Watching a women surf on a traditional single-fin longboard is a beautiful sight to see. The body positioning, cross-stepping, hanging 10 and the fluidity of moving up and down the board is so mesmerizing. Belinda Baggs has such a beautiful style on a longboard but not only is she a surfer (placed 3rd in Women’s Longboard Championship), she is also a mother, a brand ambassador for Patagonia, environmentalist and world traveler (she’s scored great waves here in Taiwan). It’s not easy balancing all these things but somehow she does it with grace and fluidity like her style on a longboard. Here is our interview with Belinda Baggs and she tells us more about life growing up, Taiwan, being a mother and much more. 中文
Who are you and where are you currently right now?
I’m Belinda Baggs, mother of Rayson, a surfer from Australia. My days consist of visiting the sea, and embracing the beauty in which our world offers. I work for Patagonia. I live in Aireys Inlet, along the great ocean road of Victoria, Australia.
What was your childhood like growing up and when did you start getting into surfing?
Like most Aussie’s my family spent our free time at the beach. I grew up in Newcastle making sandcastles with mum whilst we watched dad surf. Eventually when I was in my early teens I crossed over the shore break into the wonderful world out behind the breakers. My parent’s support, culture of surfing and the quest for waves have since lead my life.
When did you start getting into riding a traditional single-fin longboard?
On my first trip to California in 2000 I visited Malibu beach. The surfing there was different than any style I had seen in Australia. It was like watching a movie from the 1960’s in a more polished refined manner. The way in which people read and surfed the waves was one of the most beautiful and alluring things I have witnessed. I instantly had an affinity with connecting with the wave this same way, which of course meant riding a single fin log. Since I have been addicted to the feeling of flow!
You have been to Taiwan to surf before. Can you tell us some stuff about that trip and experience surfing in Taiwan?
Yes, I traveled to Taiwan in 2005. I spent 3 weeks staying with Toumei Azuma/ Naluwan surf. We scored 3 back-to-back typhoon swells and surfed all the great lefts around the area.
There were never many surfers but the ones we did see we’re very friendly in the water. Toumei is a great surfer and it was an amazing getting to experience his Stoke for surfing and the place.
I would love to come back one day soon.
Since the time you came to Taiwan up to now, the surf community has grown and there are more girls/women starting to surf. What are some advices for those girls/women who are starting to surf here in Taiwan?
Remember that surfing is not about how you look or how good you are but simply about your love for the sea and how much you enjoy your time in the water! Charge it! But also respect the power and beauty of the ocean.
I pay my respects by collecting at least 3 pieces of plastic from the shore every time I surf.
You placed third in the Women’s World Longboard Championship in Costa Rica in 2000 but you currently aren’t competing anymore. How come you stopped surfing competitively?
Because competing stopped being fun for me.. I found that the more I fell in love with riding waves and the more I learnt about it the more contests didn’t make sense. To me surfing is like an art form, an expression of your connection to the earth and nature. Sometimes the best feeling is when you don’t do anything at all!
Sure, I know that certain people are “better” than others but to sit with and count maneuvers and give that a score out of 10 with no regard to expression of feeling or that ultimate connection doesn’t make sense to me.
Some of my favorite surfers to watch wouldn’t get out of a first round heat, but they way they read a wave and amplify its beauty is breathtaking…
When and why did you start becoming more aware environmentally and taking a stand on environmental issues?
I grew up around the beach and always loved it. I remember being in grade school and being teased by the other kids for picking up plastic rubbish that was blowing into the nearby lake… Being a part of the natural world you gain awareness for it fragile state and how sometime simple decisions or actions can save a bird, a fish, and sometime an entire habitat. All our oceans are connected and as part of nature something that will affect one life or shore will flow on and have an effect on another and another.
How did your relationship with Patagonia start and what are your roles as a Patagonia Ambassador?
