Pro Surfing is a diverse sport with athletes from around the world that take on the wild, capricious depths of the ocean and work tirelessly to build a harmonious relationship. Whether you follow the sport closely or have never touched a surfboard, the women that competed at the Swatch Women’s Pro Trestles are remarkable inspirations for other athletes as well as the rising generation of women. On a beautiful SoCal weekend, I was fortunate enough to be a part of the Swatch experience, and I watched as these incredible athletes rode the waves chasing down victory.
Two of the Swatch featured athletes, Coco Ho and Courtney Conlogue, were kind enough to make time to meet with me in between competing, and I was inspired not only with their dedication to the sport, but their self awareness, humility, and desire to help others. In a society often plagued with narcissism and complete self absorption, these women are a refreshing example of well rounded athletes that are just as dedicated to the world around them as they are to their sport.
Born into a family of surfers, Coco Ho was given the space to find her own love for surfing, and she found it at a young age. However, it was her father, professional surfer Michael Ho, that bestowed upon her what she calls “Ocean Awareness”. Before she began surfing, Coco’s father educated her on all aspects of the ocean including the potential dangers that lurk in the waves. Her introduction to the sport was an all encompassing experience that showed her there is “so much more to surfing than standing up on a board.”
Coco’s dedication and hard work put her on the fast track to a worldly career, and she qualified for the elite ASP World Championship Tour at age 17. She was the youngest female surfer ever to qualify. Winning the Portuguese WCT and earning the 2009 ASP Rookie of the Year, Coco proved she was there to stay.
Now at 24, Coco has been touring and doing about 15 events per year which can make it difficult to maintain a sense of normalcy. It may look like fun and games in the waves, but these women work hard, much harder than many may realize. Traveling around the globe and trying to maintain constant peak physical condition in order to compete consumes most of their time which makes it difficult to juggle other aspects of life. Yet, it is their unwavering kind of determination that propels these women onto paths of success.
Somehow, in between all of her work, Coco has also found the time to work with the Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii giving back to a local cause. She said she chose the program because she enjoys working with children, and it is a great way to take a step away from her surfing and focus on the needs of kids, most of which don’t realize that she is a world class athlete.
When asked about the girls she tours with, she happily replies, “We’re all friends.” One might not expect a group of women competing against each other to readily find friendship, but the women provide a strong network of support that still allows room for healthy competition. This kind of forward thinking is a positive change to the otherwise less than supportive ways that women in other industries often interact.
Alongside Coco, Courtney Conlogue also competed at Swatch Women’s Pro. Making it to the quarterfinals, Courtney was surpassed by Lakey Peterson. It was a dramatic heat in which Courtney never stopped fighting, but Peterson took the lead to go on to the finals. However, it was Courtney’s levelheaded outlook that made me realize the true depths of her inner fight. After such an emotionally and physically draining day, she happily answered questions and told me that “you have to feel the loss, embrace it, then let it go…You can still win world titles with losses.” Her words spoke volumes about the obstacles in life, and it was obvious this woman wouldn’t let anything stand in her way.
Courtney began surfing at age 4 on a family vacation to Mexico. Her father had put her on a bodyboard, but the tiny toddler stood as if she were trying to surf. Upon returning home, he took his daughter to a local sporting store where he put her in front of the used sports equipment and told her she could pick out whatever she wanted. Courtney grabbed the brightest surfboard, and so began her career.
Through years of hard work and dedication, Courtney has earned her spot on the world championship tour and won ASP “Women’s Breakthrough Performer of the Year” in 2011. However, these women are also fighting against the same gender gap found in so many other industries. Early on in Courtney’s career, she only earned a tenth of what the males earned in prize money. However, it is a struggle that Courtney refuses to back down from. Along with the other 16 women on tour, Courtney has been working to take their status “to another level.” With the support from the World Surf League (WSL) and brands like Swatch, the female surfers are making head way and leveling the playing field. They have been given an increase in their price purse, and the gender gap is slowly getting smaller. In a such a male dominated sport, these strong women are fighting stereotypes and opening the door for future generations.
When asked what the most important advice that she could give to other young women, she says “just go for it.” Forget about what anyone else has to say including that little doubtful voice in your head and “create goals and stepping stones that will get you there…Above all, remember the love and passion you have…and have fun.” You might not expect a disciplined World Championship Surfer to remember to have fun, but it just goes to show that she has a solid grasp on her career as a professional athlete.
Courtney says that her favorite part about surfing is the spontaneity. She discusses a strong “love, hate” relationship with the sport because “you never know when the next wave will come…you think you know, but you don’t.” The metaphorical parallel between surfing and life is not lost on her. She says that surfing is an incredibly humbling sport that teaches you just as much about life, but that “there is nothing better than looking out at the horizon waiting for the next wave.”
Charity also plays a large role in her career, and Courtney works with many charities, giving back whenever she can. She works with organizations such as SurfAid and Boarding for Breast Cancer as well as many others. Courtney has a deep respect for the people of the world, and helping others is another important aspect of her discipline.
These women possess an incredible set of abilities and a unique perspective on life that has enabled them to take on their goals. They are making strides in the sport of surfing as well as in the realm of gender equality. It is brands like Swatch that have taken notice and given these women a platform to share their talent and knowledge.
Since the early history of Swatch they have provided sponsorship for sports giving promising men and women the support to achieve their goals. Swatch has increased the recognition of Women’s surfing with Swatch Girls Pro France and the Swatch Girls Pro China. There has never been an official ASP surf event to take place in China, but Swatch made it happen.
For more information visit Swatch Pro Trestles to find photos and videos of Coco and Courtney and check out their signature Swatch watches. Visit Swatch to check out the newest styles and find out how you can join the Swatch Club.
I was hosted by Swatch. All opinions remain my own.