Name: Francesca Pioli
Current Location: Aberystwyth
Social media channels: @surfpioli
Frankie, how did you get into surfing?
I spent my summers in Wales where I lived in the ocean, however nobody surfed. I think I must have watched Blue Crush or something, because I really don’t know how I found out about surfing! So I recall nagging and nagging my parents to let me try it somewhere, so after about two years of relentless nagging, they got me a surf lesson in Devon staying with some friends. I still remember my first wave out back that day, huge storm swell awful conditions and getting pushed into what felt like a monster wave, standing up and doing this huge re-entry (okay maybe not the last bit but it felt AMAZING!). So I guess I later discovered there are waves where I lived in Wales and the rest is history!
What does surfing mean to you?
It is a love-hate relationship that only a surfer will ever understand. Surfing to me is a way of escaping. A place I can go and not think about anything. It’s a form of expression. Everyone has his or her own style, and it’s totally subjective. It’s something that I can challenge myself in and continue to push myself to improve. It is also a lifestyle and an adventure.
What’s the best trip you’ve ever been on?
I honestly couldn’t say every trip I have been on has been so different and so epic in its own way. A Maldives trip a couple of years ago was pretty rad, we scored pumping surf the whole trip and it was tropical! Equally a trip across to the east coast in the van was pretty epic, I stayed in a really cute village in the van on some cliffs overlooking three sick surf spots that fired all weekend, and nobody there. I have been back loads since, and I am always looking at the charts and my diary to get back over there when I can, but I guess I am always looking for that new adventure too.
What board are you riding at the moment?
I picked up a board when I was driving through Peniche in October. An unridden Patterson board shaped for Teresa Bonvalot before she switched to Chilli boards… so it was pretty ideal to find a board shaped for a girl sitting in a shop! Otherwise I ride a bunch of custom Psillakis boards but they are slowly dying on me now so I am looking for a new shaper. Generally I ride a 5.6 or 5.8 rounded square, but enjoyed using a rounded pin on my last trip. I am thinking I may mix it up a little this summer and have a play on some old-school single fins too, they look so fun.
What’s been the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you out in the surf?
I have definitely lost my fair share of bikini bottoms around my ankles, but my last trip was pretty entertaining!! I have just got home from the Maldives. It wasn’t a huge day out there but the surf was pretty powerful, and because it wasn’t all that big, it was super shallow and barrelling on the inside. I was feeling pretty ballsy so I was sitting on the inside and catching the hollow nuggets, the more I got the braver I became I paddled in way to late, got taken over in the lip, and rammed into the reef in a foot of water. Oops! So checked bikini is in place and paddled back out. A few people mentioned my back was bleeding a little but I ignored it and just got a few more waves before paddling back in to check it out. When I got out I noticed that I had a big rip in my bikini bottoms, and then it dawned on me that I had been surfing for about half an hour like that, I was feeling a little embarrassed I guess haha.
How do you manage surfing and working?
That has proven pretty difficult, but I have managed the past three years by making the most of the weekends and taking full advantage of the daylight when it comes spring and autumn! In all honesty though I have just handed in my notice and will be unemployed and living out of a van as of August haha… I suppose I am in search of a better surf and work balance, and hope to explore while I am still young.
How do you exercise to keep surf fit?
I’m generally pretty active anyway. I swim, bike, gym, SUP,… and I do Pilates (mainly as I do it as a part of my job). Also more recently yoga as I’m so not flexible! There was a yoga teacher on a boat trip I was on recently, I found it instantly so beneficial to my surfing.
What do you do when you’e not surfing?
I live in the Dyfi , Wales and it is pretty much the mecca of mountain biking, so I have got pretty into that over the last couple of years. It is pretty handy having it on the doorstep but it doesn’t compare to surfing. I also head to the gym and paddle board a fair bit. I can’t really sit still if I am honest.
Who inspires you in the women’s surf scene?
Carissa Moore. She’s amazing!
What trips do you have in the pipeline?
Well I am currently open to any adventures at the moment! I think the first port of call is France in the van. Europe is always so good in autumn, then who knows Indonesia, Australia, Sri Lanka, or maybe just work….