Toyko Games - Lucy Campbell gunning to make a splash in Tokyo
If Lucy Campbell has her say, they'll soon be making a Cool Runnings sequel about British surfers. The 26-year-old surfing star is targeting Olympic qualification at the World Surfing Games, and changing perceptions. British champion Campbell, 26, has a chance of qualifying for surfing's Olympic debut.
If Lucy Campbell has her say, they'll soon be making a Cool Runnings sequel about British surfers.
The legendary 1993 film, loosely based on a true story, has become synonymous with the ultimate underdog triumph. A quick plot refresher: four determined Jamaican bobsledders enter the 1988 Winter Olympics and do better than anyone ever expected, earning the respect of their peers. Everyone is inspired.
British champion Campbell, 26, has a chance of qualifying for surfing's Olympic debut with a quality outing at the World Surfing Games, a nine-day event beginning Saturday in El Salvador â€” and the final opportunity to book a spot in Tokyo.
Campbell, alongside teammates Emily Currie and Ellie Turner, would be thrilled to write their own unexpected tale on the water while shedding perceptions that English women can't shred.
She said: "Coming from the UK, we're sort of still the underdogs.
"Competing against people like Hawaii or Australia, we're gradually getting our name on the map.
"Within the UK, we've got some incredible talent, and so I think over the next years that's really going to change."
That acceleration will be fuelled by a Â£1.35 million investment from UK Sport, announced in December as part of its new 12-year approach to podium potentialâ€”triple the timeline of its previous four-year funding scheme.
Campbell and her El Salvador GB contingent, which also includes male counterparts Stanley Norman, Luke Dillon and Harry Cromwell, are, in surfer-speak, 'stoked' to be recognised for their Olympic potential.
She said: "Paris 2024 is sort of what we've got the funding towards. Obviously, a lot of us are still really hoping to qualify for this year's Olympics, working towards that.
"But we've got the funding to hopefully be able to get some solid training, coaching and things in place for the next Olympics, which is something that we haven't had in the UK as a team."
For now, Campbell will ride whatever waves of success come her way, including a Tokyo berth.
A top-seven finish would punch her ticket, but a lower-ranked result could still do the trick if athletes from countries who have already filled their two quota places, or qualified in a previous event, occupy those top spots.
The North Devon native grew up loving the ocean, running into the water fully-clothed as a child ('my poor parents!'). Campbell's dad and older brother convinced her to give surfing a go around age nine, and she distinctly remembers the afternoon she managed to get herself up and ride a wave from top to bottom.
"Just the feeling of going fast, it's the best thing ever. That's when I got, like, properly hooked!" she says with a grin.
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"It's one of those things where you're so focused on reading the ocean, where the wave's coming in, what's going on, that you don't get a chance to think about anything else.
"It's almost like a form of meditation or mindfulness."
'Meditation' and 'mindfulness' are the sort of words one might expect in a surfer's vernacular, but Campbell insists there's more to hanging ten than hanging out in some of the world's most beautiful locales - though, there is that benefit.
"I feel like surfers are definitely portrayed as sort of beach bums," she said, reflecting on surfer stereotypes.
"Though," she added, laughing, "I guess that's kind of true, like, we do just kind of hang out at the beach, just basically all day.
"But I think the athleticism of surfing is often overlooked. It is a really all-encompassing sport.
"You're using your whole body, you're paddling for hours and hours on end each day, battling against the waves.
"And then when you're stood up, obviously, it's mostly your legs and core.
"It is a full body, really demanding sport."
When she's not at the beach, Campbell does strength and conditioning work at the gym two to three days a week, as well as daily stretching and yoga, which she finds beneficial for body awareness.
She explained: "In surfing, you're focusing on getting your arm in one place and shifting your foot slightly one way, and there's so much to think about in a split second."
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Most of the time Campbell hits the waves, she finds she's the only woman in the water.
There are, she said, 'a really solid bunch of female surfers in the UK, always pushing each other to take our surfing to the next level' but believes the simplest of changes could make a huge difference in getting more girls out on boards.
"Growing up, maybe it was a little bit intimidating," she recalled. "But I'm just kind of used to it now.
"Gradually I'm seeing more and more girls come in and get involved. But even the technology of wetsuits is really helping.
"Girls' wetsuits have been that little bit behind guys', which makes girls feel cold then they don't enjoy it as much."
Of course, no one has to worry about Campbell, Currie or Turner not enjoying surfing, but the competition may have to start fretting about Britain as a bona-fide Olympic threat, coming soon to a beach near you.