Photo: Magi Kernan
The fine art of Instagram, with Coco Ho
Story by Ali Klinkenberg
We’re on the cusp of a shift, a cultural and gender swing, if you will. Soon, the men’s world tour will be the support act, and Mick Fanning will be but a memory. Yes that’s right, it’s time for the female take over. In this complex digital age, there’s nothing that quite clears the mind and warms the heart than a bubblegum-cute, long haired surfer girl, performing with grace and fluidity. Playing the game is the only way for feminism to truly succeed, and no-one’s doing it better that Coco Ho. Her well documented boyfriend Mark McMorris is a snowboarding megastar, and that doesn’t hurt her brand one iota. Life as a professional athlete right now is all about the personal branding, and we wanna be in the Coco Ho business.
Stab: So, the girls are way more marketable than the guys now…
Coco: We’ve been saying that for a while now. It’s funny because a few years ago being a girl surfer was kinda like, whatever. It was definitely second to the men. But now our tour’s getting stronger, with the quality of waves getting better, the prize money’s becoming more equal. We have so much more opportunity outside of surfing. I’ve done a shoot with Vanity fair. The boys aren’t winning.
Why? Obviously the surfer lifestyle alone sells product. But we’re in bikinis, in exotic locations, it’s really cute and an idea that everyone wants to grab, and look at (laughs).
Did the girls grasp the value of social media first? I think social media was when we got our head-start. It’s what’s differentiated who’s really marketable and who’s not. It sucks sometimes because obviously surfing’s a sport, and you want the best surfer to win, but it’s all about finding that balance. The balance between sex selling, and being an athlete, and how far outside of the boundaries you’re willing to go. But then, at the end of the day, you don’t want to hold back because you are a brand. I think about that a lot.
You mean in terms of what you put up on social media? Your Instagram is the catalogue to your life. When I look at my idols’ Instagram, like Beyonce, I love seeing her raw natural and real, and I love seeing her done up. And performing. Just an array of everything. I love seeing her love life too, gossip girl. It’s a true depiction, it’s her whole life.
Is @xococoho an accurate depiction of your life? Yeah, it’s so easy to just post from photo shoots, we do so many, but I try and keep a real and authentic vibe. What I’m actually doing, who I’m actually with, just that mix. It’s definitely me.
People now have a direct line to you. If Sophie Smith from Iowa wants to message you she can, and it’ll pop right up on your phone. Is that scary? It’s scary in a way. You have to be careful how much information you post. If I’m hanging out somewhere recognisable then I’ll delay the post. Or if we’re at home, you want to keep that private. And my boyfriend has a lot of crazy fans! It’s scary sometimes he posts something close to the house, I’m like “can you see any street signs?” I didn’t have to think like that til recently.
You’re one half of a bona fide Action Sports power couple! Does that help your brand? There’s no denying that dating Mark’s helped. He’s the best at what he does. He’s won double gold twice at the X-Games, this year, and a couple of years ago. The Olympics was probably the scariest time, that’s when my numbers really started flying. It just made me realise how big TV is (Mark has his own show on MTV Canada). Mark’s just so encouraging and savvy in the social media sphere. He’s the smartest brand in snowboarding, and that’s only taught me.
Have you been on Mark’s show? I’ve been on it a couple of times, so I’m pretty big in Canada (laughs). The X-games, through me being at their events, they’ve shown me a lot of support. They really have been treating us like an Action Sports power couple.
Is this the only type of relationship that you could have? We definitely realise how much it helps to be on a similar programme. No one in the normal world would understand you having to go away so much. They’d just be stuck at home, all bored and bummed. We’re so lucky that we both understand.
Is instagram a written part of your contract? Schedule? Yeah definitely, it’s your biggest platform to show your new products, but I don’t have a set schedule of when I have to post. I definitely put time into trying to create good content for my sponsors’ sake. I’ve learnt a lot about how to take good lifestyle photos, that’s for sure. It’s great shooting with professional photographers but I love putting my own twist on things.
Who’s feed is your favourite? Beyonce. I’m the biggest fan. I love how much she lets you into her life, but then she just keeps some things private. People have only seen the foot of her baby on Instagram, I love that. It’s the best. She’s the perfect role model for women, and Maria Sharapova, I love her too.