels and she is a pro surfer. I think she is sick because she has brought new school manoeuvres to girls surfing that were only seen to be manoeuvres that could be pulled off by men before, and now there’s so many amazing surfers pulling those turns and airs off and that gives us somewhere to aim for.
Which is your favourite local surf spot?
Porthmeor in St.Ives of course! It’s a sick, punchy little beach break full of local surfers who know what they’re doing and that gives off a really nice vibe to paddle out too, that I look forward to everyday. It’s like a big family out there!
Where is the best place you’ve ever surfed?
Definitely a trip I did ages ago to the Maldives and a recent trip I did to the Mentawaii Islands. Both are a group of islands in the Indian Ocean that have tropical waters and sick waves that you only think exist on surf movies or posters. When you get there it’s like a dream, you can surf all day, tan all afternoon and go fishing in the night, then wake up and do it all over again!
What has been your single most memorable sports experience?
I have so many amazing memories that I would love to write about, and this isn’t the biggest one but it is definitely one of the happiest memories I can think of. When I won the Greenaway Pro Surf comp, which is a competition in St.Ives that is held every year that remembers Tom Greenaway, a local Surfer and lifeguard who died in 2009.
Every year hundreds of surfers from mostly St. Ives but a few other places too, come to compete and party all In memory of Tom. When I won last year, it was the most amazing feeling to have won in front of so many people I have strong feelings for and have known nearly all my life. It made me even happier to see my parents, brothers and sisters and friends all proud of me to have won.
What 1 thing would make your life better?
For everything in the world to not revolve around money.
Which is currently your favourite extreme sport apart from surfing?
Kickboxing’s pretty extreme!
Can you play any instruments?
Does whistling count? I’m a pretty handy whistler…
What do you feel your sport gives to the world?
Freedom, an alternative way to express feelings, Happiness, and a quiet place to go when the land is busy!
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had and why was it so bad?
An office job at the management end for a National Organization. It was so boring sat in a little office from 9 till 5 knowing the waves were pumping and the sun was shining! I’d definitely say 5 days office work was long enough to last me a lifetime!
If a genie gave you 1 wish to use to improve your life, what would it be?
For money to never be an object.
If a genie gave you 1 wish to use to improve the surf industry, what would it be?
For there to be no sexism within Surfing, for example- no difference in prize money between guys and girls etc
Tell us a secret…
I’m scared of bananas
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
In school I was getting told off for wearing black skinny jeans to school instead of black trousers so one of my friends dared me to walk off down the corridor with my trousers down to my knees. So for some strange reason I did it and pretty much the whole school saw me just cruising down the corridor in my pants, Pull-In’s on show! The teacher was a bit surprised to say the least as I don’t think that was quite the reaction she expected!
Tell us the first word that comes to mind when you see the following words.
Swear Word BODYBOARDING
Image 1 courtesy of onestopsurf.com
Image 2 courtesy of © Alan van Gysen