Welcome to the 7th episode of the 5th series of our podcast!
Today with us from California is former pro-longboarder and now commentator Shannon Hughes
We discussed with her about surf, surf culture , Olympic Games and about “The Double Up” podcast!
You can find the episode on all major podcast platforms or read the transcribed version on our website (please forgive us of spelling mistakes!)
TTOS: Aloha Shannon, welcome to the show…..where are you today?
I'm actually at a friend's house in Oceanside, my husband and I are camping just down the coast at Sanjo which is like Carter Brief in Southern California, I just left the campground and come up to their house to record today.
TTOS: Thank you so much for being with me today, we will talk about the podcast, we're gonna talk about many things, Tokyo Olympic, of course, as I'm very interested about your experience over there. But first question, I ask everybody, is, in your opinion, what is the most important thing in surfing?
Oh man, I think it's just the refreshment that it gives us in life. I think as surfers, at least for me surfing was never something that I grew up competing for, I wasn't a competitor growing up or anything. I competed a little bit when I got a little older…. it was just something that we did as this like love of getting into the ocean, feeling refreshed and getting to catch waves and have fun. I think that's still at the core of what I love about surfing and I think what brings us back surf after is being hungry for more waves.
TTOS: Definitely, there is kind of a force that we have inside us that makes us surfing , you know, it's an addiction in a certain way…. or totally. <Laugh>
Maybe healthy, maybe unhealthy. At least it gets us out in the sun, in the sea, that's good.
TTOS: What was your first proper surfboard and do you still have it?
Oh, wow. I guess going past, I remember riding my dad's boards when I was small, my first real surfboard was an eight foot like a mini malibu longboard from Ron John, a surf shop here in California, I don't have it anymore, I sold it. Gosh, it would've been quite a while back to the next door neighbor for my parents' house….I think it still like exists in their family and their kids have learned how to surf on it. That was my first hard fiberglass board that I really started learning how to turn and kind of get into something better than, you know, flailing around on my dad's old stuff or on like a soft top.
TTOS: let's discuss about your experience at the Tokyo Olympic games, you were talking about it in your podcast, which emotions you had while there, how can you describe it in few words?
Yeah. That's such a big question. I think there was so much emotion all around, I think part of it is just pride and seeing that surfing has achieved that success of actually getting to the Olympic Games. It's such a huge thing for any sport to get to that stage of kind of competition and that global recognition. I feel extremely proud as a surfer to see that our tribe was able to get there knowing all of the things that it took and all the dreams for so many years from so many different people, starting with the Duke a hundred years ago, wanting to see surfing get into the Olympics and now to see that within my generation and to see that the surfers competing that are in kind of the same age as me, they're the ones that are getting to be there for the first time. It was quite an overwhelming experience just to be able to witness that. And then of course, to be able to be in Tokyo and to be there as one of the few with a voice to it as a commentator was a very special moment to feel like the weight and the responsibility of representing surfing to the world…..
TTOS: Do you think that people realized what was going on or they just realized it, at the last moment, at the time of medals….
Watching the medal ceremonies was so special because even for me, having grown up watching the Olympics I hadn't really paid that much attention to other sports, unless it was something kind of different and interesting that I never really watched before. So to be able to see our surfers standing on a podium and to see that emotion really sink in and start to hit them while they are holding a medal in their hands. It's something that's so fresh and new to the surf community that a lot of people are kind of questioning “well…. is an Olympic medal going to hold a lot of weight in our surf community compared to world titles or other things that have so much strength and kind of prominence within surf credibility?”. I think that as time goes the Olympic gold medal is gonna be a thing that every surfer will be chasing, for sure.
TTOS: I agree, if you see now some surfers, like for instance Yolanda Hopkins or Leon Glazer, they started to tattoo themselves with the Olympics logo…. “once Olympian always Olympian” and maybe it's better than a world title. <Laugh>
I think that's part of it too and I think just translating into like the rest, the outside of surfing, the rest of the world understands Olympics as holding so much weight and being so special. And so I think now the surf community is starting to tap into that and realize like, “oh, this is pretty amazing that we had this opportunity”. For those 40 surfers, the 20 men, the 20 women regardless of how their heats went, whether they had the best wave that they wanted, or they felt that they felt short in whatever way…. I think the accomplishment of having qualified and to be an Olympic athlete for life is unique…. no one can take that away from them.
