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Getting To Know Stephanie Pettersen

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stephanie petterson

Stephanie Petterson is a professional bodyboarder that has had a career in the water since 1984, originally form Brazil and proud to be an Aussie (Steph has competed for both countries). My first impression of Steph was a smiling 'power house' and after talking to her I realised this to be true. Extremely passionate about life, surfing and her family, this former World Champion openly shared her experiences, both good and bad.

Stephanie had a serious accident at a wave pool in Texas, severely injuring her neck in 1996. Battling with the injury for the last half of the year, she still managed to finish 3rd place overall in the World IBA (International Bodyboarding Association). Competing for the next 6 years, she remained in the top 7 World ratings, leading the tour on numerous occasions. In the year 2002 IBA Women’s World Tour (still struggling with the neck injury) she was crowned Women’s World Champion for the 4th time in her career- this time proudly for Australia.

Unfortunately Stephanie watched her 5th World title slip through her hands in 2003 due to lack of sponsorship. From there on she quit the tour, this wasn’t an easy situation for Stephanie to 'let go'. Stephanie's last event was the Pipeline Pro in 2011 (after 5 years away from competing), she received the wild card and used it well by placing 3rd overall.

SurfSister got to chat with the 'mother of two' and this is what Stephanie had to say...

How did you get into bodyboarding?

It was in the earliest 80's when bodyboarding started booming in Brazil.  I began in 1984 along side the best bodyboarders in our history. I asked my mum for a bodyboard for my 15th birthday. The females dominated the sport, more than the guys. We were the selling point and the attraction for years to come, the local stream media had us in as the headlines all the time. The males used to get really angry about it. We were respected and looked as real athletes. Major companies like Colgate, Tampax, Speedo invested on us at that time. It was a big cool look, with all the best female bodyboarders dating the best  stand up  pro surfers at that time.

You are obviously very talented in the water with your career spanning over 10 years, how has body boarding changed/developed in your opinion?

Thanks! In my World tour time, we females fought hard, very hard to make ourselves equal to guys, prize money, to compete at the best time, best tide etc... We proved ourselves in Pipe for years, and still do it now. I see the new generation being weaker and not standing and fighting for themselves the way we did. They just seem to be happy to be part of it, which makes me upset to see all the work been wasted.

To be honest my knowledge of the bodyboarding world is very limited, can you tell us a bit about how the bodyboarding competitions work? How many events? Were in the world? How many seats to compete?

In my time used be around 40 to 50 girls competing, specially in big events like Pipeline. IBA (International Bodyboarding Association) just had the Pipeline Pro of Women's Bodyboarding, there were 42 girls including trialist... but only 32 compete at Pipeline. The WWT tour for 2012 has 5 events at this stage, its Hawaii(Feb), Reunion Island (April) Australia ( April) Portugal August - Puerto Rico(Oct)

Have you ever had ago on a surfboard?

Yeah, not many times, but I can stand up a little for fun. I usually will do if its really small, the moment its 2/3 feet I'm out on my bodyboard. I probably would be able to stand up surf by now if I had practice. The truth is my love is bodyboarding and I am here to make myself happy and bodyboarding makes me happy not stand up surfing.

You mentioned that you have had missed opportunities because of lack of sponsorship, can you tell us more about this?

The IBA is mostly directed by Australian guys nowadays, which in my eyes and eyes of many is unfortunate for the female rides. The Australian male side of the sport always have been un-supportive to develop the women's sport for years, they focuses were always male male male. This is just my opinion but for years I think always there were a fear from their side, what if? What if the women's become too popular? Males bodyboarders do take a lot crap as it is from stand up surfers for lying down, so imagine if the female sport became popular? The crap would be 100 times worse, right? So, throughout the years they worked in creating this imagine of riding giants crazy waves, giving no space to promote the females side of the sport in smaller but still solid surf. Because the truth is, we still charge big waves(Just go to youtube and type "Leila Alli Pipeline" and watch it. So the rule was stipulated by the mags in Australia, basically If we female don't go crazy suicide style like them, our photos were never good enough to be run in their mags, or they would run very small, like is not even there. So, we females have to seat for years seeing all this happening in front of us. I can't even get a bodyboard company to pay for a trip, like it happened in 2003 when all I needed was support to go to Portugal for one event to battle for my 5th World Title after winning 2002 Tour. In my eyes my beloved sport is an absolute joke. And of course surfing industry unfortunately has no interested in women bodyboarding, I wish they did. It's an opportunity seating there to generate money, a new option, a new fashion, which still very radical and feminine.

How did you come to be a personal trainer?

Not a very hard transition, I used to train very hard for years to help in my bodyboarding comps, I was seeing as the fitness freak of the tour. I always being athletic since young. I always loved sports and exercising.

How have you managed to have a family and still compete, any extra training that you have done to strengthen after child birth?

That wasn't very easy, but you just do like anything else when you really want something. I did have some family support to, not my family was they are in Brazil, which that made it hard and sometimes still do. The first World Tour of Bodyboarding was 1995, I took my daughter Yohanah as only a 5 old month babe, I took her everywhere and I nearly won every event in that first tour. I think I won 6 events in a row. I did really well but didn"t win the Tour in that year,I took runner up because the point system was based in the prize money. I won most events with smaller purse, and the suck part was that the level of competition was the same all around, all the top girls were traveling to every event on that tour. They change the system after that happened, but I lost another opportunity.

I have noticed that you have legs to die for, have you ever gone in a 'hot-legs' competition?

Hahahahaha, No I haven't, yeah my legs and ass are very well talked about it. But let me know if there is one around with a good prize purse, might be fun to go in it...Hahahaha...

Can you tell us something quirky about yourself?

Mmmm, I'm a bit of a dancing Queen once comes to the dance floor hahaha not very shy...don't even need any alcohol to go up on the stage and get loose...hahaha

Any thing else you would like to add?

Well, I guess just to leave a word out there for the female riders, short, mal, long, bodyboard riders, enjoy the ocean and our beaches, treat like it is yours, don't take crap from guys in water, hahahaha, and keep fit and healthy if you want to surf hard for years, I can help with that part if needed :)


These days Stephanie is based on the Gold Coast and has made the transition to a personal trainer (who wouldn't want to be trained by a World Champion!). Her focus is on Pilates, Strength and Functional Training.

Stephanie Pettersen's website is
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mob: 0414 683835

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