Belinda Baggs was the first woman to land the cover of The Surfer’s Journal. For many this had begun a whole new chapter in women’s surfing. How big or small the significance was, it had legitimized women in surfing at a time when women were hardly represented in the sport outside of advertisement. Whether we know it or not, that cover planted a seed. Not long ago the image of a stylish and smooth female surfer didn’t exist in the public eye as it does today. They were few and far between, now they dominate the social media platforms with their floral wetsuits and travel photos. Belinda has veered away from the spotlight for sometime and has solely focused on one thing—surfing. She is by far one of the most versatile and underrated females surfers, one of the few girls that can perch on the nose of her longboard for hours on end then jump on a 6’6” Quad and pull into closeout beach break effortlessly.
Belinda grew up in Newcastle, Australia. At a young age her father taught her how to surf. Belinda, also known as “Bindy,” has spent a number of years living abroad and traveling the world. She’s has been featured in a number of films like Thomas Campbell’s’ Sprout, Deer and Yonder by Tiffany Campbell, Come Hell or High Water by Keith Malloy, and all of Nathan Oldfield’s films.
Her life’s journey is a rollercoaster of rogue waves and fast sections that has left her as a mother and surf ambassador for Patagonia. Belinda works hard to maintain the balance between being a mother and professional surfer. As an ambassador and employee for Patagonia, which has given her a rare and incredible opportunity, I find that as a surfer Belinda is underutilized and should be celebrated.
I got to know Belinda through Lauren Hill’s story Electric Ladyland while we were in Byron Bay. We surfed ankle high peelers at Watagoes to a few feet over head beach break at Lennox, I was quickly impressed by Belinda’s versatility. I dug around through her van to peak at her quiver, and she had boards for every wave and condition. Beyond Belinda’s surfing abilities, she even charges bodysurfing with grace and style. For so many of us who are understanding the way in which we surf, Belinda was able to shed some light on her approach to surfing and boards.
Having lived and traveled all over the world, how has that influenced your quiver? Can you share with us the evolution of your boards?
I learned to surf in Australia during the 90’s. The general surfing trend was extremely high performance, my boards at the time were reflective; thruster short boards and tri-fin longboards. Although I was still finding my feet on a wave I always felt like something was amiss and gained the nickname ‘Gumby.’
I traveled to California in 2000 and spent some time at Malibu. I was captivated by the smooth style of the surfers there. I watched the pure ‘stoke’ of a nose ride exhilarate; I was instantly fascinated with learning how to simply feel that same uplifting sensation. My 3 fin boards were forgotten, replaced with Heavier 9’2” – 9’4” single fin ‘logs’. For the next 10 years I was noseriding obsessed. Moved and traveled over the world searching for perfectly peeling 2 footers.
Eventually I stepped out of that small box I’d put my surfing into and lusted for more. I’d always aspired to become an ‘all round surfer’ wanting to ride any type of wave competently, with the main intention of maximizing my time in the water and getting the most fun out of each and every session. I had under 2 foot sorted, but experimented over the past 7 years with finding the right board for everything else. I rode an array of different types of alternate fuller template short boards, fishes, eggs and mid-lengths and feel most comfortable in the sea when I’m bodysurfing. I now live in Victoria and like our weather the ocean is varying daily. My workable quiver now consists of an array of boards. I feel that my connection to the sea and surfing ability has continued advancing as I try and test different equipment. As your understanding of shapes and the way the water moves over your boards grows, your ability follows.
What are your main boards?
9’ 5” heavy single fin log (pig style) shaped by Takuya Yoshikawa
9‘ 3 ½” Single fin log (noserider) shaped by Sean Nettleton
9’ 3” single fin log (refined and conventional all-round) shaped by Sean Nettleton
7’4” single fin egg shaped by Sean Nettleton
6’9” 2 +1 egg shaped by Jordan Nobel
7’0 2+1 Wayne Lynch Surfboards
6’6” Quad step-up FCD
5’6” tri fin Shaped by Jarrah Lynch
5’8” quad FARK FCD
Da Fin body surf fins
Your favorite board for waves under head high?
Depends on the shape of the shape of the waves; If it’s lined up and peeling I will ride a single fin log. If it’s punchy or bowly I’ll take out one of my smaller short boards either 5’6 tri fin shaped by Jarrah Lynch or 5’8” FCD quad.