You know, I think I saw a photo that Yolanda posted up the other day, like a repost from someone else of little girls asking for her autograph and like that sort of stuff me is so special cuz she's someone who deserves that kind of little bit of stardom in the surf community. She's such a phenomenal surfer and you know, hopefully we'll see her get to the world title someday. I believe that holding that weight of being an Olympian and having that voice that those surfers now have to the world is so much different than what they had before, I think…..
TTOS: you started a podcast (The Double Up), how is it going?
We've just launched our sixth episode yesterday and actually waking up this morning my husband was like “hey, we're on our one month birthday… a month ago we put up our first post” Wow! we launched it while I was at the Olympics, which was really fun, it's a dream that Rachel and I we've been talking about for almost a year now, actually since last August. It took us a while to kinda get the ball rolling, but yeah, it has been really fun. The podcast is called “The Double Up” and we are both longboarders, you know, Rachel is a longboard world champion, Rachel Tilley. We both are passionate longboarders, we'll mostly take out a longboard any day we surf, but our careers have mostly come from the shortboard industry. She works for the WSL on the gold coast and I have most of my work that comes from commentating the shortboard world. We're kind of taking that Double Up on the conversation between those two, as well as covering general surf news in the women surfing world
TTOS: Is gonna be always both of you talking to each other or you gonna interview people at a certain stage? how's going to evolve?.
Our main idea with it is to be like a current news platform for women's surfing…. that kind of starts the beginning of every episode, we start out with our hot topics, we pick three to five big news points from the week. In this last episode that we launched yesterday (the interview has been recorded in September 2021) we talked about Justine DuPont wave at Teahupoo, being a huge moment in women surfing and just like a cool thing to happen this week. We talked about Brooke Farris being named the CEO of Rip Curl this week, an industry conversation and then we talked about the finals, getting into Trestles with the end of the WSL season. That's kind of what we do each week, we'll pick out, from a Monday to a Monday, what has happened within that week.
Prominent surf news that we'd like to share with the world, maybe people know about it, maybe it's something that's totally new…. we'll throw in a little post heat interview so we have had a couple like short snippet interviews, the same that you'd hear a post heat at a contest where it's like couple questions on their thoughts of how they did it at the event, maybe something about their background or their hopes for the future, just with this idea of putting in a couple voices here and there and trying to catch up with someone like Katie Simmers won her first QS in California a couple weeks ago in Huntington beach…. I was able to run down to the beach with her and get like a couple questions and so we dropped it in our post heat segment.
For right now, our main discussion format has just been myself and Rachel and top diving into different topics that we're passionate about also kind of keeping that to what's current and relevant. Our conversation this week revolved around women in the industry, which was sparked from Brooke Farris, getting that CEO position for Rip Curl, we tapped into our thoughts on it and some of our experience, but our goal is to definitely get in some other voices so we won't be doing it as like a long form interview every episode, but we're hoping maybe once a month to get in either a just very straightforward interview with someone from the tour, someone from the industry, just, you know, different surfers girls from around the world to get their voices on who they are.
And then we'd also love to be able to host discussion panels, which we're finding the logistics behind getting multiple people from around the world. I'm sure you understand this. Yes. it's hard to arrange schedules that fair, but we would love to get in voices to specific conversations because that person has a, a prominent voice within topic. So whether it's getting competitors to talk about competition or it's getting a Brook Ferris to talk about what it's like to be a woman in that industry and maybe pair one of our dreams is like to pair her up in a conversation with a Jessi Miley- Dyer and Jesse's role, you know, running the tour for the WSL and to be able to facilitate some of those things, which are beyond a conversation, just Rachel and I out together.
TTOS: In your opinion, what is next to achieve in women surfing?
