SURF SIREN

AN IN­TER­VIEW WITH SALT WA­TER SIREN IMO­GEN GALD­WELL

Tracks - - Buzz - IN­TER­VIEW BY ALEX WORK­MAN PHO­TOG­RA­PHY BY RAY COLLINS

Imo­gen Cald­well was always des­tined for a life doused in salt­wa­ter. Having grown up at Red Bluff in Western Aus­tralia she was never go­ing to have the same kind of child­hood as most girls her own age. It's no sur­prise then to learn that days spent surf­ing over ra­zor sharp reef, catch­ing crays and fend­ing for your­self in one of Aus­tralia's harsh­est en­vi­ron­ments were com­mon place for the bub­bly 18-year-old. The tran­sient na­ture of The Bluff has also en­abled Imo­gen to meet many peo­ple from all walks of life. Most re­cently Imo­gen was of­fered an op­por­tu­nity to head to In­done­sia to work as a surf guide aboard the Saraina in the Mentawai Isands. For a young surf-crazed gypsy, it was an of­fer too good to refuse. Do you feel that liv­ing at The Bluff has shaped the per­son you are? Most def­i­nitely. I feel I have been very lucky to live the ex­is­tence that I do. We have trav­elled a lot as a fam­ily and I have been ad­ven­tur­ing on my own a lot this year. The crew that I meet on a daily ba­sis that come through Red Bluff all have their own ex­pe­ri­ences and sto­ries to share and I think in a way that has shaped the per­son that I am to­day. It can also be a pretty harsh en­vi­ron­ment, with very lit­tle rain, no air con or TV, a quick town run ev­ery week or so and what you think is a lot of flies times 10, thus re­sult­ing in me be­ing a lit­tle rough around the edges. De­scribe for me what it was like grow­ing up. I imag­ine your typ­i­cal day was very dif­fer­ent to most girls. Yeah I guess you could say that. Grow­ing up out here has its pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives, we have all been home schooled with a pri­vate teacher, and in­stead of be­ing given ex­pen­sive toys we'd spend hours amus­ing our­selves trekking k's through the desert, fend­ing for our­selves and learn­ing to surf, dive and fish. I've lived in a small car­a­van with my sis­ter along­side the fam­ily house. My bed is a few me­tres shy of the beach and I can't com­plain about the view. A nor­mal day in­volves surf­ing and the stan­dard gath­er­ing of crit­ters; fish­ing, div­ing etc. Rar­ity ac­tiv­i­ties are those that con­clude with me end­ing up in the mid­dle of a dusty sheep pad­dock or on the back of a mo­tor­bike as­sist­ing the boys in the yearly muster and lamb mark. Has there been any­one you par­tic­u­larly looked up to that has in­spired your jour­ney so far? My par­ents have in­spired me to travel, to surf, to en­joy life and to cre­ate my own unique path. I ad­mire them for the way they com­mit­ted to spend­ing their younger days rais­ing five chil­dren in a car­a­van they towed around Aus­tralia, and then to end up man­ag­ing the camp at Red Bluff lead­ing a new dusty desert life. The last time we spoke you told me travel was at the top of your pri­or­ity list. You're now a surf guide aboard Saraina in the Mentawais. Tell me how that op­por­tu­nity came about? Be­cause there is a con­stant stream of peo­ple com­ing through here, it opens up an av­enue for net­work­ing, which can lead to op­por­tu­ni­ties. That's ba­si­cally how I formed a friend­ship with the team at Saraina, I'm now in the process of learn­ing ab­so­lutely ev­ery­thing the cur­rent surf guide Dedi knows about the breaks of the Mentawai. What is it like be­ing a young girl in an en­vi­ron­ment of pre­dom­i­nately male surfers? When there's a swell there aren't usu­ally a lot of girls

out and you can end up be­ing the only chick in the lineup. It's in­tim­i­dat­ing when they refuse to let you have one and some­times I lose it. Un­til you ac­tu­ally prove your­self and go some­thing wor­thy of a place in the lineup, they just pad­dle cir­cles around you. Have there been times where you showed up the boys with the skills you have learnt from grow­ing up in the North West? Haha, I wouldn't say 'showed up' but I guess it isn't an ev­ery day oc­cur­rence to see a midget girl out at 8ft Green­bush and who is not just there to flounder around or to get the arse out. What have you most en­joyed about be­ing a surf guide? Prob­a­bly one of the best ex­pe­ri­ences is you surf an out­ra­geous amount of waves and meet some pretty loose char­ac­ters along the way. I en­joy the boat life, fall­ing asleep ev­ery night to ei­ther a gen­tle rock or having an an­gry ocean throw you from one side of the cabin to the other. Tell me about the perks. I'm sure it's not all work and no play. Have you scored some epic ses­sions so far this sea­son? Yeah first day I got to the Ments we scored a solid swell that made the place seem like God's coun­try. The best ses­sion I had was with pho­tog­ra­pher Ray Collins at the north end of the Mentawai, it was the big­gest swell we'd had yet and we were adamant we were go­ing to get a few good shots. With only my­self and one other guy out we waited a good half an hour between sets. If one caught my eye I'd wait for Ray to yell at me to go and then I'd com­mit to some­thing I wasn't even sure I was ca­pa­ble of. I must have done some­thing right af­ter a cou­ple beat­ings, as when I pad­dled back out af­ter pulling into a solid one, Ray was grin­ning and gave me a death roll hug … I think he does that a lot. Have you found many sim­i­lar­i­ties in the waves at home to those in Indo? Yeah, the heav­ier lefts are a lot like home. Tomb­stones is the mean­est wave I've ever surfed so go­ing out in some of the waves in Indo felt pretty com­fort­able. The reef is a lot like home, sharp and un­for­giv­ing. There are a lot of fe­male surfers that have taken to so­cial me­dia to mar­ket them­selves. What do you think about it all? Each to their own, so­cial me­dia is pretty good for self­mar­ket­ing but it's up to you how you wish to be seen by the rest of the world. A lit­tle bit of mys­tique goes a long way.

“I guess it isn't an ev­ery day

oc­cur­rence to see a midget girl

out at 8ft Green­bush and who

is not just there to flounder

around or to get the arse out.”

What sort of ad­vice would you give other girls out there try­ing to cre­ate a ca­reer around chas­ing per­fect waves? I'm not re­ally one for in­spi­ra­tional quotes, but I guess the best ad­vice go­ing round th­ese days and the ad­vice I have re­ceived is; stay grounded, stay fo­cused and stay off the crack. Would you like to one day cap­tain your own boat and sail off into the hori­zon? Who wouldn't! I don't know about sail­ing off into the hori­zon that seems a lit­tle too clichéd, I'd live any­where on any­thing but you'd never in a mil­lion years find me in the over­pop­u­lated, rat race and so­phis­ti­ca­tion of the city.

Imo­gen tak­ing a break from her gig as a surf guide on board the Saraina in the Mentawai Is­lands.

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