Unlocked SEOTY: Zoe McDougal In "I Love You" - Stab Mag

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Unlocked SEOTY: Zoe McDougal In “I Love You”

Dear Zoe’s Ex (es), simmer down, this isn’t about you.

Words by Coral McDuffee
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The message, “I Love You,” from Zoe McDougall illuminated my iPhone Saturday night. 

“What, Who?” I caved to curiosity and opened my inbox inside one of Siargao’s dimly lit beach bars. At first, there was disappointment. No “Who,” but below the signature line, 6 minutes of nicely-scored surf cinema saved the mood. 

“The title ‘I Love You’ came after reflecting on a year of travel, surfing, and doing what I love with the people I love,” Zoe later told us.

Featuring (most of) your favorite female surfers: Zoe McDougall, Caity Simmers and Coco Ho, “I Love You” is packed with high-fi surfing and a cinematic flex. On the eve of the Vans Pipe Masters window, we took the chance to chat with our fierce Stab Highway, presented by Monster Energy victor. 

Stab: Hey Zoe. Loved the new edit. Who made “I Love You?” 
Zoe McDougal: Cory Gehr, he’s one of my best friends. We met when I was 14 or 15 and clicked, then started working on all these fun video projects. He’s a talented production director, editor, filmer and the lead singer and guitarist for a new band called Formal Gowns.

What was your favorite trip from the film? 
We got good waves at HTs, and being with Coco was a dream. I grew up looking up to her like an older sister. 

Zoe looking comfy in an HT’s cavern.

Stab Highway didn’t make the cut? 
No, but Stab Highway taught me to work under pressure, fatigue, and with limited personal space. The experience has certainly changed my approach to everything I do. I’m invincible after only eating escargot for two days — two waves in a Qey is nothing. 

We know you love competition and the freesurf side of things. Where do you see yourself in the next five years? 
I don’t see those as mutually exclusive, so I’m going to do both as long as I can. I have that competitive drive and want to prove myself, but I also enjoy freesurfing and making movies. It’s been a busy year, but I’ll have my cake and eat it too. 

There’s a saying that goes, “Show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are.” Your two best friends are Caity and Coco. How have they influenced your perspective on surfing? 
Yeah, they’ve both pushed me so much and are my favorite people to be around. I’m in the middle of their age, but I hang out with them and don’t feel the difference. 

Caity and I don’t talk about surfing much. We have intense life chats. My favorite moment is late at night, and we’re both jet-lagged, and we’ll have a crazy introspective conversation. Just how unimportant all of this is and how lucky we are to stress what we stress on. 


Coco has shown me the ropes. I’m most inspired by how she’s shown her style throughout her career and then turned it into whatever she wants it to be. She calls the shots on her own destiny. 

You spend a lot of time in LA and seem to pull inspiration from pop culture and streetwear. Is this theory valid? 
I love to study both modern and timeless fashion. I’ll always bring a Vogue magazine with me on the plane. I’m just in awe of the colors and what fashion can be. I often refer to men’s skating because it can be chic and fashionable. Women’s surfing is artful in that way, too, where it’s more beautiful than just a sport and makes sense in the outside world. 

I love what Stussy’s doing, and I recently got to work with Golden Goose. Seeing more elevated brands encourage athlete crossover in the surf realm is exciting. 

The Vans Pipe Masters waiting period starts in a few days. How’s your headspace going into that event? 
I feel pretty comfortable out at Pipe. Growing up on the North Shore, I’m calculated because growing up (here) you hear about every scary thing that happens at Pipe. I would love to be in a heat with all goofy footers so I could have my pick of Backdoor waves.

Watch all the 2023 SEOTY entries here.

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