Philippa Anderson’s dream is to qualify for the WSL world championship tour, and it’s something the South African-born pro surfer has dedicated her time and energy towards in recent years.
Now living in Merewether, Newcastle, Anderson has consistently appeared in the top 15 of the Women’s QS rankings and has only narrowly missed out on qualifying for the elite ranks. Her professional career is littered with highlights including representing Australia in the ISA World Junior Championships, WQS event wins and wildcard appearances in World Championship Tour events.
After a year littered with lockdowns, quarantines and cancelled events, the competitive pathway towards qualifying for the 2022 WSL championship is just about to open up again! The newly introduced WSL Challenger Series will start in Huntington Beach, California next week — and Philippa is ready to roll!
We were stoked to catch up with Philsy just before she flew out for the first event this week!
First, huge congrats on qualifying for the challenger series! What are your thoughts on the new format, timing, opportunity to qualify for the WSL championship tour in 2022?
Thank you! The new format is epic! I think if the world hadn’t been hit with Covid, it would be a little different in terms of how pricey it is. It’s obviously very challenging trying to run events, but a very cool format. The timing is looking like it will be in favour for the event locations, so crossing our fingers for waves. Having another opportunity to have a shot to qualify for the WCT is amazing! It’s challenging times for everyone right now across the world, so to have an opportunity to put the rashie on, I’m feeling very blessed and extremely thankful to all my sponsors.
The challenger series is a relatively quick burst, fly out around the world (COVID permitting), surf a bunch of events back-to-back strike mission style…. What are you most looking forward to?
It’s a big leg we are about to jet off to, which I’m super excited about. With the different format, everyone has had a lot of time to prepare and work on everything, so I’m excited to see the level in the women and match them. I’m excited for the event in Hawaii too… we haven’t had an event there in years and I’ve got some good boards for the bigger stuff so I’m excited to compete at Haleiwa.
What do you think the biggest challenge will be?
I’ve been competing around the world of years now and have a good understanding and great mindset for this next leg. I do think traveling around the world during a pandemic is going to be the most challenging thing. I’ve been doing my research and making sure I have everything covered to stay as safe as possible but it’s going to be a different experience compared to previous years.
Is there a particular event or location you’ve earmarked as one you feel you should do well at, if conditions play their part?
I haven’t surf in Portugal at the break of Ericeira but being a right-hand point break like set up, I feel my surfing suits the break and I’m super excited for that event. The USA event at Huntington is a fun beach break, but it is known to be challenging. I have surfed there a bunch of times and if you have the right section to hit, I feel confident in my ability to post some good scores.
You’ve got to be prepared for everything on this trip board wise… from Huntington Beach to Hawaii… tell us about the quiver you’ll need to take with you?
I’m super blessed to have Hayden Shapes in my corner along with my brother and Ryan giving me some helpful insight into what boards I’ll be needing for the trip, especially for Hawaii. I’ll be taking a few different HS models; the WhiteNoiz for my smaller wave boards between 5’7/5’8, a few BlackNoiz step ups with rounded pins and my brother gave me a board 6’1 of his that feel super good in the bigger stuff. I’m going to squeeze these all into two RYD board bags I just received and feel super light and look easy to travel with! Let’s pray I’m not overweight with my luggage!
You’ve come so close to qualifying before – what are the learnings from those earlier experiences that you’ll take with you this time?
It’s been an interesting 8+ years on the WQS trying to qualify. I came agonisingly close 4 years in a row which was mentally very hard for me. There’s that saying, “you learn more from your losses” and my notebook is pretty full of these (laughs). I feel the experiences over all the years is what has built my character and when the next year of the WQS comes around, I’m fired up to compete again! I have a great team around me in all areas who push me to do my best. Seeing the story of Willian Cardoso and Glenn Hall qualify after 10+ years on the WQS is inspiring and keeps me going.
As far as your preparation is concerned, how have you got yourself ready for this series?