Oh, wow, I think it's such a big question, my brain has like gone to so many things <laugh>…
I think progression and development. Actual surfing is something that we're already seeing, especially in that conversation when we're looking at the younger surfers coming up, so seeing that crew that's kind of the 12 to 16 year olds, like are we gonna see from them in the next five years when they graduate to being on the championship tour from a progressive surfing side of things, you know, speaking directly to heirs and that sort of bringing that element as a more prominent space within competitive surfing, which we see a little bit from the current women on tour. That's going to be a big kind of growth area within women's surfing, which is really exciting to see. I'm a strong believer that having equal pay in that conversation, which has been that shift from 2019 is facilitating just that conversation of giving women the same pay for the same job that they're doing, gives them access to better coaching, to better trips, to travel and get their trainings.
Because of that, I think we're going to see that continuing to grow and launch short in their progression. And then I think, probably, the other thing that we Rachel and I were just discussing this last episode is our hope to see more women behind the scenes, whether it's, you know, retired athletes that are coming back to work in the industry, and there's so many across the globe that are already doing that, or some of us that are a little bit younger maybe coming up through and starting to get into these jobs that we would hope to like have, you know, long term career in to be able to see more women behind the scenes where we're not just seeing one or two women on a team surrounded by a lot of men, but as those women gain deeper qualifications in what they're passionate about to be able to see kind of my hope is like equal numbers across the board.
Not in a way of just going, okay, we're hiring this many men, we're hiring this many women, but look at the qualifications on the women's side of the thing, the passion that they bring into the sport and their voice that they can have and start to see that change start to come through and be able to give more young surfers, more young women that are coming through competition, or that are maybe not interested in competing, but they are interested in that business side of that industry, to be able to give them a greater example…. they can dream to get to those positions in an employment space.
I have no idea what's going to happen with women surfing, but those are the two things I hope for: progression in the types of maneuvers that we're seeing and ,as well, women working behind the scenes.
TTOS: Definitely, in fact, it's very large topic and I think what you said is something very interesting, you know, it's not about the sex of a person, if he's a man or a woman or gender neutral, it's about the competencies that that person has for the job. We shouldn't be surprised that a woman gets a particular job….
It's just another person getting another great job that they deserve.
TTOS: Absolutely, why is that so surprising? It shouldn’t be….
What was the most meaningful moment of your career so far?
Gosh, I think when I kind of realized the space that I could have in the booth like a host or an anchor, which is the majority of the role that I do today. I fill also other roles, you know, on sidelines and different things like that, but back in 2019, it was the first time that I got called up by the head office for the WSL, I was working at the US open for the first time in Huntington, which is actually my hometown, they paired my me up with Rosy Hodge who's just an incredible commentator, she's really set the standard for women kind of coming through that space. WSL paired the two of us up to commentate together that week on a men's heat for the first time.
Reflecting back on things, there are so many different things in my career that I like kind of saw as like huge moments that helped my own growth, but giving us the opportunity to like discuss men surfing at the highest level and not just have us there to call women surfing together because we're women…, that was great!
Again, back to that conversation of not having surprised about things….. that was a pretty huge one for me and something that I really enjoyed in getting to work along a surfer like Rosy, who just knows the sport so well. That was probably like one of those really huge moments that I've kind of reflected back on and then now it's like, I've gone to the Olympics, which is incredible and being able to call heats for best friends, winning world titles on the longboard tour, when Rachel won her world longboard title, I was the beach announcer that year was my first year there. To reflect back, like to 2015, that I was the first surfer, I was the first person to announce to her that she had just won a world title. Oh, there's a few of those moments that kind of come through where it's like connecting with a person on a personal level is so much greater than I think anything else that, you know, I could kind of do within that space. Definitely.
TTOS: I asked you at the beginning, what was the most important thing in surfing, but in your job, what is the most important thing?
I think in my job, it's trying to share the stories of the surfers that are in the water, I take that really like to heart knowing that, for some surfers, they might have one heat in a contest and if they lose they are out. We have maybe 20 minutes, maybe 30 minutes, depending on the length of that heat to try and share something that's personal about who they are, as well as talk about their surfing, their equipment, discuss how that heat is unfolding. I think for me, that's like the most special part. And then within that, when they end up winning the event, is to be able to build a storyline about who they are and to try to have little bits, more information coming through with each heat, to be able to give the listener something that's, maybe it's something they've already known about that surfer for ages or maybe it's something that's fresh, but to be able to bring in another little bit to their story with each heat that they surf, that's some of enjoyable thing to me…..
