Belinda Baggs is an Australian surfer who has appeared in many films on wave sliding by the likes of both Thomas Campbell and Andrew Kidman. Her signature style and cat-like grace on the nose has earned her a place as an icon in the surfing world. We spent a few moments chatting with the one they call “Bindy.”
What was your life like growing up?
Innocent and peaceful. My family would spend long days at the beach, surfing or swimming—lots of holidays up the east coast of Australia and generally a childhood full of love and fun times. My family has always been close, supportive of whatever I choose to do. Luckily, surfing is a shared passion that allowed us to relate to one another. Every day was always some type of adventure: searching for points or figuring out how to get out of school when it was offshore.
When did you get your first surfboard?
My first surfboard was an 80’s thruster. I got it secondhand when I was about 12. I remember getting tossed about in the Newcastle shorebreak, but occasionally getting that rare day when I would get out the back and Dad would call me into a couple of small waves. They were really the moments that transformed my life into one of a surfer. Eventually, I got a thruster shortboard and, finally, a longboard when I was about 15.
What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
I don’t really remember the first wave that I stood up on. Ever since I was a grommet, I think I have been addicted to the freedom and glide of riding a wave. I feel like I learn something new almost every session, as substantial or subtle it may be; there is always something beyond your existent knowledge to discover and absorb. It’s that feeling that keeps surfing fresh and pure. It can come from picking up different surfboards, bodysurfing… sometimes just swimming out along the bottom and feeling the undercurrents. It helps us to become a better surfer and keep the stoke flowing.
Who did you look up to and admire when you were a young girl?
My father and the people that were immediately surrounding me day-to-day. There is always someone standing out in the crowd, catching, riding and connecting with the wave more so than anyone else. I wanted be the one getting the good waves of that day and feeling what they were feeling.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out and why?
I have traveled to so many amazing parts of the globe. I feel blessed to have seen and experienced the things and places I have been. Taiwan, Papua, New Guinea, New York, Sardinia … are all highlights for one reason or another (culture, waves, landscape, natural beauty). Most recently, I have been spending lots of time in Sumatra, Indonesia. It’s all so foreign to how I grew up and the life I know—everything from the reefs, curve and power of the waves, currents, landscape, culture and perception and direction of living. Immersing myself in this lifestyle has been a huge learning curve for me and I have grown to appreciate the smaller and simpler aspects of life—be less judgmental and more accepting of situations and people. In the ocean, I have been challenged and, although I know my limits, have been able to push myself to become a more rounded on different equipment to adapt to the conditions.
Who/what inspires you?
People that live for the moment and follow in their dreams till they become a reality. Nature and our surrounding environments. Adventure and unknown lands.
Tell us about your relationship with Patagonia.
I’ve been one of Patagonia’s ocean ambassadors for the past four years. The company’s ethics have really ushered me to follow the adventures I dream up. Also educated me on how to live more simply and, from that, consume and create less waste. Be more conscious of my actions and the effects that I, and we all, have as individuals to this planet. I product test technical garments and other equipment. It’s so great to have an immediate influence on the products produced and truly believe in what they are selling.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
Living for the love of life. Being present in the moment and finding balance. That one minute you have the world at your fingertips and in the next breath it can be gone. Embracing the situations we are lead into and focusing on the good and positive. Learning from my mistakes.
What are you most proud of?
My family and truly close friends that are considered as family—the things that they set their mind to and excel.
What meaning does surfing hold for you and how has it changed your life?
Surfing, or riding waves on any medium, pretty much is my life. It dictates where I will be, when I will be there and, more importantly, gives me a sense of purpose and the reason that I am who I am. It is my passion; it has been since before I can remember and has always lead me throughout the different directions that my life has taken. Surfing gives me hope throughout the down times, creates dreams, provides adventure and is a place that in any society you can be 100% free. It’s love. It can give that spiritual connection with nature, fulfill that sense of wildness, and, on occasion, be nothing more than pure fun.
What brings you the most happiness in the world?
Each day brings with it its own opportunity for happiness. And choosing where I place myself or what frame of mind I’m in is up to me. I try and situate myself with the things I love most in this life: surfing, my family, friends, alone time, adventure, being lost and then finding the way, creativity and being surrounded by love.
Who are some of the people you feel are shaping the path for surfing today?
People that are in the ocean everyday, living the life and not just talking about it. Surfers that are insightful and try different equipment no matter how off-center it may be. Some people that have inspired and changed my path in the past few years are The Malloy brothers, Joel Tudor, Tom Wegener, Derek Hynd, Liz Clarke, Neal Purchase Jr.
What is your favorite board?
There is too many good boards in my quiver right now to choose just one—5’6” NPJ stringerless twin fin, 5’8” FCD Patagonia 2+1 egg and a 9’2” Revelation single fin log.
Your favorite surf spot?
Macaronis! If I could dream up my “perfect wave,” it would be exactly down to every last drop of water of this lovely left!
What’s your favorite meal?
Anything home-cooked: Italian, Japanese, veggies, fresh fruit, mint and dark chocolate!
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Avett Brothers, Gin Club, Old Crow Medicine Show, Bön Iver, Angus and Julia Stone, John Prine, Brown Birds from Windy Hill, Jessica Lee Mayfield, Iron and Wine, Ryan Adams, Modest Mouse, Cat Power, Neil Halstead, The Gaslight Anthem, Lucero, Mike McCarthy, Okkervil River.
What are you most grateful for?
This beautiful earth, a clean ocean and being lucky enough to share special friendships.
What’s next for Belinda Baggs?
Lots of water time! The next month in Noosa. Then, a few trips to Sumatra … and going with wherever else the road leads.
All photography provided by Adam Kobayashi. To find out more about Belinda Baggs, check out her Patagonia profile here.