Uhaina Joly joins us on Close-up Culture to talk about her upbringing, her love of the water, and the unglamorous side of being a professional surfer.
Q: You are the daughter of former surfing champion Emmanuelle Joly. What was your upbringing like and did you always want to follow in your mother’s footsteps?
A: When I was a child I used to follow my mum on the competitive circuit. I was really proud. And then with my brother, we used to travel around the world all through winter to follow surfing season.
I always loved being in the water, travelling and discovering new places – all these things were tied to surfing. So it was natural for me to follow my mum into the water. I started competing at around 8 to 10 years old before I became a pro at 15. Surfing is our way of life.
Q: Do you have any standout memories of falling in love with surfing and travelling in your youth?
A: I have so many memories of surfing and travelling… I cannot choose one. I have so many incredible memories all over the world!
Q: Your Instagram is full of idyllic views that anyone would love to be whisked away to. When and where do you feel most at peace?
A: In the water, for sure. Riding a perfect wave with a good tempo. Listening to my fins under the water when I carve. Diving under a wave and feeling the elements on my skin. Running to the beach with the promise of a good session. This is why I love surfing and feel most at peace in my mind.
Q: Surfing comes across as such an exciting and glamorous sport. Is there another side to that?
A: Behind this exciting image, it is a tough and intense job to be a competitive surfer. There is a challenge every day – to be alone… to find the motivation and the faith.
Surfing in competition is travelling around the world without comfort, as we do not have any budget. It is always being jetlagged and waking up when it’s dark outside. It is jumping into freezing cold water to try to practice the contest spots before it gets too crowded with all the other competitors. It is surfing in all kinds of conditions you wouldn’t normally surf (small, big, windy, cold, close out, low tide, high tide, shallow, dangerous, etc.).
It is badly wanting to win, even when you cannot find any waves to get through your heat. It is also about losing, being alone and far away from home. It is handling the pressure heat after heat, contest after contest, until the season is done. Spending hours and hours in airports and on planes with your big luggage…
Q: You have won multiple awards as a competitive surfer. What have been your best experiences of the competitive surf scene?
A: My best memory is winning my last national French title, against experienced French girls.
Being in the French team and winning our World ISA title was intense too. That is an amazing souvenir of happiness!
Q: What constitutes success for you in the world of surfing? Is there a particular competition or award you aspire to win? Or do you measure your success in different ways?
A: Of course, I would like to have my face as the champion of any QS event [smiles].
To win again the French national title. To win a major WQS. To represent my country at the Olympics games.
But my success, even if I can be disappointed with my results, is to give my best and have good feelings on the waves. To get rid of the stress I can sometimes have… and to give 120%.
Q: You do a lot of travelling. Do you get to explore these different locations much beyond the beach?
A: I try to. As I am just 19, I cannot rent a car in most of the countries I visit. If I travel with an older girl I get more chances to explore. I am lucky I did a lot of travelling with my mother and we explored a lot of fascinating places.
Q: Is there a place you are still excited to visit or even revisit?
A: I love Bali!
Q: There are some incredible drawings on your Instagram page. Is that how you unwind and let off some creative energy away from the water?
A: I have always loved to draw. It’s a good way to spend those hours and hours on the plane [smiles].
Q: What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?
A: I wish to be successful in my competitions this year. To have the life I am striving to create. To be in love and to be loved in return. And to have a Mini [smiles]!