This is How We Surf in Scotland

by Natalia Equihua
Pictures by Allyn Harper

From Law student to surfer champion, Aberdeen local Dee Ripoll has set herself in search of a unique surfing career.

Dee Ripoll had never touched the Scottish sea before 2008 — mainly because she was not comfortable with the idea of swimming alongside sea urchins and feeling water temperatures sometimes reaching 3 to 4°C. Today, it has been almost one year since she became the 2011 Scottish Ladies Surfing Champion and, although the fear is not completely gone, she certainly had no fear when it came to deciding her future as a surfer.

Around the world, some people know little about Scotland; but least they imagine that in this rainy and far corner of the world surf is the main activity of one person. And although the temperatures can be so low that only the brave would dare challenge these waters, suited with a 7 mm wetsuit – including boots, gloves, and a special hoodie – Dee doesn’t give too much thought to the climate conditions before jumping into water: this is her passion.

But reaching out for her goals has come with a long line of life-changing decisions. Her life as a surfer began during university days, when her curiosity led her to join the surf club at the University of Aberdeen. Here she learnt the basics of the sport and after that surfing became the main artery of her life.

At the end of her degree, just before starting her legal traineeship, she travelled to different parts of the world such as Australia, New Zealand, and California. This became her main inspiration to give up the suits and office hours to make of the sea her work-place and of surfing her main activity. Later, when she decided to give up Law, her family was perplexed at the sudden decision; however, the amount of time she spent in the sea and the rigorous routine she undertook as a surfer, convinced them that she was being serious.

After several years of hard training and building up to the crude conditions of the cold sea, the highlight of her career came in March 2011. For the first time, and after having competed only twice before, Dee became the winner of the Scottish Ladies Championship organized by the Scottish Surfing Federation. And this is just one small part of what surfing has done to her life.

Only last year, she crossed England all the way to the south to take the Surf Instructor and Lifeguard course at the Harlyn Bay Surf School in Cornwall. Last year Dee also expanded her list of sponsors that now include Quiver, Granite Reef, Surfer Skin and O’Neil, one of the world’s best known surfing brands. She is currently the only Scottish athlete in the O’Neil team.

Dee explained that she is still nowhere near the level of other surfer girls around the world. Next weekend she expects to compete at the British Pro Surfer Tour in Thurso, her first time competing at a non-Scottish competition. The next stage will be international competitions. But with so many goals ahead, stakes are high. Dee considers there is something that Scottish surfers still need to prove.

As opposed to surfing clubs in places like Australia and California, to Dee Scottish surf doesn’t have as much of a platform to become a surfer. Among many other things, the weather, temperature of the water and interest for water sports is not as big as it is in warm-weather countries. Yet Dee Ripoll says there is enough talent to escalate in the world of surfing.

At 27, Dee’s career as a surfer starts to take its own path. Hoping that competitions continue to help her develop her skills, this Scottish surfer knows there is a lot that she wants to do for the Scottish surfing community. One of her main goals is making children become interested in surfing and supporting this sport so that it reaches the same level as some of the most important surfing schools in the world.

When I asked Dee why would anyone ever decide to come to Scotland to surf, she didn’t hesitate when she assured me that some of the best waves in the world are in this country: “I think it is not very often that you get to surf and see the snow on top of the mountains at the same time,” she explained. And this is definitely something you will get to see in Scotland.

Whatever the future of surfing in Scotland may be, Dee Ripoll has already made a statement: her love for this sport is greater than any salary or cold climate could be. And she is already proving to everybody that Scotland is capable of creating successful and talented water athletes. Surfers around the world need to prepare, because Scottish surfers are getting ready to conquer the surfing world.

  • Pitt

    Very inspiring article! Feel like going surfing now!