People | Sports & Fitness

Surfer Layne Beachley Riding The Wave To Glory

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By Rob Brunner, our extreme sports dude/TV host

“…setbacks are just a part of the learning experience.”
–Layne Beachley,Five-time World Surfing Champion


The beach is barren and serene, the water has a bluish tint with white tips rolling towards the shore and waves boom in the distance. Surfers are out. Their gliding motion on the waves creates a rhythm that pleases all the senses. When in the water all your cares are left on the beach and it’s time to feel the ocean and relax, look around, breath deeply and take it all in. If you’re out with friends you gently bob up and down, talk and laugh as if you were sitting around a dinner table. Until your wave appears. Then your heart starts to pump adrenaline into your veins as you take the drop in and begin your ride.

Layne Beachley CoverThis is why we surf. This is what drives us to get out every day, big waves or small, rain or shine, cold or warm. This is our addiction. Our religion. And to pro surfer Layne Beachley it’s her life.

Layne, who started surfing at the age of four, is confident, assertive and sure-footed on and off her board. She says her goal for 2003 is to win a record breaking sixth world title and to continue breaking down boundaries—something she’s been doing all her life.

Born prematurely on May 24th, 1972, at a Sydney, Australia hospital, Layne’s first weeks of life are spent in a humidicrib awaiting adoption. After six weeks she is eventually taken home by a loving family but would get to spend only seven short years with her adoptive mother who dies of a brain haemorrhage. A difficult time for Layne, she immerses herself in sports: tennis, cricket, basketball, soccer and, of course, surfing.

At 15, Layne enters her first amateur surfing contest, which she remembers vividly. She was so nervous, she says, that she could barely turn her board, and lost in the first heat. Embarrassed and frustrated, Layne says she grabbed her board and “went free surfing down the beach in order to redeem myself and prove to everyone that was watching that I could actually surf.” That year she promises herself that one day she will be the best woman surfer in the world.

Two years later, as soon as she finishes high school, Layne turns professional and is determined to make it on her own. As her sole financial supporter Layne worked four jobs in pursuit of her goal, “A typical week would be sixty hours of waiting tables, folding t-shirts and teaching people to roller blade,” she says, which left her with about one hour per week to surf. But with every hour she says her passion and perseverance would grow.


After four years on the professional circuit Layne won her first event—but not without a price. Her gruelling regime, in and out of the water, pushes her to her limits and she is struck down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. “I really struggled with that,” she says, “There were times I’d be in bed 14–16 hours a day, I wouldn’t go surfing, I could barely move.” Defeating the illness was as mentally challenging as any sport she says, “I was really depressed a lot of the time. But I learned that part of the healing process is being patient and learning to accept things.” Then, when she thinks the problem is beaten it strikes again. But Layne is a fighter and determined to achieve her goals. And fuelled by the belief that “like anything in life, if you want it bad enough, set backs are just a part of the learning experience,” she eventually bounces back to finish third in the world.

Then, in 1998, Layne wins her first World Championship. “I will never forget when the commentator announced in French that I was Champion du Monde du Surf,” she says. “It was such a relief to be recognized as a world champion. To know that all the hard work and years of exhausting travel had paid off.”

Through bulging discs in her neck, torn ligaments, 10 stitches to her face and a fractured rib, Layne has gone on to win four more world titles and is now looking to capture a record-breaking sixth.

So, what qualities make a world champion? “Self belief is the most important one,” she says, “And the desire to be the best, commitment to hard work, self-discipline and focus.” She also says that eighty percent of being a champion is mental. “There are so many times when you doubt yourself or think you want to quit or you question your decisions. But you have to stay focused on your goals. You have to draw on past experiences. You learn a lot more from losing than you ever will from winning.”

“It was such a relief to be recognized as a world champion. To know that all the hard work and years of exhausting travel had paid off.”


Surfer Pidgin: It’s a whole other language!!

An den: What happened next; “And then?”
Brah/bruddah: Similiar to “brother” or “pal.” Example: “Eh, brah!”
Buggah: This could be a guy, girl or thing. Connotation could be a friend or pest, depending on the tone of voice and how the word is being used.
Bussum out: I want some, share with me.
Da kine: Versatile word used to replace words that can’t be remembered or are unknown while you are speaking.
Fo’ what?: Why? How come?
Fo’ real?: Are you sure?
Garans: Guaranteed
Grind: To eat
Haaah?: Pidgin for “Sorry, I didn’t hear you.”
Hele on: Let’s go, get moving.
Howzit: How are you?
Kay den: OK then, if that’s the way you want it.
Moke: Big, tough local
Talk story: Conversation at length
Whaddsdascoops: What’s going on?

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