Surf’s Up for Lizzie Stokely
by Sarah Aitken
Bruny Island’s Lizzie Stokely has just been invited to compete at the world’s most extreme surfing event, the Red Bull Cape Fear at Shipstern Bluff. She sat down to chat with Sarah Aitken about preparing for the big wave comp, which could be held anytime from now until 15 August 2021, on just 48 hours notice.
Firstly, huge congratulations on being invited to compete! Thank you! I never thought an opportunity would come my way like this in my life, I’m just still processing it. I’m honoured to be on the list – I feel really lucky and super amped to get down there.
How are you feeling – physically and mentally – heading into this comp? Mentally, I’m feeling good. I don’t feel any pressure as I feel super privileged to even be invited. I’m not training to win the comp, but rather to be prepared and feel confident going into it. I’ve been doing lots of running, weight training, and also breath-holding training with Kyron Rathbone each week – this has helped me the most, especially my confidence with being able to cop a heavy wipeout. Every morning I get in a yoga flow before work, this has been a real benefit to my surfing this past year. I’m really good at getting worked up and thinking about a zillion things at once and yoga really sets me up for the day. All of these things, and also surfing heaps, definitely makes me feel like I’m preparing as well as I can mentally and physically.
Tell us what you love about surfing at Shippies? First thing that comes to mind is the coast line surrounding it, on the Tasman Peninsula. Whether you’re walking in or taking a boat around, it’s breathtaking. Such a beautiful part of the world and we’re lucky it’s right at our doorstep. My next favourite is the atmosphere, in the water and afterwards. All of the times I’ve been down there everyone is going nuts in the line up having a sick time, and afterwards catching up for a beer with the people you missioned in with really makes the day. One wave there feels better than catching weeks’ worth of waves somewhere else – you just feel super pumped up and get the vision stuck in your head going down the face of the wave or looking at everyone in the channel. I don’t think there’s anything I don’t like about it!
Tassie doesn’t usually come to mind when we think about hot surf spots. Describe the Tassie surf scene for us? It definitely doesn’t, but that’s our golden ticket. The less crowds the better! If you surf down here, you know how lucky we are. We’ve got some of the best waves in Australia. The thing that scares them off is the cold, which is good! Tassie is a hidden gem – if you surf down here, you surf because you really do love it. It takes a lot to go out in winter dressed up in all your rubber and brave the cold.
You grew up on Bruny Island – do you still live there? I was born here and I’m still living on Bruny full-time – they can’t get rid of me! I love it. I appreciate it more every year that goes on. Bruny is everything that I need. I work down here as a deckhand on the Pennicott Wilderness Journey boats, which I absolutely love. That, as well as surfing, diving and fishing, is pretty much what I get up to. Myself and my family live in Lunawanna, we have a pretty good system – growing our own veggies, fresh eggs every day, and farming our own meat. This is the kind of life I want to have when I’m older, we’re so lucky.
How did you get into surfing, and when did you realise it was your thing? I got into surfing when I was 6, my Dad gave up lots of his surf time to push us into waves. Myself and my brother Frank loved mucking around together in the white wash. Even though sometimes I sooked when I got a bad wipeout, I’m very fortunate for Dad’s time because surfing has given me a lifestyle I couldn’t imagine living without.
What’s it like to be a female surfer in Australia and Tasmania these days? I feel pretty happy with where female surfing is going. Here in Tassie I’m treated the same as the boys and that’s epic. The last Tassie comp I went in, we got equal prize money to the guys and that was super cool. One of the challenges I’ve found is getting sponsorship. I tried the WQS (World Qualifying Series) for a bit but found it hard to make a dent in the rankings as I couldn’t afford to go to every competition – it’s really expensive, and being self-funded, my job as a waitress at the time couldn’t cut it. It’s hard to get brands’ attention unless you win comps, but you can’t win them if you can’t afford to get to them. And it’s a bit hard to show off a brand’s newest bikini line when you’re wearing a 4/3mm wetsuit, hood, and boots looking like a penguin for the majority of the year!
What are your passions outside of surfing? Getting out in my little tinny and going fishing and diving. Watching sunsets from our Bruny house makes me really happy. Also doing things outdoors with my little sister Ruby, it’s cool being a bit of a mentor to her and watching her click onto things and enjoy them too. And I’m passionate about my dog Lola, she’s the best!
Tell us about your jewellery business? I have a small business called Luna Collections – I create jewellery made out of lots of different stuff, but my main line is Bruny Island Abalone pieces that I’ve caught myself. This little business really took off during the pandemic, it has been so cool watching it grow (and funny watching me learn how to run a business really quickly). I started it to aid my surfing competition costs – I basically decided to figure it out myself and be my own sponsor, and try to get a bit of extra cash to help out a little. I never thought it would grow to this though, I’m so grateful and very excited to see what the future holds for it.
You can catch Lizzie in action in the Red Bull Cape Fear event. Keep checking www.redbull.com, we’ll also shout out on our socials when the event kicks off.