Defining Gurf

By Daini Stephenson | Featuring Ellie Connan and Maria Nilsson
Byron Bay, Australia
13/12/2016

'GURF' – type it into Google and even the urban dictionary has no idea what you’re talking about. Ask a local here in Byron Bay what Gurf means, and they’ll point you in the direction of the Pass, where you will find a rising tide Girl Surfers otherwise known as Gurfers only too happy to induct you into their tribe.

Gurf is a word that has raised considerable and warranted criticism. Some women remark that female surfers don’t need a word applied to defining the difference between male and female surfers. Well I kind of think it’s awesome. Gurf brings a certain playfulness to the subject, trumping the seriousness that once prevailed. Plus the word distinguishes us girls from them boys. They don’t have a word, and we do – so let's celebrate.

If you’re fortunate enough to catch a good day at the Pass, Byron’s premier logging point break, chances are girls will outnumber the guys in the line up. It really is amazing, and it makes me a happy little gurfer to be a part of this population of female surfers. Just so we’re straight, I am talking long boarding here – girls are yet to outnumber the guys at most short boarding breaks in Byron - however yet is the key word here.

As a surfer, Byron Bay is considered world-over as a ‘have to go there once in my life’ type of place. Its unique and captivating idiosyncrasies are what make Byron the joyful playground it is. There is a dynamic surfing culture here that blends all sorts of humans and wave riding crafts in ways that no other pursuit can.

The people and the place are what make Byron Bay so special and the perfect location for a festival that celebrates the art of surfing, as well as those rad humans who dedicate their lives to this art. From the 24-26 of February, 2017, Byron Bay will host another highly anticipated Byron Bay Surf Festival in a celebration of all things surf. The festival will bring people from far and wide to rejoice in a fusion of surf, art, film, music, yoga, sustainability and creativity. This award winning festival will branch out over three days, bringing people together in a party wave like no other.

Byron Bay is not only home to this special festival, and tribe of gurfers, it is also a melting pot to some of the best and most creative female surfers in the world. You can find these surfer babes at The Pass and Wategos, lineups that hold a special place our surfing culture. They are places of watching, learning and full on lady-sliding stoke!

These women in the lineup are creating a positive atmosphere of inspiration and artistry in all fields of the surfing industry. A few of our stand out creative sisters are Cass Hurrell, a local shredding queen whom has created ‘Sunshine & The Eccentrics’ - an agency that celebrates independent salt loving designers both nationally and internationally.

One of the founding eccentrics represented by this agency is local Maria Nilsson. A lady slider haling from Sweden 10 years ago, Maria has made Byron Bay her home and in the process founded; ‘Atmosea’. Atmosea are functional, stylish, intergalactic surf suits made for women by women.

Ellie Connan, a fellow local wave slider and Eccentric, owns a hip boutique in Byron called 11:11. Ellie is a true creative, who enjoys documenting the local surf scene with her film camera when she is not surfing un-crowded lefts.

Last but not least, Maddie Gross, surf steeze extraordinaire. Her quick flowy punts and stylish manoeuvers inspire greatness. She is full of good vibes and always encouraging to other girls in the lineup. Maddie, and other Byron lady sliders are part of the positive change happening in the female surfing community worldwide. Together we are creating supportive lineups for women that foster creativity and stoke.
 
So there you have it, Girls surfing – yeah! Byron Bay Surf Fest – yeah! Come join us in the Bay from the 24th-26th of Feb so you can meet your favourite gurfers, catch a few waves and soak up the sunny festival vibes. There are over 25 free and ticketed events being held during the festival so make sure you jump on the website to see what's happening.

To celebrate the lead up to the festival and the gloriousness of the women’s surfing community, we are sharing a series of interviews with local Byron Bay eccentrics. To kick things off, I have spoken with besties Maria and Ellie to find out what gets their creative juices flowing.

Yeeew!

_ _



INTERVIEW WITH ELLIE CONNAN


Hey there lady slider, tell me your short story?
 
Grew up in a family that didn't surf, lived off the land, moved to Noosa Heads when I was 12. By 15, I had made a friend that wanted to learn how to surf. So we took it upon ourselves to motivate each other and eventually learn. Years and years and years later- I've never looked back.
 
When did you move to Byron?

I keep saying 10 years ago, so probably more like 11 or 12 now..

