Philippa Anderson is so often known as an incredible competitive surfer, but we are so proud to also call her coach, mentor, and a local hero to so many. If you were to pop into any high school in Newcastle, Australia, we’re pretty sure there would be a bunch of young aspiring surfer girls doing school projects on their hero, Philippa.
The Anderson family have always shaped their lives around the ocean and the lifestyle that a life around surfing creates. From growing up in South Africa to now living in Aus, that lifestyle has never changed. Surfing, competing and the amazing experiences that come with it, have helped shape Philippa into the person she is today. It’s those feelings and experiences that she loves to share with other people.
Philippa launched her surf school a couple of years ago and it’s the platform she now has to pass on her knowledge to the next generation, in and out of the water. The Novocastrian wants to help inspire the younger generation, get more females out in the water giving it a go and help surfers achieve their own personal goals. Whether it’s your first time learning to surf, a competitive surfer or maybe a recreational surfer who wants to improve in different areas. The Phillipa Anderson Surf School will have you covered.
For Philippa the surf school was never about making money but about every single lesson to be the best possible surf and ocean experience for anyone who comes!
Philippa shares kindness wherever she goes, and we couldn’t be prouder to be in her corner! We asked her to share a little more about who she is and what she's up to this year.
Tell us about growing up in South Africa? Was becoming a surfer your biggest dream?
I was very lucky that growing up, our lifestyle was centred around the beach. My dad surfed all his life so it was inevitable that we would too! All I remember was sports and the beach. Whether it was Nippers on a Sunday, followed by surf, Saturday surf trips, after school surfing, everything was surfing. But it wasn’t to compete and win or anything at that age it was more about being in the water.
Around 8 or 9 years old, I jumped off the bodyboard and into a hand me down from my brother, Craig. He’s a few years older than me, so when he was competing, I would just travel pretty much all-around South Africa to watch him. When he was competing, I was just playing around in the white water, jumping off the rocks or body boarding in the shore.
I competed in the under 12 boys' division in the Eastern Province events with my best friend Faye, but it was more for fun. I don't think I was that good of a surfer at a young age, I probably bodyboarded too much (my Brother would always say). I was super into nippers, athletics and karate, which also took up a lot of mornings, afternoons and weekends. Every Holiday from what I can remember, we were at Cape St Francis, surfing and camping. So, I learnt a lot from my dad, his friends, my brother and the older boys that surfed. I did love surfing as a kid, but I don’t think the realization of making a dream or career out of it really hit until I was 14, after we had been in Australia for almost 2 years.
Competing and traveling your whole life is amazing for opportunity and growth, but what were the struggles you faced competing at such a crucial age and stage of your life?
I wouldn’t take away any of the travel experiences and competitions I went to around the world. It has been so educational for me, across so many areas in my life. But of course, that comes with some ups and downs in preparation from childhood to adulthood. Everyone is different, but for me I’d say it would be learning to handle all the lows by yourself. Learning to deal with many obstacles when travelling solo or without your team is hard.
These days a lot of surfers have enough money to have their team travel with them. I had a few years where I was lucky to have my mom or dad come with and help, but it was less times than more.
I found it hard to get through the tough times solo, but I knew that I had to put my faith in God and know that whatever will happen, will be.
Learning that process through competition as a young adolescent as you mature was a huge thing I learnt. The people along the journey helped me understand and learn to be more open-minded when things were tough and that was a huge blessing to learn.
We all know surfing is an unpredictable sport. When competing wasn’t going your way, what helped you find your joy?
Every athlete can relate. Even every human on their day-to-day life knows that you’ll work hard, and it just doesn’t go your way. Obviously, the unpredictable elements we face as surf competitors are super tough ones. I’ve had some amazing highs and some heavy lows.
At the end of the day for me it’s been to switch off and really look at how blessed I am. I am healthy and have an amazing family and I don’t stress about where my next meal is coming from. Just taking a moment (of course after a cry), to thank God for everything. There were a few times at the end of that year's qualifying events, where I JUST fell short of qualifying. To find the motivation after that slap in the face was so big.
I definitely had some extremely down times but physically taking a break from surfing and then starting to miss the ocean, getting back to the simplicity of just surfing for fun and thinking about all the great opportunities I still have ahead, and of course my health — that all helps.
There are so many people that wish they could surf or even walk and that always puts my life into perspective. I can say there’s been a lot of crying and some self-doubt, but I try reminding myself how blessed I am. I might not get up that very next day and be motivated to move again but eventually I get there, remembering that we are human and sometimes need to take those down moments.
We are so proud of you starting up a surf school! Tell us more about it?
I am actually so proud of myself, which I never really say out loud because I am very hard on myself. I have had such an amazing life and it’s all been through surfing, and I want people to experience that.
In many ways I love being around kids and of course my passion for surfing. So, I put two and two together and started the school. I have the absolute best team of instructors and humans; I am very lucky with my employees.
From the start I made sure that this wasn’t about money, this is about every lesson we have and for it to be the best experience possible for that individual.
This takes a huge toll on me as sometimes I am a perfectionist and running the business at 100% all day, every day gets hard. In the end I push through to be the very best and I do love it.
We get a range of super young and older individuals learning to surf, regulars, intermediate surfers to advanced surfers and some kids that might end up on the WQS with a dream of making the tour.
I love being part of all these lessons and hopefully I have some impact in making someone’s day with an epic lesson.
Has your focus and dreams shifted since starting the surf school?
In terms of my focus, I feel it’s made me appreciate and enjoy surfing, competing and travelling a lot more, as my workload when I’m at home is very high.
When I’m away my focus is more hungry, more fun and it feels like I’m on holiday but really, I’m just at my 2nd job. I still have a goal and a dream of making the CT, but I also now have other goals that I want to achieve with the school, which is so exciting for me. I honestly love teaching kids and adults about the ocean and learning to surf. It’s made me hungrier to win, particularly since covid.
What have been the biggest things you've learnt through surfing, competing and starting up the surf school?
In terms of the surf school, I honestly didn’t think I could do it. Having competed my whole life and just scraping through school, a few bar jobs, being an Uber eats driver and some mail delivery jobs - I really lacked confidence outside of surfing.
I doubted that I’d be able to tackle running a business. I had some amazing help along the way and still do now… aka my father! But I have put a lot of hard work and effort into the school, and I have learnt an incredible number of new skills and insight into being a business owner and being a leader for my employees.
Through surfing I’ve learnt so much about the importance of self-care, just with the amount of gym, training and surfing I do. Having a great team with knowledge in their field, it has been incredible to learn from them. Competition wise, there are so many areas as an athlete in an unpredictable sport that has taught me to be open minded, from how to handle certain situations under pressure to dealing with and trying to understand how the mind works in relation to psychology and competing. I am so lucky that surfing has taught me all these life lessons and I am looking forward to many years ahead with the school to learn more.
Thanks for your openness, Philippa – we love hearing about your journey — and we have no doubt that with your experience, amazing attitude and passion for people and surfing, there will be many people you will impact for good along the way! We are so stoked to RYD with you!
Image 3: @addieventurestudio
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