culture

Where Are They Now?

Serena Brooke on transitioning from the World Tour grind to motherhood

| posted on July 22, 2013

Former Women

Serena Brooke was one of the surf world’s best-liked and brightest stars in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The superfit and fresh-faced regularfoot claimed ASP Rookie of the Year honors in 1995, won her first tour event the next year, and twice finished second in the world (1998 and 1999) before bowing out of full-time tour competition after the 2008 season. In the years since, Brooke’s gone on to do charity work, appear in surf fitness how-tos, and started her own clothes company. This past spring, Brooke moved on to the most important chapter of her life, giving birth to twin girls; she’s raising the future shredders with her long-time partner, visual artist Emma Sheldrake. (The couple briefly made Australian news recently for standing up in support of same sex marriage.) We caught up with Serena to find out what post-tour life has been like.

First, where are you living and what are you up to these days? How’s your new clothing line coming along?

I’m living in Noosa on the Sunshine Coast. I moved back up here a couple of years ago. I grew up here and my partner was living up here, plus the Gold Coast has become so crowded to surf these days, so it’s a little more relaxed up here which is nice. Serena Sportwear is going well, there has been a bit of time off after the birth of the girls, but it is going well, all the samples are done and they look great. We are using some of Em’s artwork on the pieces.

How’s your surfing? Are you able to get in the water much with newborn twins?

Surfing is going well, although I found it really hard at first after the birth of the girls. I had a C-section and I felt so weak, like I had no core strength left. We have a neighbor who loves the girls and comes every morning and watches them, so I have been surfing again quite a bit. When there is swell I surf the national park waves. Tea Tree Bay has been insane lately—great sand, lots of barrels, and not the crazy amount of people like the Gold Coast. When it’s smaller I just surf whatever beachbreaks have the best banks. There are a lot to choose from up here.

Tell us a bit about your partner and your little girls.

My partner is a graphic designer and a fine artist. We work from home which helps a lot as there are always two of us here for the bubs. She is very busy either painting for galleries or doing design work for her own company. Motherhood has been the biggest blessing for both of us. It is the best thing I have ever done. It’s so rewarding in so many ways. I am super happy and have loved transitioning into this phase of life; everyone tells you how amazing parenting will be, but you don’t know the love you will experience until you do it. It’s love on a whole new level. It’s the best.

Serena Brooke (left) and her partner Emma Sheldrake with their twin daughters in Australia.

2008 was your last year on tour. Were you hoping to re-qualify for 2009 or  were you ready for life on tour to be over? Walk me through your thoughts as that year ended.

I was totally ready to leave the tour in 2008. I did it for 14 years and was not too much into competing at that point in my life. I was actually excited, rather than bummed, and didn’t try to re-qualify at all. The timing was perfect to leave full-time competing behind. As much as I had loved doing it, the thrill of being in a different country surfing crappy contest waves was not for me anymore. We had super bad waves on tour that year; all of the good waves weren’t on the women’s tour schedule anymore, so it was more of a beachbreak tour than a dream tour. The days of surfing J-Bay, Trestles, Fiji, Tahiti, and Hawaii were gone. I actually felt bad for the new girls coming on, and fortunate that I got to compete on tour in the earlier years when we had amazing waves and events. I did a bunch of side trips that last year when I was around the WCT events and just enjoyed myself.

What was life like in 2009? Were you doing contests? Did you have a plan in place for life after full-time competition?

2009 was a fun year. I competed in select events with Bud Light and traveled to great waves for photo/video trips: Indo, Hawaii,Tahiti, the Philippines, and all around the USA. It was very relaxed, no stress, just hanging out or going where the waves were good. No points to worry about, and no getting out of bed to surf crappy waves. I enjoyed the more relaxed schedule and enjoyed leaving that little bubble life of the WCT behind. It served me well, but I was ready to explore more outside of full-time tour life. I didn’t really have a “plan” so to speak, but I was still getting paid to surf and I had set myself up over the years so I didn’t have to run out and get a job right away or anything which was a blessing. From when I left the WCT to when I gave birth to the twins, I’ve had a blast. Now I just cant wait to surf with my kids.