 
What are your thoughts on girls surfing in Byron?
 
Ohhhhh... Wish I could say I'm a huge fan of girls in the water and be super supportive and all that jazz... But to be honest- it's just more humans in the water in general.. If everyone is having a good time- then that's awesome.. But I kinda don't take a lot of notice of people (boys or girls) when I'm surfing.. Try and mind my own business and float around, catch a few- and leave feeling salty..
 
What do you do other than surf?

I own a little clothing boutique in Byron, called 11:11. I've had it for 7 years now. So that keeps me busy and challenged with life skills! And I really like to take film photos. So that fulfills my creative desires and frustrations...

 
What made you want to start doing that?
 
Fashion was the obvious direction for me to follow after leaving Noosa when I was younger, and having worked for my old boss for 10 years gaining opportunities to work in all aspects of his business. So it was an amazing platform for me to have worked out my strengths and weaknesses within a business, and then apply it to my own. 

Film Photo's- I just really enjoy the science to figuring out how to make pretty images, It's so rewarding when you get it developed - Such anticipation!

 
If you ever left Byron where would you want to go and why?

Probably Mexico or some Spanish speaking country.. I have some weird new dream since downloading a Spanish language App, that one day I will be fluent, even though right now, I am confused of which word means bread and which means milk.
 
Who is your favourite person to see in the surf?
 
I really like seeing this older guy who loves listening to metal, he always wears a tye-dye shirt in summer, and surfs like a demon.. He is so erratic, you don't know what he will do, he is my favourite person to see in the surf.
 
Describe your perfect day?
 
Wake up, drink the elixir of life (coffee) go check the waves, go surfing mid morning when you have warmed up naturally to the day. Go home make some brekkie, catch up with friends, or do some work in the hotter hours/ hang out with my cat. Surf again before dark, see a nice sunset- and appreciate what a beautiful world we live in. So much gratitude.

 
Do you think surfing is creative? How so? 
 
It's definitely an expression of sorts; everyone is out there for different reasons. I think some might take a more creative approach then others for sure - haha.
 
What’s the next step you’re going to take to get you where you want to be?
 
I'm pretty content right now. Besides working on myself and trying to be a better, more conscious person in the modern world today- I'm pretty happy. No major goals to kick. Just see what unfolds.
 
Describe the feeling after riding the loveliest and longest wave ever?
 
Probably sore legs if it is long!!! But, loveliest- oh, It's a cheesy line but kind of true "only a surfer knows the feeling" sort of un-describable, the best word I can think of would be- Connected!
 
What’s your all time solo mission to the surf song?
 
Tough question, Anything Nick Cave or The National. Dark somber music pushes all my buttons, especially before a surf.
 
INTERVIEW WITH MARIA NILSSON

 
Hey there lady slider, tell me your short story?
 
I am a designer, artist, curator and surfer living in Byron Bay. I’m originally from Sweden, and I moved to sunny Australia 11 years ago where I fell in love with the quirky & weird down under style of life. I've studied design, art, print-making and textile/ fashion design and work as a designer for The Bare Road & Children Of The Tribe.  I’ve also started a wetsuit brand called ATMOSEA, based here in Byron. On my down time I like to hang out with my gurfs and gurf dog – Gurfy.
 
When did you move to Byron?
 
Summer 2010
 
What are your thoughts on girls surfing in Byron?
 
Always good vibes!  I feel like all ''gurfs'' (girl surfers) in the Byron waters are supportive of each other in the ocean and out. Everyone is always ''yewing'' and calling each other on to share some fun Party waves! It's very encouraging. It’s amazing how the people you meet in the water become a part of your family, as you spend so much time together, sharing some of the same interests and love for the ocean, that goes for all surfers out there, boys and girls. I have noticed more and more girls surfing at the pass. There's an extraordinary number of females out there at the moment. I am frothing on seeing how fast "gurfers" are progressing and I think dudes are too.
 
What do you do other than surf?
 
I’ve recently launched a wetsuit brand called ATMOSEA. My business is based in Byron Bay, blending my passion for art & design, surf culture, and fashion & textiles together. Atmosea is a lifestyle concept.
 
A celebration of the grace and vitality of female surfing as a pass time, a culture and an expression of self – with a special love for quality, design and functionality.
 
