Interview
JOSIE PRENDERGAST

Words by Nicholas Bonde
Illustration by Anna Lewenhaupt

Watching longboard phenomenon Josie Prendergast graciously catching a wave is like watching a celebration of life. Fresh out of high school, the budding superstar is affirming her place as the new darling within the surfing industry.

Free surfer and model Josie Prendergast has a reputation for being easy to work with. Her natural, uncomplicated persona and ability to always remain positive truly comes across in the images of her riding a wave or posing for the camera on one of her modeling gigs.

For someone who just graduated high school, Josie Prendergast has seen and experienced more than most of her peers. As a traveling model and professional surfer, the young woman’s schedule is filled with trips to exotic surfing spots and she has already landed sponsorship deals with surfing giants Billabong and McTavish Surfboards.

Born in the small Philippine island of Siargao to a Philippine mother and an Australian father, Prendergast moved to Byron Bay, Australia with her family at the age of four and was introduced to the playful company of the ocean and the art of surfing by her father at seven.

Having a natural talent for wave surfing and being shamefully photogenic, Prendergast started drawing attention from people in the industry who quickly spotted a diamond in the rough. Currently living her dream but remaining grounded and focused, Josie Prendergast is considered by many to be the future of her sport.

We had a chance to have a chat with the young rider on one of her stops in Sydney to talk about her love for the ocean, getting homesick on the road and what makes longboarding such a mesmerizing thing to watch.

How did growing up close to the ocean shape you as a person?

- It has for sure made me have a deep appreciation for the ocean and how much joy it brings to me and many other people. I am forever grateful that the ocean has given me so much joy and incredible opportunities in life.

"I love my dad's easy style and have learned a lot from watching him surf"

What is it about the sea that captivates you the most?

- Everything! But especially the way it moves and the way it has a natural tendency to connect people with nature.

How old were you when you first started surfing?

- I caught my first wave when I was seven, but really started getting into surfing and longboarding when I was eleven.

Photo by Steve Baccon for Billabong

I heard your dad got you into the sport, what’s his surfing background like?

- My dad grew up in Sydney and surfed all the time throughout his childhood. He moved to Byron Bay as he got older and cultivated his love for this incredible sport and for the ocean. He is really incredible on both a longboard and a mid-length. I love his easy style and have learned a lot from watching him.

What made you choose riding a longboard?

– I just love watching people longboard. Growing up in Byron, longboarding is such a natural thing. It reminds me a lot of dancing.

Photo by Steve Baccon for Billabong

For someone who makes their livelihood in the sea and grew up in and around water, how much do you worry about the future of our oceans?

-Yes, of course. Understanding the harm humans cause on the environment makes me more mindful of what I am doing. It scares me to think that soon enough, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish if we don’t act now.

Your surfing has taken you to some really amazing places around the world, any place in particular that has made an impression on you that you would like to revisit?

– It’s true that I have been to some pretty incredible places, and for that I am beyond grateful. I visited Vanuatu last year and even though we didn’t get that much surf, the people and the culture there was nothing short of amazing. Vanuatu made my heart sing and I definitely want to go back there. Next time with a load full of presents for all of the cute kids I met!

"I am forever grateful that the ocean has given me so much joy and incredible opportunities"

Photo by Steve Baccon for Billabong

Living the life of a professional surfer and travelling model sounds like a dream. Are there any downsides to constantly being on the go?

– I can’t really say there is a downside to my life at the moment… It gets busy at times and I can get overwhelmed, but I think it’s such a great job that I enjoy and one I have always wanted. So now when I’m fortunate enough to do it I just feel I have to ride the tough times out. But sometimes when I am away for long periods of time, I really miss being at home with family and friends.

You are attracting more and more attention from sponsors and fans alike; what are your plans for the coming years?

– At the moment, I am building a house in the Philippines, so that has taken some time and a lot of effort. I’m just taking it step by step really. I will keep on travelling with Billabong, going back and forth from Australia to the Philippines, and hope to continue surfing, working and travel to incredible places with my friends.

Photo by Steve Baccon for Billabong