Surfing the Waves in Phuket

Henry and Aliya in Loop Swim, Phuket April ’19

What’s being a surfer in Thailand like? – We interviewed two to find out!

There’s no question that Phuket, Thailand is one of the world’s hottest beach destinations. From its humble beginnings as a sleepy backpacker pit stop to its current fame as a nightlife-driven, eco-chic global destination; Phuket now offers something for every traveler.
While full moon parties and tropical beach bars may come to mind, for our Spring/Summer 2019 photo shoot we turned our attention seaward, to interview two locally-based surfers on their sport, relationship to the ocean and how Loop fits in to their days on the waves.  We spoke to Henry Chapman, 16, the Thai National Surf Champion, and Aliya Akhmetshina, an expat fellow surfer, on what makes Phuket the perfect place to hone their skills.

Q: What is it you love about being out in the ocean?

 Oh, it’s a great feeling being out in the ocean. It usually calms me down… it’s my getaway place where I can recharge myself. I read that living by the ocean makes people feel happier, maybe that’s why I love to be out there with my surfboard.

Q: You moved to Phuket from Russia.  How did you decide to become a competitive surfer?
Aliya: I moved to Phuket from Moscow, but I actually grew up in a little town called Birsk in Bashkiria (it’s part of Russia). I only started surfing about 3 and half years ago here in Phuket and absolutely loved it since then. I joined surfing contests organized by local surfers just for fun and to experience this competitive surfing. Free surfing is a lot more fun though because surfing in a contest can be a bit stressful since all the eyes are on you when you have to catch at least two waves in a short period of time… It can be challenging sometimes but it is an awesome experience! My favorite part in those surf contests is just hanging out and watch others surf and meeting all the local surfers that come from different places around Thailand, mostly Phuket and Khao-Lak.


Q: What motivates you to surf? What feeling does it give you that keeps you coming back?

Henry: I’ve been doing this sport for 8 years, part of who I am is I like to push my boundaries and I’m a perfectionist in things that I do… it  (gives) me time, when I am in the water, to really be mindful and think about the world and myself and I really like that aspect of it, but at the same time because I’m a perfectionist, I like to push the boundaries of what I can do and see how far I can push myself.


Q: Does surfing competitively make you bolder in life in general?
Henry: I wouldn’t say bolder, but I would say more open minded – as it gives me a new area of my brain that at first I didn’t know I had. Learning how to zone in and how to be in that state of mind for a contest is something really unique to every sport… I have my own set of routines, I have my own set of ways that get me hyped… gets me in the zone to surf, and to be in that moment during that contest.


Q: Do you feel people in Thailand are aware of the effects plastic has in our oceans? Do you feel disposable plastic use is on the rise (like straws, plastic bottles, coffee lids, plastic bags) or decline?

Aliya: I don’t think that the majority of people in Thailand are aware of the effect’s plastic has in our oceans. Though, just a while ago I didn’t either. It’s only here in Phuket I have started to see plastic on the beaches and in the water when surfing. However, recently in the social media I’ve seen videos and pictures about the plastic issue in Thai made by Thai (authors). I feel that disposable plastic use has been on the rise, but now I see more restaurants, cafes, supermarkets has started to eliminate plastic straws, bags and other disposables. But we still have a long way to go.


Q: How can we get the word out that healthy oceans are vital to a healthy planet?

Henry: One thing I saw just a week ago that I thought would really work was this company who was showing people how to recycle plastic and how to make it into products, a lot of my classmates and lot of people around the world got really excited about this… Ideally, it’d be awesome if the government could do something about it but as we are now, I feel like taking it to a more a local standpoint and having local areas slowly take initiative until we become one big local group, and that from that big local group then we can grow throughout the world – I think that’s the best way to take it at the moment.


Q: Which swimsuit did you like best from your Loop Swim shoot?

Aliya: I loved them all!! Every single one of them fit so perfectly and the material felt really good on the skin. Seriously it’s really hard to choose, but since ocean colours are my favorite I would go with the white one with light blue print on it and the bright blue one that had kind of an ocean print on it.


Q: What is the most important feature in a swimsuit, to you?
Aliya: I like a swimsuit that is most importantly functional. When surfing, I want a swimsuit that stays put even in the wildest surf. Sometimes, the waves are strong enough to strip off your swimsuit or bikini. That’s why, along with nice looks, swimwear should sit tight and have a good fit.


Q: Do you have a motto or two that you live by?


Henry: To be honest, I don’t really.  I just kind of life my life day by day…I always feel like the general rules for myself is to be yourself, as much as you can be, and do what you love and be nice to others.

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