#myLOTW series 3: Small in height, big in impact
Not many 14 year olds can pull an air this big.
It's that time of the week again. We're coming up with some incredible stories of people who have found inspiration in the big names and the unknown names, from the other side of the world to those right on our doorstep.
Next up is one of the most promising talents we've seen in the UK for a long while. On more than one occasion she has snapped up podium places in under 14's, under 16's, under 18's AND women's divisions, Lauren Sandland is a name we should definitely be watching out for more.
Lauren recently sat down with us to reflect on her inspirations, how growing up in a supportive environment has helped her start on the path she is currently taking, what surfing means to her, and her take on the relationship between being in the ocean and mental health.
Who is your legend?
I’ve got more than one legend. My first is Stephanie Gilmore who I aspire to surf like, and the others are my older brother Jamie and my Dad.
When did you recognise them for the first time?
When I was younger and first got addicted to surfing I started watching the World Surf League championship comps on line. Steph Gilmore’s surfing style just really stood out from everyone else's. Some surfers have a really powerful style or they are really radical, but Steph Gilmore has just got this amazing flow, along with radical moves and power. She is also really happy too which is a great way to be as it rubs off on other people too.
What made them stand out to you?
Jamie and his mates in the village are really chilled and they let me skate and surf with them when I was small, even though I am a few years younger than them. So by the age of about 6 or 7 I was dropping that big sketchy 10ft ramp and surfing at Crantock (in North Cornwall) with them.
As with most groms, when I started surfing my Dad would always paddle out with me, push me in to waves, help me back out and really just stay out and surf with me until I was ready to come in (which was usually quite a long time). He also helped me when I pushed myself to surf bigger waves when I was small. So if we got caught inside he would paddle beside me, get flogged with me and then come up laughing, which made getting beaten by a set fun. He’d also help me pick the right bigger waves to go on and paddle behind me just in case I needed a shove so I didn’t get caught up in the lip.I’m really lucky that both my mum and my dad have really helped me with my surfing. They take me surfing as much as possible, to coaching sessions and they’ve taken me on some great surf trips too. They also run me around to various competitions, cheer me on and help me to get over any short-lived young girl frustrations if heats don’t go my way, by reminding me that competitions are only a tiny part of surfing, and the real reason that I surf is because it’s just brilliant fun.
What does surfing mean to you?
Surfing makes me feel so good, so there’s no doubt that it makes other people feel good as well and it can be used therapeutically too. I know that The Wave Project, which is amazing, uses surf therapy to help people who have had a bad time to feel more positive about themselves, make them mentally stronger, give them a sense of achievement and create an opportunity for them to make new friends.
Jamie’s guitar teacher Steve also works in a Pupil Referral Unit in West Cornwall where he does the same with the children he teaches. By taking them surfing it provides them with physical and mental exercise, which gives them a sense of achievement and helps to take their mind off of all the negative things that might be happening in their lives.
Any stand out moments you've had with your legends?One time when I was paddling out at Crantock I stood on a weaver fish and got stung, but the waves were so good that I just carried on and surfed through the pain for a couple of hours. I couldn’t walk by the time I got out so Dad had to carry me on his shoulders all the way up the big sand dune and back home. He then had to go back down the beach to get my board!
He also waved me over closer to the peak at Anchor Point once when it was pretty big, but then a wide one came in and as I managed to scratch over the shoulder I looked down at Dad, laughing as a wave the size of a bungalow landed on his head. That was pretty funny and he came up laughing again.
Lauren's frank conversation reminded us of the reasons why we surf: even though she is doing incredibly well in the competitive world, she never seems to forget the pure joy of the sport, even after a loss or a wipe-out.
Her legends have helped her see what we usually consider the 'bad bits' of surfing -like losing, missing sessions, the fear that comes from surfing bigger waves then you ever have before- as all part of the process, a learning curve, character building, humbling and can even be something to laugh about.