Surfing Australia Q&A with Sophie McCulloch

Published on 05/06/2023

Sophie McCulloch is a seasoned Championship Tour competitor. The Sunshine Coast local stunned the surfing world when she won the Haleiwa Challenger last year to nab the final spot on the world circuit. But not soon after she faced a frustrating setback. Now the 22-year-old is back in winning form at the ISA World Surfing Games.

It was a difficult start to the year for you with an injury ruling you out of Pipe and Sunset. How are you doing now?

Yeah it’s safe to say the past six months have been an emotional whirlwind; from qualifying at Haleiwa, to getting injured, returning to competition and then not making the cut, there’s been a lot of ups and downs, but I’ve had an incredible time and have learnt so much. After taking the time to rest, recuperate and appreciate how mentally taxing the last few months have been, right now I am feeling refreshed and pretty fired up to hit the ground running at Snapper.

How much of your recovery has been physical and how much does it have to do with mental strength?

Great question. I’d say at the peak of rehab it was definitely predominately physical discipline that was required, however the most challenging part of it all (in addition to pulling out competitions and then returning to competition) was the mental side of things. There’s a complete circle of grieving that takes place as an injured athlete being forced to pull out of the biggest events in your professional life, and I definitely had to lean on my inner circle to keep a positive mindset. I am incredibly grateful for the support that I had along the way. 

You are competing with one of your best friends, Bella Nichols on the Challenger Series. How does that help having that support… and what is going to give you a competitive edge?

It was so special to be able to get a few CT events in with Bella. Obviously, we’d both love to still be there for the post-cut season, however it will be nice to push each other on the CS and take on the requalification journey together. I think competitive edge will come from embracing all the opportunities that this lifestyle provides; when you take a step back from all the intensity and drama around events, it’s pretty easy to simply acknowledge how lucky we are to be travelling the world and surfing with our best buds. 

Sophie McCulloch in action at the 2023 ISA World Surfing Games. Image: Sean Evans / ISA

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