“Empowering these little legends to believe they can be anything they want to be is my number one goal and reason for having the club, and I do this using the ocean and the beach!” says Tassy Swallow the inspiring British Champion Pro-Surfer, mentor to young girls, founder of Tassy’s Surf Ratz & St Ives Surf House. Tootsa chatted to her about her work to promote female solidarity and confidence.
You’re only 24, but have a list of incredibly inspiring achievements already behind you – tell us about how you came to being a world class surfer and why you started Surf Ratz.
My passion for surfing started when I was just 7 years old. I knew I had the surfing bug straight away, and I was incredibly lucky to have immense support from my mum and dad right from the start. Then in latter years, International surf companies who signed me as an ambassador for their brands. It was at this point I was able to start my career doing the very thing I loved the most in the world… Surfing!
Once my junior competitive career was up (age 19/20) the money that was within the surfing industry when I was starting out was so much less. I needed financial support to enable me to fund my competitive tour internationally and all the costs involved. So, that’s when I decided to set up my own business and start teaching a few local girls to surf.
The club started out with just 3 or 4 regulars, but within months I had loads of girls reaching out to me and asking for my help and advice on all sorts of surf related stuff. I loved the feeling of sharing my own stoke, and this took over my passion for competing and I instead focused on coaching and mentoring these girls.
Through Surf Ratz you teach surfing to girls from all sorts of backgrounds – what do you hope Surf Ratz does for these girls?
Unlike a surf school, my Surf Ratz Project is less about the actual sport of surfing but more about surfing as a lifestyle, living your best life and being confident and comfortable in your own skin. Enjoying every moment of doing what you do.
Surfing is accessible to everybody, and once you’re in the sea it doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from- everybody is waiting for the same thing and everybody is sharing that line-up for the same stoke. Sure I have some girls in the club who are treating surfing as a serious career path and I’m working with them on competitive surfing – technique, Surf Theory, Sponsorship etc. But also many of the girls love the social aspects of the club, learning new skills, meeting likeminded girls and making solid friendships.
Empowering these young little legends to believe they can be anything they want to be is my number one goal and reason for having the club. And I do this using the ocean and the beach!
You’ve worked incredibly hard through Crowdfunding and physical graft to renovate the Battery Barracks on St Ives into a community hub – what was your vision and what is your hope for the people who use it?
After running Tassy’s Surf Ratz for about 4 years, just meeting the girls at the beach and sometimes running theory sessions from my bedroom, I thought it was about time I found a clubhouse for them. I really wanted somewhere close to the beach, a safe space that was there for the girls whenever they wanted to use it.
The Old Army barracks building on the island is an iconic building in St.Ives. Surrounded by the sea and visible from most places around the town it was frequently walked around by many to take in it’s breathtaking views.
It was a dream come true when the council accepted my application for a long lease of the building. It took a lot of hard work and time for it to be renovated to a standard to allow people inside, but I had the support of an entire community through Crowdfunding and managed to raise the money to kickstart the renovations. One and a half years of fundraising and building work later, SurfHouse was open!
Since then I’ve broadened the Surf Ratz Programme, including aspects of other crossover sports like SUP and Skateboarding, as well as incorporating art workshops, Sea School, Surf theory, cookery and film to run more day-long workshops for the kids. The building is also a fantastic space and has been well received by locals since it’s opening that I have also used it as an events space running all kinds of things like Pop-Up Supper Clubs, Film nights, BBQ’s & Private parties, Story Supper-Clubs, Music nights, Exhibitions, Workshops and Courses as well as Private hire of the building.
You started surfing aged seven and since then have made your mark in a sport that traditionally was male dominated – what advice would you give to a young girl who wants to follow her dreams in a male dominated industry?
When I started surfing there really was hardly any women ever surfing with me.
Sure it would have been nice to surf with some other girls, but I think surfing with men gave me that push mentality that I could do anything they could do if I just tried my hardest. The reason my surf club is just for girls is to empower these girls to think big and be strong. The mentality they have when they’re altogether at surf club is exactly the mentality they need to go out into the world to succeed on their own! Make yourself a goal- something you really want for yourself not for anyone else- and don’t stop till you get it. You may come up against some hurdles along the way, but they’ll only make you stronger in the long run. Just keep smashing through and above and make sure you’re always enjoying yourself along the way. Cheeeeesy as it is…. Become the master of your own destiny!
With surfing now part of the Olympics for 2020 – what do you hope the exposure does for the sport, particularly in relation to women?
I think surfing becoming a part of the Olympics gives a new dimension to the competitive surfing arena and for those already in that arena the chance to compete in the Olympics would be an incredible honour. By putting surfing and more female advocates onto such a global public platform it will inspire more newcomers to the sport. I hope it will give our sport a much needed boost in funding from big brands that support more mainstream sport and athletes.
Last up – what are you favourite ‘insider’ spots in Cornwall that you go to escape the tourists in the summer (bars, cafes, nature spots, pubs, restaurants etc)?
It’s definitely a mission to escape the tourists completely come the summer months… and if I tell you those spots they’ll be out the window too!
How about the ‘Top Tass tips to the best of St.Ives in the Summertime’!?
FESTIVAL – Summer Island Disco!!!
WAVES: Porthmeor Beach… The one with the Tate on it.
BEACH: ALL of them are amazing and each of them is unique. White sands-Turquoise Sea!
WALK: St.Ives to Zennor Coastpath Walk.
PASTY: St.Ives Bakery– nothing else compares!
RUM: Rum n’ Crab Shack… enough said.
TREAT: Ice cream from Moomaid of Zennor.
PUB: The Sloop Inn, Grab a pint and sit outside…best people watching spot ever.
PASTIMES: Stand up Paddleboarding, Snorkelling, Boat trips, Coastal Foraging Workshops.
COCKTAILS: SILCo SeaRoom – Home of St.Ives Gin – you won’t be disappointed.
Tassy Swallow is also the force behind Summer Island Disco.
Taking place on Saturday August 3rd, it’s a day of Cornish festival madness held on the grounds of The St Ives Surf House. A full day of family fun the festival showcases the best of local music, Cornish food and drink, plus lots more family activities.
For further information visit https://www.summerislanddisco.com
Children under 10 are free
Adults – £8.00