When Patagonia started to make surf products they needed a girl to test products. At the time I surfed more than anyone (6-10 hrs a day) so it was the ultimate test for many products. Our relationship continued from there with many-shared ethos and still a strong connection to product testing.
Surfer, wife, brand ambassador, environmentalist, mother and so much more. You take on a lot of different roles in your life. How do you find time to balance everything in life?
I try my hardest but I’ve found that balancing all these things isn’t easy. I guess I’ve had to focus most on the most important thing and that is being a good mother: at the end of the day nothing else really matters but your kids- we preserve and protect the world for them.
What lessons and wisdoms on life do you want to hand down to your son?
Don’t have regrets; live each moment to the fullest, and to respect and embrace the earth- everyone can make a difference.
You recently made a trip to Korea. Can you tell us about the women’s surf culture there and how it is growing?
South Korea was beautiful! Surfing is still a young sport and most of the coats are protected from swells, it’s also very cold. The girls there surf cause they love it. I was really impressed by the number of women who surf and at their ability level.
I’ve noticed a lot of pictures of you bodysurfing and also saw footage of you in Keith Malloy’s bodysurfing film “Come Hell or High Water” When did you start body surfing and what is so special about being board free and using your body to surf a wave?
I was visiting the Malloy’s and Jeff Johnson on the north shore of Oahu, I’d never body surfed before and my first session was out in waves bigger than I would of liked. I told Jeff I don’t know what to do and he said kick your feet and keep your body stiff, I instantly fell in love with bodysurfing.
For me the draw card is the freedom. Not being attached to a board, feeling the power both on and under the wave. It’s really spiritual experience and one that allows a deeper connection to the wave. I’ve learnt a lot from about the flow of energy on different waves and now trying to adapt that to surfing with a board.
As you know, surfing is a male dominant sport. What advice can you give some women who are coming up in surfing?
I’ve always looked at the ocean as a place where there is no status- it doesn’t matter what you do, who you are, what you drive… or even if you are male or female. Your time in the line up is measured by your ability to read the conditions and connect with a wave.. Hold your own, the ocean will sort out the rest.
You’re at the beach a lot, what are some of your beach essentials?
Patagonia R3 full suit, da fin bodysurf fins, water bottle- I won’t use plastic!
If you can change one thing about the world what would it be and why?
There are a lot of things I would change- illuminating greed would be a good place to start- without greed I think a lot of the earths environmental and social problems wouldn’t exist…
On a more achievable goal I would love to illuminate the use and production of single use plastics.
Since working with ‘Take 3‘ I’ve really been exposed to the threats plastic has on our planet, and it’s such a simple thing to simply not use.
You’ve traveled around the world, visiting different cultures. What was one place that stands out the most and why?
There has been so many places that I have loved…. São Tomé in West Africa was culturally one of the most different experiences I’ve had. In a lot of ways their way of life there is a simple one, living off the land and sea and in harmony with the earth…. Seeing a culture working to live- not living to work. Also it was great seeing so many empty waves and knowing that places like that still exists.
If you could eat any dessert from any country in the world, what would it be?
My mums lemon tart.
Describe yourself in three words.
Mum surfer passionate.
Can you tell us your current surfboard quiver and which board have you been riding the most recently?
Sean Nettleton Surfboards 9’3 log- single fin. I surf a lot of beach breaks or imperfect waves to escape the crowd, whilst still maintaining log characteristics and great nose riding capabilities this board is versatile so I can jam a tight turn or cutback into a section or even ride waves that are bigger and faster than ideal log size.
Sugar mountain 7’0 2+1 egg – performance board for when it’s too hollow or big for a log. I love the flow and speed of this board.
FCD 6’6 F Rocket- Indo and winter swells, this is my step up board for bigger waves.
Da Fin bodysurf fins.
What can we expect to see from you more in the future?
Hopefully positivity and happiness.
Any last words for the Taiwanese people reading this interview and any plans on coming back out to Taiwan anytime soon?
I would love to come back soon! Hope to see you all soon.