For Brooke, it won't be long before her twin daughters follow her into the lineup. Photo: Grant

What are some of your favorite memories from your pro career?

I have so many amazing memories it’s hard to pick, but my favorite is probably my first WCT win (Hossegor, 1996) when you had to surf all the way through from the trials to get to the main event. It was big, heavy Hossegor and I was stoked to beat the top girls and take my first WCT win. I also loved winning events at home like the Billabong Pro, and competing in Japan when we had WCT events there. It was such a trip going there as a grom, so different from where I had grown up.

Also, I enjoyed side trips like the OP Boat Trip Challenge in the early 2000s. They would take the top four women from the Surfer Poll awards and the top four men. Surfing for 10 days with Bruce, Andy, Occy, Shane—all the top guys—and me, KK [Keala Kennelly], Rochelle [Ballard], and Layne. It was such an amazing concept: hour long heats and perfect waves and a bunch of money just for showing up and a LOT for the winner. We all got into trouble the first year as the contest organizers tried to make it like the “Survivor” TV show, and turn us against each other with a winner takes all concept. So the boys and girls got together and scribbled a little hand-written contract which we all signed, secretly agreeing to just split all the money no matter who won. I think Occy won the men’s and Roach [Ballard] won the women’s and they split it. Although the contest directors were onto it and the next year told us we could not split the money again.

Who were some of your favorite competitors on tour? Were there girls you hated to face in heats? Who do you think was the best surfer you ever faced?

I liked to compete against everyone on tour because they all had their strong points at certain spots. All the heats were tough. The best surfer I faced on tour was probably Steph [Gilmore] as she was coming on strong just when I was leaving. Chelsea [Hedges] was almost unbeatable when there were barreling waves—she was amazing. And of course Layne was the contest queen. I finished runner up to the world title to her twice so she was obviously a tough one.

Do you still follow the women’s tour? Who are your favorite surfers today?

I don’t follow it as closely as I thought I would, there is so much more to life than contests. You don’t realize that until you’re out of that bubble because when you’re in it it becomes all consuming and it’s all you focus on. But I think Steph, Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright, Courtney Conlogue, Sally Fitzgibbons, Lakey Peterson, and Coco Ho are the strongest all around surfers on tour at the moment.

  • sam

    butch dyke? I think not.

  • larkstan

    Some of her preferences are not mine, but she sounds as if she’s a good person and will probably be a caring mother. She’s a good surfer and I wish her good luck in the future.

  • Bill Taylor

    Women can’t surf. FACT. They are weaker than men, don’t have the power, strength, speed, agility, reflexes, on and on and on…. Yes Carissa Moore is good for a female but will never top the men.

    The hard cold truth is that they will always be second rate to men.

    • Anonymous

      As a guy, I know that these top women surfers can flat out surf you any day of the week. Grow a pair.

    • Anonymous

      As a guy, I know that these top women pros can flat out surf the likes of you.

  • Brian F

    Bill Taylor, even if that was true, the fact that you need to state that, in this manner, on here, really just shows what a narrow minded and insecure individual you are. How was what you are saying even relevant to this article in any way?

  • MIkeM

    Bill Taylor, your grammar and reading comprehension are second rate. Your comment had nothing to do with this interview.

    Congrats to you Serena and thanks to Surfer Mag for following up on some of the premier athletes from the 90′s and 2000′s.

  • Sam

    LOL at Bill. Yes, women can surf. That’s a fact. Maybe not as hard/well as men, but I’ve seen many women stand up on a board so you are WRONG my friend. Clearly, Bill’s just here to stir sh*t, or he’s a clown who loses paddle-battles to women at Swami’s. Either way, there’s no getting around the fact that Serena is smoking hot and probably still surfs better than 99.5% of the men in the world.