This is currently my favorite size surf, the consequence is low but you begin to taste the oceans true energy.Depending on the wave shape I will ride either 7’4” or 6’9” egg / mid-length style board or bodysurf.
Double over head to triple overhead?
7’0 2+1 Wayne Lynch Surfboards
6’6” Quad step-up FCD
Most of the waves near where I live require more paddle power, So I’m potentially ‘over-gunned’ but feel more confident with more volume for an early entry.Big waves?
I always find the term ‘big wave’ quite daunting, and confusing. I always remember a conversation I had with Matt Rott a few years back brushing upon the fact that everyone’s fear / ability is at different level. Theres also a factor of your daily conditions to take into consideration. A ‘big wave’ is relative to the individual.
I paddled out on a 9’0 Dick Brewer gun a little over year ago on a bombie in Eastern Indonesia. I was supported by a good friend and experienced all round waterman that showed me what to do and kept me safe. It was the most power I have ever experienced, and I have never felt that uncomfortable in the ocean before, everything was so foreign. It was as if highrise buildings were charging at you at the speed of a train and you somehow had to paddle quick enough and position yourself just perfectly to hitch a ride.. Although I hold great admiration for the crew charging These conditions are not for me! I’ve decided if I can’t catch it on my 7’0 gun I probably shouldn’t be out there!
What are the waves like down in Victoria? It’s not exactly very inviting, how have you overcome the waves and conditions in Victoria compared to Noosa or Byron Bay?
The waves are varying. Some days it’s perfect and small and 24 hours later it’s huge, freezing and challenging. Less crowd is the main bonus down here with the venerability of the wilderness making it that much sweeter.
The cold is sometimes painful, but once you get a good routine and preparation set up you don’t often let it bother you. It’s just like swapping out the extra layers of sunscreen for a hood, booties and several mm’s of rubber. My favourite days are always the coldest ones, there’s a distinct and unique beauty withheld in a cold climate.
How do you adjust between the boards? I think making the transition to a shortboard or longboard take some time, did that period come natural to you?
This has always been and still is one of my biggest challenges. Despite the size and difference in volume the approach you take to surfing varying craft is also very contrasting. On a log your quite upright in stance with your feet closer together. Movements are more subtle and finesse wins over strength. On a shorter board you have got to be lower, have your feet wider and draw different lines to find trim and flow. Maybe that is why I now love bodysurfing so muh, often finding myself mindless and simply riding the wave!
When did you make the transition from riding surfboards to bodysurfing?
Surfing represents something different to each of us. It can be an escape from our daily lives; a place to find peace and wisdom; a time to understand the significance of beauty, fill our desire for wildness and give us a sense of belonging; and an opportunity to feel the pure joy of life on this planet. Bodysurfing has landed me all of this as of late. I started bodysurfing in 2009. I was on the North Shore watching the pipe bodysurf event, very inspired and keen to try. I joined in a session on the beach break with Keith Malloy and Jeff Johnson. I didn’t really know what to do and they said “hold your breath, kick your feet and stay streamlined.” It didn’t take long to be enchanted with the world below the surface. Not long after I went on a surf trip to the Maldives, I took boards but spent the majority of the trip bodysurfing and following the reef and currents back out with the fish.
Staying fit and aware of the forever moving and changing ocean conditions are the most important factor for me. A few months ago I wasn’t at the top of my game. The swell was up so I followed Jarrah out to a break that intimidates me. Got swamped by a rather large 13 wave set, pushed near the rocks, panicked, gasped for air and inhaled a mouthful of foamy water. I eventually swam / got washed back in and expelled the sea water. Sitting watching the ocean calmed I felt defeated, not physically but mentally. I was out of touch with the conditions and let my mind get the better of me…. After a while I went back out with a different and calmer frameof-mind. That same set washed through and instead of panicking, I went way under, opened my eyes and navigated through the clouds to the surface. For me the challenge is always a mental one. I’ve learned a lot about the movement and flow of swells and breaking waves that I had never experienced on a board. This pure connection to nature is more of a spiritual experience than a sport.
Story by Gilda Hariri
Photographs by Nathan Oldfield and Adam Kobayashi