I aim to raise £10,000 in 4 weeks to transform a disused iconic building in St Ives into a home for the surf education project Tassy's Surf Ratz.
My name is Tassy Swallow and I'm a 20 year old pro surfer from St Ives, Cornwall. If my family hadn’t moved here when I was 4, my life would probably have been very different. Growing up in St. Ives, family life was very much centred on the beach. I first started surfing at the age of 6, and even at that age, I was so keen that I insisted on carrying on surfing through the worst of the winter, in gloves and boots and a cap that were way too big for me, and crying with the cold, but refusing to come out of the water!
From the age of 8 I knew I wanted to be a pro-surfer, and competing soon became an important part of my life. My dad always said you have to learn how to lose before you know how to win, and I used to enter everything going, just to get the contest experience. I was a little surf rat, under everybody's feet, often competing way above my level in open women’s divisions and against the boys, but gradually I worked my way through the girls’ divisions of the UK pro-surf tour, and began to pick up my first wins.
I was lucky throughout School that St Ives treated my ambition to be a pro-surfer as a serious vocational option, and gave me the time off school to travel. With the support of my family, school and later Truro College, and sponsors over the years like O’Neill, Calypso and VANS, from my early teens I have been lucky enough to train, surf and compete all around the world. I represented Great Britain in five successive World Junior Surfing Games in France, Ecuador, New Zealand, Peru and Panama, and twice represented England in the Europeans. Since the age of 15, I have won every British, English and UK under 18 Pro Tour title. I now compete on the ASP European pro-junior tour.
I am a qualified Level 2 ASI surf coach, and Stand Up Paddleboard instructor, and have been running the girls' surf club Surf Ratz since 2012.
I know how much surfing has changed my life and given me opportunities I could only dream of when I was an 8 year old surf rat! It has done so much for building my own sense of self, and confidence in myself and my ambition, and I want to share that with other young girls. Competing isn't for everybody, but there's so much more to be got out of the sport. Surf Ratz isn't a surf school, its about personal development. As a mentor and a role model, my aim isn't to just to train great surfers but to help girls and other young people to achieve their full potential as strong, confident, resilient and independent people with their own life ambitions and goals.
The big idea...
The SurfHouse St Ives project has grown out of Tassy's Surf Ratz, a surf education project I set up for local girls aged 6-16 in 2012. Surf Ratz aims to help young girls develop their self-confidence, a positive body image, and a strong sense of their individual identity during this important stage of their lives through surfing.
Teaching young people to surf is only part of it, a lot of what I do with them takes place out of the water, and is about helping them learning about the surf environment, surf science, oceanography, meteorology, and learning something about surf culture and its history, as well as using technology like video analysis to improve their technique. So far, I've been limited in what I can do by lack of space, facilities and money - trying to teach them about wave patterns or currents, or do video analysis on a lap top in a steamed-up car on a cold February day isn't ideal!
While everybody who comes on holiday to St Ives thinks we're lucky to live here, and imagines that we all live a pretty idyllic lifestyle, and part of that is of course true, but there's actually a lot of deprivation, people on low incomes and seasonal jobs, working long hours in summer but with little work in the winter, and for girls growing up in the town it can be even more difficult, with not a lot to do as they are growing up and pretty limited opportunities and job prospects when they leave school. Locally, it's incredible to me that there are girls in St Ives who never go to the beach, let alone go in the water, who have little else to do but spend their evenings and weekends hanging around. If girls haven't already put on a wet suit by the time they hit puberty, the chances are they never will once the body self-consciousness kicks in.
As well as being able to expand the range of what I can do with the existing Surf Ratz, SurfHouse would also enable me to respond to the demand from schools, local colleges, social services and childrens' care providers and even doctors' surgeries, to broaden the range of girls and young women, and other young people that I am able to work with, to include the vulnerable, at risk, and those for whom the Surf Ratz ethos would benefit their physical or mental well-being.
When I first started surfing at the age of 7 I was pretty much the only girl in a very male local surfing community. Surf Ratz is gradually changing that, not just in the number of girls who see surfing as something they can do themselves, but in a more supportive attitude among the local surfing community.
In May 2014 I secured a long lease from Cornwall Council on the derelict Battery Blockhouse on the Island, St Ives. With its wide and uninterrupted views across the Atlantic Ocean, this prominent and iconic building has been many things in its 150 year history. Built in 1860 to house the St Ives Volunteer Artillery Company, it was subsequently used over the years as a military blockhouse, a barracks, a coastguard look-out, and, during both World Wars, as an Admiralty semaphore and signal station. It has been disused for some years and while structural sound, internally it is in need of repair. In September I was granted planning permission to restore the building to provide a home for the Surf Ratz project and education facilities including:
*A state of the art digital classroom/presentation suite, where we will run and host a wide programme of educational, vocational and accredited training courses, seminars, workshops, talks and visits by guest speakers
*A comfortable chilling area/ social space, equipped with big screen projection for video analysis and technical coaching, as well as film screenings, presentations and more informal events.
*The two spaces can used separately or together for exhibitions, yoga sessions, fitness training and other public events and exhibitions.
*Outside, the former artillery ammunition store will be restored to provide a secure equipment store and changing rooms.
Surf House will reflect the internationalism of St Ives, and will develop a strong international strand, which will include an international exchange programme, and projects with surfing nations throughout the world.
Check out more about TASSY'S SURF RATZ on Facebook: www.facebook.com/pages/Tassys-Surf-RATZ
And the SurfHouse St.Ives Facebook for keeping up with news: www.facebook.com/surfhouse.stives
Want to message Tass directly? Like and follow her page here- www.facebook.com/TassySwallow