Stephanie Peterson: Bodyboarding Is My Everything.

Bodyboarding Is My Everything.

By Stephanie Peterson.

I couldn’t imagine my life without bodyboarding, I really couldn’t.

At age of 14 – nearly 15 – I came across bodyboarding or perhaps bodyboarding came across me. 

Growing up in Rio de Janeiro at age of 14 going 15, all sorts of troubles waited for me outside my apartment door. When I say trouble I am talking about drugs, parties and perhaps the influence of troubled friends. My passion for bodyboarding saved me from all that. All I wanted to do was to get up at 5 am get to beach as quick as  I could  and surf all day like any keen grommet  

Bodyboarding taught me how to be dedicated and how to be focused on goals, it taught me discipline. I never lived close to the ocean so I had to get up early to wait for a bus that took around 45 minutes everyday, each way. Luckily in Rio we have food trailers along the beaches, most were not the healthiest food at that time, but I was lucky enough to know the owners of the healthiest one. I used to leave my bag there and hang out for the day, life was good with lots of coconut water and good waves.

The last thing I had in my mind when I began to bodyboard was the amazing future that laid ahead. The friends, the friends/rivals, the career, the sponsors and eventually years of world travelling. It was for sure the right love at the right time.

Stephanie, far left.

Probably within 2 years from starting my sponsors started to pay me a salary, even though I was still an amateur rider. I was able to pay for my own schooling which my mum wasn’t very happy about since I chose the worst one, a school where I could complete two grades year in one year!

Like many students of my age at that time and nowadays, I felt the whole education system treats boredom as a “character flaw. I sat in school everyday dreaming about waves and my life away from that horrible place. I had no friends in that specific school, it was inland and nobody else surfed, I was a loner trying just to get school over and done with so that I could go surfing.

When I had an idea the surf was going to be good the next day, I would hide my board around 11 pm the night before in the trash area outside my apartment door, or somewhere else in the building and then sneak out early.

The friends I created throughout my bodyboarding life became lifetime friends, and thanks to the internet these days we still can stay in contact.


Pre-pipe contest pep talk circa 1990.

When it came down to the crunch day, the day where this whole life ended, my so called retirement day, I have to admit it was the hardest transition in my life, along with becoming a mother. ( I had my first daughter Yohanah the year before the first ever GOB world tour started, it was two years of world travelling with a babe).

This type of life transition from being a full time athlete to a retired athlete was hard because it carried years of living a certain lifestyle, a lifestyle that went on for 15 years. You know it is coming, you hear and read about it.

As I knew  it was getting close I began to prepare, so whenever I came across a story of an athlete going through retirement I would read their story to give me an idea of what to expect and to help me through my transition. That gave me so stability, or at least it felt like it did. I felt like I already had a good idea of what to expect, but it wasn’t going to be easy to let go and move on.

As I began my transition I learnt that love is forever, love is what keeps us going but the ego is what is attached to the contests, sponsors, titles and perhaps the lifestyle.

I had to learn to separate LOVE and EGO. It took me a good year or so to fully be able to relax about it. There was a feeling of anxiety and despair coming in like waves, especially when you know there was a contest on and you weren’t there. 

First published photograph of a female rider doing an air.

Then the big question started to come in from family and friends – So what are you going to do right now with your life? What are your plans?

These questions will always  create pressure on anyone without a direction or trying to get one. It was time for me to create changes, and not having lots of money sitting in the bank to take time to meditate on things, being a mum to Yohanah and having a mortgage to pay off, I had to come up with something sooner rather than later.

I decided to create a bodyboarding company called Uniq Bodyboards and started doing some bodyboarding coaching on the Gold Coast through HPC Casuarina, hooking up with mostly Japanese riders coming to Gold Coast on holidays. I also did a bodyboarding learners DVD with my Japanese friend Ayako and that was a mission. I did all the editing, artwork and she video me whenever she could and did the translation of the DVD to Japanese. 

The Uniq bodyboarding business was a huge lesson as I decided to partner with my best friend and even though I knew the saying “Don’t mix friends with business” I got to learn quickly to never do it again. I could’ve lost a soul mate but thank god that didn’t happen! In the end our history together bodyboarding the world, having amazing adventures and laughters was stronger than all that.

It wasn’t a good time in my life, it was like I was trying so hard to make something happen almost by force. I perhaps should have started my Uniq bodyboarding business during my athlete career when I was at the top and the sport was strong, not after.

Basically women’s bodyboarding was in decline, as well the sport in general. It was definitely not the same recipe I had when I started in my golden days, where everything flows in harmony. During that time I also learnt that bodyboarding coaching here and there was acceptable but as I had a full time job it wasn’t for me. I found myself burned out and not feeling like surfing because of it and that didn’t go well with me, I didn’t like this feeling. I felt I was going to get old quickly, lose interest in surfing if I did that everyday as a job.

Then came training. My love for training was natural, I didn’t have to force on me or anyone. I was known for my training fascination during my athlete career. Anyone within the bodyboarding circle knew it and my friends too. It all happened after the birth of my second daughter Pascallie, I took the decision to start doing my certification courses and ended up opening a studio on the Gold Coast back in 2008.

It wasn’t an easy road either but I felt a connection, a connection I could relate to my body boarding career, it was love for the second time. Even though it wasn’t an easy start because it was starting from zero again, all my experiences throughout my bodyboarding career was ingrained and definitely helped me overcome the speed bumps. When things didn’t look good, I was tired, my business didn’t go well and I was losing money, I would hit the ocean everything would feel good again, even if it was just for a short period.

Now at age of 49, bodyboarding continues to provide me with balance and happiness. It’s my meditation and what keeps me motivated to deal with everything in my life. It is what keeps me young at heart. My goal is to continue to bodyboard for as long as I can. Hopefully I will be able to complete el rollos at the age of 70, that’s my goal! 

I live in Yamba NSW with my partner Shane Powell and daughter Pascallie, and I feel very lucky to be here in such a beautiful place still being able to bodyboard everyday.  My business Surf Flow Movement & Functional Training is about longevity under a holistic approach. The balance between being able to still bodyboard everyday and being able to do a job that helps people and help myself to stay young and strong mentally physically and spiritually, it’s a dream job again.

Life is awesome and I only have bodyboarding to say “ thank you” for everything I’ve learnt in my life.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *