INTERVIEW WITH SIX-TIME WORLD CHAMPION LAYNE BEACHLEY

posted by / News / December 17, 2003

It was one hell of a year for five-time — make that six-time — women’s world champion Layne “the Beast” Beachley. Off to a truly diabolical start with a resounding win at the Kirra, Sydney-born Beachley seemed to lose her will to destroy at Tavarua and Teahupo’o, where she took early round eliminations while her competitive nemesis Keala “KK” Kennelly walked away with the win. Ultimately, the title race came down to the final event of the year, and the six-foot glassy walls reeling across Maui’s Honolua Bay. “Whoever wins it here,” Keala said before the event, “is truly deserving of the title.” While Beachley had previously sought out the help of therapists to help her regain her motivation, in the end, the words that would rekindle her competitive fire would come from a much more unlikely source. “It was during the quarterfinals heats at Honolua, and I was feeling a bit hopeless at the moment,” {{{recalls}}} Layne. “I was thinking, oh maybe I need a break and maybe I’ll just take the next year off or something. I was going through this whole process in my head, and then that Eminem song came on the radio, that song that he sings about how you only get one shot. I was listening to the lyrics and getting really inspired. And I thought, you know, you do only have one shot to make history. Right now. And if I can just get through this heat, just be really fatigued for twenty minutes and give it everything I’ve got, I can do it right here. And that was enough to turn me around, and it allowed me to realize my dream of being a six-time world champion.”

SURFING Magazine: Can you {{{recall}}} how you felt when you found out you’d won it? Like where you were and what went through your mind?
LAYNE BEACHLEY: I was sitting on the beach after my heat, Sam (Cornish) and KK were in the water. And I was under the impression that if KK made the finals then she’d won anyway, and I didn’t even know that we’d still have to fight it out for second place. But I was hoping that she’d make the finals so I could still have a go at her. So I was like, kind of wandering the beach, trying to remain distracted, pretending I was hunting for shells and doing anything to keep my eyes and mind off of what was going on in the water. And then when KK lost it was just absolute elation. I couldn’t believe it. I cried. It was just unbelievable. It was just such an emotional victory for me because of how I was feeling this season and how I had to go see therapists just to motivate me to surf, and motivate me to go for the world title. So it’s just been a really interesting year.

After the event, how did you celebrate your victory?
I went and did an autograph signing at a mall. I’m serious. Woohoo. And then the next night I went and did an appearance at the Hard Rock Cafe. But then last night, I finally got out. Billabong took me and a few friends out to Leilei’s for dinner and we drank some wine and celebrated. So it was nice. Pretty mellow though. Going home is where the celebration really begins.

Is there any one title that stands out over the others?
The first one stands out more than anything. Six meant re-writing history. No one else has ever had six consecutive titles. I mean, Kelly’s won six titles, but nobody has done it consecutively. And if he wins seven, that will just motivate me to go and win another one too.

So you’re not quite focusing on the exit yet?
Well, it’s inevitable, of course, but I’m excited about next year, even though it’s going to be a really long year. We’ve got about eight events, as opposed to five the last two years. So it’s an improvement, but it means a lot more travel, and it also allows a lot more room for error. But I’m looking forward to it. I’m giving myself another two years at least.

Women’s surfing seems to have finally evolved away from the point where people are surprised or shocked by it . . .
Yeah, it’s about time. And you’re pretty much the strongest voice of this generation of women surfers . . .
That’s just because I’m the most vocal. (laughs) Yes, but also a lot due to your competitive domination.
Well, yeah, that too. So what sort of message would you like to impart to the next generation of female surfers? I mean, it used to be a lot harder for the girls to get into the water with the boys . . .
Oh, yeah, tell me about it. And these days there’s a lot more of that; the girls surfing with the boys and hanging out the beach on a more equal footing. It’s not a novelty anymore, you know. So what’s next?
Well, I don’t know. (laughs mischievously) What is next? Just continued respect and recognition for women in the water. We don’t feel that we can achieve something until someone else has done it before us. My message to girls out there is that they can be anything that they want to be if they put their mind to it. They can do anything. Don’t think that just because I’ve won six that they never will. I just want girls to believe in themselves. They are deserving of their place in the line-up, and they have as much right to the ocean as the guys do. And they should not be easily intimidated or threatened by male egos, because they’re just intimidated by your confidence. And the more you remain connected, and the more you give confidence, the more confidence will come to you. I think girls just need to believe that they have the right to be out there.

Are there any sort of hints you might suggest for overcoming that male dominated vibe in the water?
You need to surf with girls. If you’re intimidated by the guys in the water, go out with your girlfriends, and that will eliminate that vibe. When you’re out in the water with a lot of women the vibe mellows out a lot. And I’m sure guys realize that. I mean, it just produces a calmness, because the girls can laugh at ourselves. We laugh at ourselves and we have a good time and we don’t really worry about what anyone else is thinking about us. We’re not really trying to compete with each other. With guys it’s that ape nature. (Makes a Tarzan call.) I encourage girls just to surf with each other. It’s hard to block out all that aggression in the water, but you don’t have to succumb to it. Do you perceive of any sort of negative backlash to the massive marketing of women’s surfing?
Well, if there is it’ll just be a good lesson. I’m not qualified to judge or comment on it because I only see the positives. I only see more recognition for women’s surfing, and for women’s brands. The more money the industry makes, the more they give back to the athletes. I mean, Roxy sponsored three out of our five events this year, so I don’t see any problem with the mass marketing that Roxy’s doing. Surfing adds credibility to their brands, and the fashion element gives surfers their particular style. So they compliment each other. I think it just opens up a lot more avenues and creates a lot more attention. And if there’s a backlash it’s just a lesson learned and we’ll continue on a different way. But that’s just my optimistic opinion.

Well, congratulations on number six.
Thank you, I’m really stoked. I can’t believe it really. But then I couldn’t believe it when I won the first, second, third, fourth and fifth. So when the sixth one sets in I’ll let you know. Looking forward to going home?
Yeah, I’m going to go do the mass media onslaught that awaits me. There’s already a press conference waiting for me at the airport right now, so it’s goanna be crazy, but you know what, I appreciate it. I’m real grateful for surfing and all my sponsors have done for me, so I’m really appreciative of all the attention. I’m proud to be a national hero. Just to go surfing. Nathan Myers

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