At the start of 2021 they (WSL) announced the WQS will go ahead, and it was the first time competing in the new format of the regional WQS. I started my pre-season training in the gym mid-January whilst working almost every day. It was pretty much, earn as much money as I could, gym 3 times a week and surf as much as possible. The 4 events came up quick in mid Feb and I managed to make 4/6 finals days in those events. So, for the past 3 months I’ve just been doing the same into these next events. Newcastle hit lockdown 4 weeks ago, so I haven’t been able to work but this has given me so much time to focus more on my surfing technique and working on things around the 4 events we are heading to. I’ve been able to gym more and focus even more on my body. I’m super blessed with the lead up I have been able to surf and train during these hard times.
The Newcastle community and your local boardriders club has been incredible in their support for you and a couple of other Novocastrians. Tell us how they have helped and what the Newcastle community means to you?
Newcastle is known as the Steel city, but everyone knows how much of a core surf town it is too! The Merewether Surfboard Club heard about how much the trip was going to be for myself and Jackson Baker, mainly due to Covid. The club set up a Go Fund Me page and I’ve honestly been blown away by the support from the community of Newcastle. The generosity from everyone during these times is something that is so special to me and makes me proud to be a part of this amazing town. Jackson and myself will not be surfing for ourselves but surfing with the city of Newcastle on our shoulders and this makes me believe in myself even more knowing the community does too. Jackson and I hopefully will be joining Ryan and Morgan on tour next year. 4 Merewether surfers on tour, how good does that sound!
While there is only one male surfer in the WSL top 5 on the championship tour (in fact, in the top 10), there are 4 Australians on the women’s side in the top 10. What do you put that down to, and who of the current crop of Aussie ladies are inspiring for you?
It’s so good to see out of the top 10 combined for this year’s World Title, there’s 3 Australians. I don’t know what you could put that down too but Sally’s extremely hard work over her career and Steph’s aggressive yet stylish approach to her surfing would have a lot to do with it. I had years traveling with Sally on the Roxy junior team which was so inspiring. Watching her now on tour shows you that hard work does pay off and hopefully this is her year. Steph is one surfer I watch a lot, how can you not! I feel her approach to surfing and competitions is a bit different to most of the women on tour but with 7 World Titles, she’s a great person to get inspired by!
Your surf school is going really well - a way that you give back to surfing and your community – obviously the recent Covid restrictions have put a handbrake on things, but what are some of the best moments you’ve experienced through your time of having your school running?
Opening my own surf school has been such a journey within itself, and I can honestly say I really love my job! I was very fortunate to grow up across from the beach and all I remember as a child was playing at the beach, body boarding, taking part in nippers and of course surfing. Years later I was traveling all around the world competing, experiencing different cultures, meeting new people, and seeing the most amazing sights around the globe. My career wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the ocean and surfing — so this was a huge part of wanting to start my own surf school.
I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to experience the ocean through surfing, even if they don’t take it on and become a professional surfer. To offer any age the experience to learn to surf or improve on their surfing, is such an amazing feeling and one that I get experience every day I go to work.
I’ve had so many memories already with kids learning to surf for the first time, overcoming their fears of the ocean, adults getting out of their comfort zones and most importantly seeing every kid smile after their lesson.
The best thing to me is when the participants stand up for the first time or achieve their goals that we have been working towards.
And finally, the championship tour is set to run in some amazing locations, including Teahupo’o and Pipeline… let’s say you’ve found yourself on the dream tour in 2021… at what location will you be pinching yourself at, realising that all your hard work and dreams have just come true!?
I’m so stoked with the work Jessie (Mylie Dyer) has done for the women’s side of things for the WCT— adding those events to the women’s tour. I haven’t spent much time at most of the new event locations, so I’d probably be pinching myself at every event! I can openly say I haven’t spent a whole lot of time surfing bigger swells but I’m not scared to give it ago. I’d be so stoked to surf J-Bay and I’ll definitely be most excited for that event.
Awesome Philsy! Have the best time and we’ll be supporting you all the way! Have fun and travel safe!
Lifestyle images by Bosko. Surf image by Pat Bond.