Dropping every day til it's over. All photos: Alan Van Gysen
The New Normal: Steph Gilmore On Covid Conspiracies And Why She's Avoiding Her Parents
"The more you read into it, you're like, 'Holy shit, this is probably real. We're all living in the Truman Show here.'"
Professional surfers, they're just like us!
In other words, stuck in their houses with fuck all to do. So rather than watch our screentime ascend into the double-digits, we decided to get on the pulse and interview notable surf industry players about where they are, what the hell they've been up to, and what are their thoughts on the covid pandemic.
Conspiracy theories, time-killing pursuits, and apocalyptic essentials are mostly what we're after in our New Normal series (which will be dropping daily in this space).
First up is the 7x World Champ (who is most certainly not taking the media's word for it), Steph Gilmore.
Stab: So, Steph...where are you riding this thing out?
Steph Gilmore: Coolangatta. I did one trip at the end of January, and I've been home since.
I've been dealing with a back injury, and the season was coming around the corner so fast and I wasn’t feeling ready yet. And then this happened. Being the completely selfish surfer that I am [laughs]... I was like, 'Oh, I don't mind having to have a little more time off.' But the situation of the world right now is crazy and needs our attention.
I'm sure for some of the groms and the rookies on tour, it's a heartbreaking thing to be so geared up and ready to roll and then it gets ripped out from underneath you. That must be pretty hard. But when you've been on tour for a few years, it's kind of nice to have a little extra time.
These are the things that we take for granted, living these incredible lives traveling around all year. We’re extremely lucky. A lot of people that we know are being laid off work, shutting their businesses and struggling to pay their rent and even buying food. So it’s a huge wake up call when all put in perspective.
Does this feel like the biggest international event in your lifetime, and has it touched close to home?
Oh, for sure. When you read the press, even the memes on Instagram they hit straight to the point, “our grandparents went to war, you’re being asked to stay inside…” The whole world was shut down. But it’s important for the health of the world so we can do it.
See! The conspiracies come out!
[Laughs] The conspiracy theories are crazy. It’s the best part. The most entertaining part.
Do you have group threads going like crazy?
Yeah, group messaging with everyone, talking about it all. I mean, it's insane. The more you read into it and all the theories and the detail of info used to back them up, you're like, 'Holy shit, this is probably real. We're all living in the Truman Show here.'
But all paths somehow lead to this being a real thing that we're living through—that it's not just going to go away. With media hype and the pace everything happens these days, everything's so hyperbolic that it's hard for us to imagine something actually life-changing happening.
Yeah. And I think for us in particular, seeing videos of a guy paddling out and actually getting arrested, is where it'll probably hit home closest for most surfers. Something that is our simple freedom, we don’t have the freedom to do anymore ’ It just makes it all very real.
Yeah, I don't know. I feel like it's definitely going to be the biggest event we've seen in our lifetime...
Maybe this is something that'll help us prepare for something worse in the future. The World Wars would have been a similar thing, a feeling of ‘Will this ever end’ and 'What's going to happen next?' Imagine coming out of that and for the rest of your life, feeling: what's around the corner? But we flourished then, so I hope this too can be the incubator for a healthier future. If there’s any silver lining.
I guess it's strange to think of this as being like a universal threat though. It’s not soldiers at war with heavy artillery. It's something that everyone has to fight regardless of politics, regardless nationality, ideology. We can sit and argue all day long about how we go about doing that, but we're all against the same threat.
Yeah, totally. In Australia (and I really don’t think we have a good perspective here yet as we’re only just starting to see the effects), but seeing all sports being shut down and people feeling lost without these every day things. It's giving us a little time to reflect on how much we actually rely on all these outside entertainments
It's every single person on the planet that's being affected by this. It doesn't matter what religion, what race, socioeconomic status—it's going to affect everybody, some much harder than others, but I guess in a weird way, it’s bringing us together. The key is to have some compassion.
When did you start to take covid seriously?
That last swell that we had and we were surfing, doing runarounds at the point. We were starting to be aware of the idea of social distancing. There were still a lot of fans from all over the world on the beach and they'd come up still want photos with arms around you etc, usually I never think twice, but at that point it hit me.
So I locked it down. I've definitely kept my distance from my parents. I haven't seen them. I think that most Australians have been way too relaxed about the situation, myself included. You know, we're out and about, still eating at restaurants three or four days ago. Reading statistics it hit me ‘oh wait a second, my parents are in that age bracket’, they’re high risk, I still think of my parents as invincible, but I need to stay clear of them right now.
Also now there’s reports of cases that are asymptomatic, that hi9t home as i could be one of those people. So the safest bet is to stay clear, use facetime.
It's a small price to pay. I don't know how long we're in lockup for, but it's an easy thing to do.
Who are you isolated with?
Just my sister and myself.
Essential things in your house that are getting you through this period?
My guitars. My last trip to the States, I brought back a really nice Gibson SG, so I've been trying to learn a few more Sabbath songs.
My dad's mate passed away—he was a really good guitar player—and he left me this beautiful flamenco guitar that’s so nice to play. So I've been strumming along on that.
Every time I'm playing guitar, I'm like, 'Oh, should I do a live Instagram like everybody else right now?' I don't know. I don't think people really want to listen to me. Maybe get a few more nice comments to boost my ego.
But then I'm going to get tagged in one of those pushup videos… So I tend to not to look at Instagram too much.
Is your screen time up over the last week?
Yeah, up. Definitely. For sure.
It's actually been my Ultimate Guitar app. Basically, it's an app that teaches you guitar chords. That and probably YouTube, which I don't know why I'm watching on my phone. I should just be watching on the TV.
I learned to play “Get Back” by the Beatles. Pretty fun. Also “The Rain Song,”—I love Led Zeppelin.
Shane Fletcher has been teaching me some pretty good, um, I don't know what you call them, more metal riffs. Stoner metal? I don’t even know what genre it is.
And I just saw a video of a friend of mine in the States who wanted to start playing piano. He's already gotten pretty good in such a short amount of time just because he can sit there and YouTube will teach you anything.
Maybe I’ll write an album. Heads up! I doubt that, but hey, you never know.
Most of the people that we've talked to have been talking about the YouTube classes that they've been taking, the self-improvement under the circumstances. It's very endearing.
Yeah. It's cool. I like it. I've seen a lot of that stuff going around. All those times that you were like, I'll do that when I've got a month to do nothing? This is it. No more excuses, get into it.
What things have you been setting aside for a rainy day that you're now doing?
At the end of last year I was taking a lot of photos, and I've never really organized them into a book or anything. I'd love to, so that's something I keep looking at. I just got a whole bunch of photos back, film. I got a new Nikon in Hawaii last year and shot a bunch, it just got developed. They’re pretty cool. I need to actually put them together.
Where's the first place you're going after the travel bans are off and it's safe to move around the planet again?
Good question. That's going to depend on so many things.
I was having a conversation with Tyler [Wright] and a lot of the girls the other day. All of us have traveled so much around the world, but not around Australia. There are so many good waves in Australia to go surf and camp. So, depending on how long we're in lockdown, I was thinking, maybe if it starts getting more relaxed domestically, then we'll take off. I've never been to Tasmania...there's so many places I want to go. I mean, this time of year for us for waves is insane. If things become more relaxed domestically in the next month or so, then yeah, we're not complaining. Even if we can just surf around here, we’re spoiled.
You could live on a pretty small budget and get some pretty good waves.
Do you feel like surfers on the ‘CT will feel it quickly in their paycheck?
The WSL is still giving us last place prize money when an event's officially canceled, and with the US dollar so high at the moment, we're doing pretty good here in Aus.