World champion surfer Stephanie Gilmore isn’t the first person to see a connection between surfing and dancing (just check out this website offering costumed and synchronized surfing classes in Byron Bay, NSW…) but in The Water Dancer, a new video project for Quiksilver.com, the 23-year-old Aussie follows it halfway across the world.
The inspirational series of short black and white films sees the four-time ASP World Tour champion and 2010 Laureus Award winner journey to New York to hook up with three pro female dancers: choreographer Noemie LaFrance, who’s worked with everyone from Feist to Frank Gehry; principal ballerina Tiler Peck and Brooklyn breakdancer Casandra ‘Defy’ Rivera.
“Quiksilver and I created this concept to shed light on the way surfing is described, in a way that truly shows how beautiful female surfing is,” she says. “I once read that surfing a wave can be described as a dance performance: ‘The wave is your stage and the sun is a spotlight’.”
In fact it’s surprising just how many similarities the four women find between the sport and the art in these videos, whether it’s the need for what LaFrance calls ‘body knowledge’ and physical instinct; the intense strain Peck puts her pirouetting body under; or the feeling of invincibility Rivera gets when she breaks.
'Surfing a wave can be described as a dance performance' – Stephanie Gilmore
“There’s no right or wrong way to ride a wave,” Gilmore points out as she talks to the choreographer. “It’s purely just the expression of how you feel then and there.”
She also bonds with the breakdancer over the challenges of competing in a male-dominated scene.
This year's Laureus Awards will be held in London, England, on February 6. Among the nominees are reigning ASP world champions Kelly Slater and Carissa Moore, double F1 world champions Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing, mountain snowboarder Travis Rice and PWA Wave World Champion Philip Köster.