Atmosea is a unique collection of wetsuits that would be ideal for all female shapes and forms. I found inspiration from freedom, feminism and empowerment, then it came to life and Atmosea was created.
 
My life is constantly busy with designing and coming up with wild concepts.  When I’m not working, I enjoy getting involved in art shows and running a muck both in the water and on land.

 
What made you want to start doing that?

 
I started doing this like an art project, THE SURFING ALIEN (see link for video clip). I’ve always had a passion for art and I love creating things. So after having a great time making the alien suit, I was hooked and wanted to make more, so it emerged out to be a Sportswear/Swim wear label, focusing on ladies’ neoprene garments with an eye for fashion. Mermaid punk fashion you can surf in. It comes very natural and effortless as I enjoy working in the industry and am living the lifestyle.
 
If you ever left Byron where would you want to go and why? 
 
Never Never Land. So I can meet all the magical creatures I’ve always dreamt about.
 
Who is your favourite person to see in the surf?
 
Hands down my little bestie, Maddie Gross, I love her style and she makes me laugh so much in the water. I would say she is my girl crush! Every time I see her in the water I get so excited!

 
Describe your perfect day?
 
Waking up at sunrise in my van. Stick my head out and point to the surf - it’s pumping! It’s a nice quiet weekday so not that many people are around except for a few of us. We surf till we are absolutely starving and then head up to the shops and get an amazing burger. Back out there and surf till your arms fall off and in to the dusk. Then it’s campfire time after the exhausted, but amazing day. Coupla beers and some funny camp fire stories!
It is one of those days where all the stars align. I think we’ve all had a few of them – when the weather is perfect and the surf just happens to be pumping all day with no crowds. Maybe around some mid-north coast point breaks, there’s pretty much always a fun wave to find around there!
 
Do you think surfing is creative, how so?
 
Super creative!!! It seems to be an unconscious creativity. It’s an impulsive sport and your brain has to take action depending how Mother Ocean creates and delivers. You have to go with the flow of the ocean. If you try to plan your ride, the ocean will show you that she’s the boss. So I think it is the coolest creativity because you never know what your brain will come up with once the sea surprises you.

 
What is the next step your going to take to get you where you want to be?

 
My next step will be to make Atmosea a lifestyle platform of fun community-based gurf adventures. Combining art/surf trips/, and silly fun little surf comps/ to celebrate and promote rad girl surfers and their passion so other girls can get inspired as well.
 
Describe the feeling after riding the loveliest and longest wave ever?
 
SHiiitttttt Yeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh- sparkle fart happy rainbow laughter with some stardust on top.
 
Where can we see more?

atmosea.com.au

What’s your all time solo mission to the surf song?

Surfin’ with the Shah – Urinals

_ _

Words and Interview // Daini Stephenson @dainistephenson
Gurfer // Ellie Connan
Gurfer // Maria Nilsson @mariapusspuss
Festival // Byron Bay Surf Fest @byronbaysurffestival
@summersite

Author
Daini Stephenson

Pronounced day-knee. I live, drink coffees, make words, do activities and try to be funny in front of my friends in and around Byron Bay. I have now committed to go on more surf trips and write about everything I want to. Four fun facts about me: I have travelled to 30 countries, I am the snack queen, I try not to use plastic and I like talking about anything taboo.

@dainistephenson

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    The extraordinary beauty of Rottnest Island through the eyes of local Olive Cooke. Rotto sits just 19kms from Fremantle, Western Australia and is a wild and unique piece of Aussie paradise. Get your Rottnest Island travel guide by local influencer Olive Cooke

  5. Madagascar travel guide

    Lucy Small exploring the coasts, surf and villages of Madagascar.

  6. Cuba

    A place of crumbling splendor and jeweled seas, of derelict buildings emblazoned with the revolutionary flag. This is a changing Cuba.

  7. Palawan

    This is your guide to Palawan in the Phillippines by Life in the Slow Lane's Liss Connell and Grace Picot

  8. Traversing Namibia

    Traversing Namibia by road. Wild and free in the African desert of Namibia by Elise Hassey

  9. Mo'orea travel guide

    Come and visit tropical paradise of Mo'orea, Tahiti. Travel guide by Alesha Saliba of Billabong Australia. Featuring Elyse Knowles and Rocky Barnes

  10. Bora Bora travel guide

    Is paradise calling? This is your guide to Bora Bora, Tahiti.

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