Sophie Hellyer is a surfer, environmentalist & writer living on the Atlantic coast of Ireland. Sophie advocates living an ethical lifestyle, choosing to stay on the fringes, both living and travelling remotely.
Previously an English and British Champion surfer, Sophie feels more at home in the ocean than on land. Now with an honours degree in Marketing and a deep connection to the ocean, Sophie’s passion to create positive social change has led her to take a proactive approach in protecting our oceans. Sophie uses sport not only to create greater environmental awareness, but to empower women and reshape consumer behaviour.
Sophie has previously worked with companies such as Toyota, Hunter Boots and Finisterre, and is now looking to collaborate with likeminded brands that share her values and passion for life
In this podcast myself and Matt Barr discuss my move away from “the dream life”, bikini modelling for big surf brands and travelling the world, to slowing things down and immersing myself in the cold waters of Ireland. We discuss female objectification, the toxicity of gender stereotyping in surfing, and the prism of controversies that come along with it.
Despite all the surfing women in my community, I find it strange and frightening that we are often misrepresented, or more commonly, not represented at all in the films, photos and stories. The internet and film festivals are full with tales of what surfing is like on this beautiful island of Ireland and there is rarely a woman featured without her being a mother, wife or barmaid. But we are here, throughout every season, paddling out and riding waves. It is our story too.
A little series that started on instagram...
For all the women here and the ones I haven’t featured yet; the young ones in surf league, the ones who are away travelling, the original ones who were surfing here long before I blew in, the ones who are in the sea all the time but no one has ever thought to capture it for you, the ones who are so shy and humble they quietly asked me not to be featured. I salute you.
I hadn’t thought about the Maldives as a Country rather than as a destination. This was the most significant lesson I learned and I am not sure why or how I had come to know none of what I learnt. This year they reintroduced the death penalty, and with the Islamic law a child as young as 7 can be tried, the Maldives is 100% Islamic. That the men can have four wives and women one husband. That lashings and floggings still occur, sex outside of marriage is illegal, that they have a brown sugar (cheap dirty heroin) problem and it is one of Asia's richest countries...
I met Zoe at the launch of Backwash Magazine earlier this year and she gifted me two pieces from her collection. The jewellery is not only incredibly beautiful, but also made from recycled and eco silver where possible, and offcuts of different woods which would otherwise be wasted. The packaging is also made from eco natural cotton and cardboard. So lovely to see jewellery handmade in the UK with sustainability at its core.
Winter has officially begun in Ireland and I am surfing an overhead left point close to our house with no one around. It doesn’t look pumping from the road, its hidden away a little from the beach where the wind feels onshore. After years of searching for a paradise on the lower latitudes I found the wave I was looking for all this time, I had been here as a child in a van with my father and sister, sat on the rocks but had the secret hidden in some soft corner of my mind.
We are learning to interact differently and slowly changing our behaviour. We want to be part of the solution not the problem. It is not an original idea but it is a movement towards a replicable model. I don’t believe people when they say small changes are insignificant. I have seen the power of small actions. Even in me a small changes are hard but they can make a huge impact. Every change is real, every smile makes a difference and is contagious and like all things we slowly grow.
Spring isn’t as conventional here as seasons elsewhere, winter is not quite dead. We are behind on our new farm, the lads are battling against the weather to get the beds prepared and onion seeds planted, polytunnels are going up slowly in the rain. Tiny little seedlings are popping up all over the place and waiting to go in the ground alongside the 5000 trees we have just planted. We fall asleep listening out for the cows, ready to help our neighbour on the night shift as he waits for the calves to be born.
Finding Home is a short documentary profile of my search for a way of living at one with the ocean and the earth. Film makers Michael Fordham And Ed Andrews travelled with me from my childhood home to the incredible coastline of Clare – discovering that perhaps the most important journey I have taken is the one inside myself.
28-year-old surfer, environmentalist and farmer Sophie Hellyer grew up on the wildest edge of the North Devon coast. It is a place of nautical heritage, brutal Atlantic storms and an aesthetic of otherness.
“I’m still in the process of finding home,” she says. “There’s something to be said for leaving the place you grew up in and exploring what is right for you. Eventually, hopefully, you can find a place that you have created as your home, rather than just having it as a static thing.”