    Also wonder why larkstan would post about preferences? Some of your preferences aren’t hers either. You think you’re better than her or something? Probably a bible-thumper.

  • Michael Soule

    She is fit, she is nice, she is loving, she is beautiful, she is nurturing, she is courageous, she is committed, she is a wife, she is a mother….
    She Is A Fellow Surfer And She Is Amazing!
    We should all be so proud of her life achievements and future goals.
    I wish you all the best in the coming years and growing with your beautiful family Serena..

  • Landonsea

    I think we should have a Bill Taylor vs Serena Brooke heat before the finals of the US Open. I have a hundo on Serena.

  • Will

    Some shitty comments in here. Had a chance to meet Serena years ago and she’s friendly, fun, and an all-around great person. So happy for her!!!

  • Quiksilver

    So that chick from Quiksilver was right!

  • For All The Right Reasons

    NOV ’00 VOL. 41 NO. 11 SURFER MAGAZINE: Page 128. Shane Beshen had his super-8 movie camera out. The women were out blowing our minds in what was to be the best single heat in the best conditions of the entire trip…In heavy, 6-foot Lance’s Rights, they were charging. Rochelle was pulling into deep tubes, while Layne was dropping in on bomb after bomb, breaking boards and then paddling back for more. Meagan was carving on the edge of disaster, and just as the heat ended, Serena stroked into a wave that jacked across the scariest part of the reef. Serena stalled and pulled into the maw and started pumping through section after section. A collective scream went up around the entire fleet, ringing even louder when she was spit out onto the shoulder. Shane Beshen filmed the whole thing. Then he put down his camera and clapped his hands softly while watching Serena paddle back for more. “That,” he said, “was the best, most technical tube I’ve ever seen a woman ride.”

  • SURFCAT

    Always liked her style on films in and out of the water. Didn’t know she is gay, not that it matters. One cool chick.

  • Get over it

    Sick of people saying who cares get on with it, especially when you dont know the pressures of being the bikini girl and the sexy beach guy that sponsors and the industry want you to be. Unfortunately it is not as easy as it seems and you would know this if you had to deal with being attracted to the same sex or deal with the decision of coming out for just one day of your life. You would know what it feels like to get your car keyed (scratched) or being aggressively approached by men trying to get you and your girlfriend to kiss again, or nasty remarks yelled out at you. Many say noone cares but I can tell you for a fact they do, just read over 200 of the 230 negative comments on Serena’s interview here http://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/relationships/surfer-serena-brooke-makes-waves-in-gay-marriage-debate/comments-fnet09p2-1226600582178?pg=2#comments

    I have been a professional surfer and I remember guys on the junior tour crossing out girls heat draw and putting dykes heat draw (over and over again for two days straight). It helps them get the girls because they are constantly trying to prove they are straight… then surprise surprise, they have gone from Dykes to Sluts. You think that makes it easy for girls to be themselves and come out and just get on with it. I hope all the homophobes have to deal with their child being gay, actually no I don’t because they would probably be depressed and kill themselves in fear of coming out to you, the person who is meant to love them no matter what… this is actually a big reality.

    For those who have never been a pro surfer which I am assuming is 99% of people commenting please don’t make assumptions on things you don’t know about as you haven’t been there.

    Serena and Emma are two wonderful people who will make great parents,
    Bill Taylor I feel sorry for you, from your comment maybe you need to address your own sexuality?!? Female surfers have never tried to say they surf better than men, it’s not in their genetic make up.
    Stop saying get over it if you don’t know what it feels like.
    The surf industry is xenophobic and Out In The Line Up is addressing just one issue of many issues. It is a start, and supporting it doesn’t have to mean you are gay.

    Also… If we should get over it the same can be said for you… You don’t have to watch or support the documentary just like I choose not to read Stab magazine which supports rape culture and negative stereotypes.
    Get over it
    X