TTOS: you're talking about surfers, was there a meeting with a surfer, man or woman, that particularly meant a lot for you?
I think for me, it's been getting to know some of those girls, like Sally Fitzgibbons seeing her face around for so many years, she was a surfer that I looked up to for so many years. The first time that I met her to be able to see that she's like a really hungry competitor really joyful at the same time and just kind of always on the move. The first time that I met her was in Japan at the world surfing games and I just felt everything that I thought Sally was, from everything I've ever heard about her. She is so genuine, getting to know her and all other surfers on that personal level is so fun.
To start to know their stories and to build those friendships with them, that's probably been like some of the most special things. I remember meeting Bianca Buitendag, who ended up with the silver medal at the Olympics, in that same contest in Chi in Japan, back in 2018… we got to know each other really well, because she made the finals and it was like interview after interview…. we kept coming and I was actually able to just be like, “Hey, what do you wanna share in this interview this time? Because there's probably so much more than what I'm already can think to ask you”. I remember that contest being really special for me to meet some of those girls that were like some of my heroes….
TTOS: last question…. podcast, commentator traveling the world as long as you can… what else, what are you working on? Are you keeping yourself super busy?
My husband and I have just moved back to California, we were living in Australia for the last year and a half and we just landed. We don't even have a home base yet, we're living outta the campground and friends, houses and family. Our main focus at the moment is the podcast and then just kind of seeing what opportunities will show up here. I'm very keen to continue pursuing commentary, probably my next newest thing, which is fresh as of the Olympics, I was able to comment the BMX freestyle event at the Olympics this year, which was my first year, my first time ever commentating on something outside the surfing….highly nerve wracking, I was paired up with some great guys that knew the sport really well, but it was like “oh, this is interesting” I have never even watched this before.
It went really well, I had like two days to binge watch the X games and learn as much as I could and then I just stepped to my lane on athlete profiles and calling what was gonna happen and then let the boys just do all the work on them, anything technical, but it kinda gave me this new spark of actually realizing that I could do this in other sports when it comes to action sports world. Like Chris, he is a great example of a commentator who has a podcast who's commenting on surfing, but also skating and you know, other action sports kind of spaces…. that's my next thing to be able to have a little bit more consistent work as well, to see if I can put my hand up and start to get into some other action sports, which would be really fun.
TTOS: We're going to finish our interview with a short Q/A session, please answer the first thing that pops up to your mind…
Best surfboard you ever ridden…
Oh man, I have to say right now I'm riding a longboard from Thomas, it's a Harrison model. It's a single fin, it's just a really good all-around and I'm very stoked on it right now.
TTOS: Your favorite shaper….
Thomas, now that I'm riding his board, I've been looking for Thomas for ages, but I just hadn't been able to do my hands on one until we moved to Australia this year, before that, I was writing for Dez Sawyer out of Jeffrey's bay, South Africa. I spent years living in JBA in my twenties and he was this shaper that fully changed my view on surfing and really helped me to understand equipment and really to understand waves for the first time. I have to say, my dad still goes to Des whose son Steven is a longboard world champion. Dez is a phenomenal shaper and just like an all-around mentor.
TTOS: Personal question, your favorite song…
Well, right now there's a song, “Dry Grass” by Body Type, which is an all-girls Australian band that I've been really loving.
TTOS: your favorite surf spot….
Jeffrey Bay’s, South Africa….no doubt…no question to it, the point not Super Tubes, but lower point is like one of the it's the world's best longboarding wave. It was my like front yard for years
TTOS: Your favorite surfer of all-time.
From a style perspective and just grace and all , Kelia Moniz
TTOS: The last question is a little bit unusual, we want to know your best relationship advice….
Oh wow. <laugh> I love my husband so much, I'm actually now thinking, I think my husband's actually my favorite surfer <laugh>, he’s so good and stylish.
Just be honest with you and just have grace, like we are all going to make mistakes at some stage of one or another, so we must trust the other person and just have grace on each other in all situations.