Pro surfer, artist, and conservationist Felicity Palmateer on breaking records - and breaking the mould.

Image: supplied

Felicity Palmateer is a professional surfer, artist and a marine conservationist who made history earlier this year by riding the largest-ever wave surfed by an Aussie woman.

So when we were given the opportunity to pick Felicity’s brain about her art, activism, surfing, what she does in her downtime, and how she looks after herself, we were more than a little excited. Here’s what we learned.

You rode the biggest wave any Aussie woman has. Ever. What was that like?

“I grew up surfing heavy reef breaks and powerful waves, but because Cow Bombie breaks three kilometres out to sea I didn’t really know what to expect until I got out there. I knew it was the biggest swell of the year, it was being called an ‘XXL swell’ so I knew it would be huge, but nothing really prepared me. When a wave broke, it sounded like a bomb going off and the swells were moving faster than anything I’d seen before. I caught four waves … the guys watching me said the first one was the biggest, and that was about 25-30 feet!”

Did it teach you anything about yourself?

“It taught me that one of the most important things you can do as a person is to overcome your fears. I had thought about the best and worst possible scenarios before I did it; it wasn’t something I just did without thinking it through. And in the end I decided that it was worth it and I believed I had it in me to do it. So I did it!”

"One of the most important things you can do as a person is to overcome your fears."

I have a friend who surfs, and she's often hesitant to go out when there are lots of men around. Have you felt unwelcome in the surf?

"Yes — it’s a male-dominated sport, and in addition to that a lot of spots are heavily localised. It takes time to be able to gauge situations, to read pecking orders and some days to realise who is trying to bluff who. That aspect of surfing can be annoying, but it can also be essential because it stops some of the best breaks becoming completely unruly. If I have a bad surf because someone is being a certain way, I just try and shrug it off."

You've been surfing for years. Do you think the sport is more accepting of women now, compared to when you were younger?

"I think the sport is definitely more accepting of women now. Prize money has doubled in recent years, women are competing at amazing breaks, there are some great female role models, there’s nothing available to the men that isn’t available to women." (Post continues after gallery.)

You've partnered with Venus to inspire women to challenge the one-dimensional labels we can get branded with. Have you experienced this stereotyping?

"This is a project that’s close to me, as I want women to feel empowered to decide who they are and not let other people put them into boxes. As someone who has lots of passions, people often ask me what I am: a surfer or an artist. Well, I’m a surfer and an artist. I shouldn’t have to be one or the other."

What are some of the ways women are pigeonholed?

"There are so many ways that people are put into boxes that don’t truly reflect the multi-dimensionality of our passions, talents and personalities. Some people think you can’t be beautiful and clever; strong and compassionate; a scientist and a girlie-girl or a mother and a free spirit. We’re all so many things – why should we have to conform to labels?"


Can you tell us about your passion for marine conservation?

"Spending so much of my time in the ocean, I have an enormous love of and respect for its beauty, power and life. I care deeply about the animals and the plants in the ocean and believe we all have a responsibility to protect them."

"In my mind I’m an artist AND a surfer AND a conservationist" (Image via Instagram/@flickpalmateer)

How do you unwind after a busy week?

"Spending time in the ocean and on the beach are what I love most. I love getting up early and going for a walk. I love grabbing a morning coffee with my boyfriend. I also love to spend time with family of course – whenever I can."

You're constantly out in the sun. How do you protect your skin?

"I make sure any sunscreen I use is natural ... My boyfriend carries around UV Natural sunscreen, so I steal some of that if I need it. It is SPF 30+. I [also] wear hats."

How do you protect or treat your hair?

"The ocean does a great job on my behalf! Obviously I brush it when I have to, and I pick my shampoo and conditioners carefully."

"I make sure any sunscreen I use is natural." (Image via Instagram/@flickpalmateer - photo by @thedrifterblog)

Apart from surfing, what's your favourite way to exercise?

"I love walking, jogging, yoga. I did a bit of Pilates recently – I was so sore!"

You're always in a bikini, being photographed and watched. How do you stay body confident?

"Of course I’m always thinking about how I look and I’m not always confident. I aim to be fit and healthy because that’s what makes me feel good. I’m conscious of what I eat so that I can be healthy and have lots of energy ... I love my body because it enables me to do what I love. And I do what I love for me."

What are the beauty products you always take on tour?

"I always take my Venus Swirl Razor and Touch of Olay Violet Swirl shave gel, which leave me feeling super silky. Another ‘must’ is organic moisturiser and face mask. I hate the feeling of dry skin so I use moisturiser every day, morning and night."

"Spending time in the ocean and on the beach are what I love most." (Image via Instagram/@flickpalmateer)

Do you think female surfers are objectified in a way the men aren't?

"I think it’s sad that women are still objectified, full stop. I want to live in a world where everyone is celebrated for what they do, what their passions are, who they are and what they can achieve. Personally, I feel empowered to resist that kind of objectification and just get on with doing my thing."

How do you cope with stress?

"I am always busy — I know so many working women are even busier — and all I try to do is to forge time in my schedule to do something that’s only for me, even if it’s just for 20 minutes. I love art, it can be a way for me to de-stress. But jumping in the ocean for a swim or a surf is the best way for me to clear my mind."

Do you feel pigeonholed by how others try to define you? 

Venus' Use Your AND campaign is encouraging women to use their "ANDs". ANDs can be a passion, interest or skill that helps define who we are and makes us unique. Check out the hub, where you can find Felicity's videos about her ANDs.