Jo Dennison is best known as Head Surf Coach at Surf Snowdonia, but after long break from competitive surfing, Jo has decided that this is the year she gets back on the tour. And what a start, first place at the Surfaced Pro has boosted her confidence and set her on course for a successful year in competition. We caught up with Jo back on her own turf in North Wales and asked her how she’s feeling about the upcoming season.
How do you feel about winning the first event – what does it mean to you?
It was a huge shock actually I really wasn’t expecting it. I don’t get in the ocean that much anymore. Apart from the Welsh national’s the weekend before, I haven’t been in the ocean since January. I think over the last 3 and a half years I mustn’t have spent more that 3 weeks a year in the ocean. I have changed all my equipment and habits to suit a wave garden I’m a little out of touch with nature and the rhythm of the ocean. Great confidence booster and motivation to come along to the next event.
Are we going to see you on the rest of the tour?
There very few golden tickets to the first Olympics in 2020. The home nations will only have one team, Great Britain. The last time I competed on the UK surf scene was 2010 before living in France to compete internationally on the WQS so I currently have no UK or international ranking. It’s my goal to become the British Women’s champion by the end of the year and make the team that would go to the ISA World Surf Games in 2019. I’m 32 years old, but don’t count me out just yet, I’m taking inspiration from Snowboard freestyler, Jenny Jones, whose discipline took her to the Olympics in 2014 where she became the first ever British snowboarder to win an Olympic medal. There could be some great competition at the Word Surf Games and could be an opportunity to push my surfing and keep progressing.
I’m still in full time employment but I’m going to try and make all the events this year. It’s great to be a part of the British surf scene again. Even when it’s not my heat I’m watching all the amazing surfing going down from all the categories. Seriously people should come down to the next event to spend the day at the beach and check it all out.
Which event are you most looking forward to?
Still to this day the best waves I have ever had in a completion was up in Thurso Scotland on the UKPSA Pro Surf Tour. I made the podium but didn’t take the win. I think that was the year Irish surfer, Nicole Morgan, was on fire. I have never been back since so I would love to surf up there again with a vengeance.
How confident are you about the Night Surf?
Well I had a little practise last year at Surf Snowdonia, with Team O’Neill. There was Jordy Smith, Wakeboarder Nico Van Lerchenfeld and myself. We had about an hour each surfing in the dark with funky lights and smoke machines. I’m hoping this experience will help me in the night surf!
Have you set your sights on winning the tour?
No not really, I just enjoy getting in the ocean these days. It’s a really good excuse to meet up with some of the best surfers in the UK and have a surf. Just trying to enjoy it, if the wins come along with it then that’s just an added bonus.
How do you find being back competing in the ocean?
It is going to take some getting used to if the swell is going to be like the Surfaced pro in Watergate bay. It just really highlighted to me how out of rhythm with the ocean I am. I never paddle far or duck dive, leave my equipment at work never check the forecast. It is like going to the gym you have your time slot get your waves and go home.
Has the wave pool helped with training/technique/fitness?
The wave pool has helped with technical training massively. The consistency of waves offers the opportunity of repetition, which you rarely get in the ocean. I struggle massively in crowds, as a female in the line up I think you have to work extra hard to earn any respect and miss a lot of waves waiting your turn. On my last trip I was getting 1 wave every 30min’s when the waves were good. This obviously holds back your progression when you don’t get the riding time. It’s so good to know that you will get 12 waves an hour with no paddle battles or localism. Plan and surf your session, it’s great for your technical surfing.
How does teaching at the wave pool fit into your professional career?
Well, my job doesn’t actually entail surf coaching these days. My team of 50 lifeguards and surf instructor’s keep me too busy. With having an office job I’m definitely not moving and surfing as much as I want to. The opportunity didn’t arise for me to be a full time athlete so I decided a few years ago to use my degree in sports management and got a full time job. What better place to start than an artificial Wavegarden right in my homeland?
How important is equal prize money?
This was one of the reasons I wanted to compete at the event at Watergate bay, to show the sponsors that if they support the women’s category it is actually affordable for us to compete. I tried to do all the events on the UK Pro Tour one year and it cost so much money, I couldn’t do it anymore. If you don’t have a sponsor that pays the fees, it really does add up. It would be shame if someone didn’t win the tour, not down to talent, but to budget and affordability. It really is a step forward and a massive thank you to the sponsors for supporting the women’s category.
How do you see women’s surfing progressing?
It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a female surfer. Hopefully with the inclusion of surfing in the Olympics it can bring some more sponsorship into the sport in the UK. This will create an opportunity for the next generation of surfers to be able to commit to being full time athletes.