WORDS OF WISDOM FROM THE CHAMPIONS
An Interview with Meredith Rose and Mark Drewelow
The California Bodysurf tour is underway with Mark Drewelow and Meredith Rose sitting at the top of the ratings lead after their win at the Zuma Bodysurfing Classic. The South Jetty Swells Bodysurfing Association (SJS) had a chance to get their insights and thoughts on bodysurfing and the newly organized tour. These two competitors are members of the Del Mar Bodysurfing Club, and are making waves in the local and international bodysurfing community. Not only are they world class bodysurfers, but they are two of the nicest people around.
SJS - You dominated a talented field of fellow competitors at Zuma, including several former, and current World Champions. Can you describe how it feels to come out on top of such a stacked field?
Mark Drewelow - I am thrilled to be competing at the top level and winning, after entering my first USA contest in 2017. Competition bodysurfing is certainly challenging and requires a very different approach to riding waves. On every wave and every maneuver, we need to be thinking about what do the judges see and want to see., and the spectators too because an applause from the spectators can have an influence on the judges.
Meredith Rose - The women who were in the Zuma bodysurfing competition are so talented. It was an honor to be in the water with them. Their diverse skills and styles made every heat a real challenge. Our scores were often tied or within one one hundredth of a point with each other. I just did the best I could. It feels fantastic to have come out on top.
SJS - Can you describe your thoughts on the Zuma event? Waves and conditions? Overall beach vibe? Competition format? Fellow competitors?
Mark Drewelow - Zuma was a great event. The conditions allowed for high performance bodysurfing all day. Waves where that perfect size where everyone turned things on and pushed their limits. A surf break like this where judges are close the riders seems ideal. The bodysurfing community is really fantastic, open, accommodating and inclusive with a cool vibe on the beach. Format was good, the 15-minute heats are a lot better than 10-minute heats where we feel rushed. That extra 5 minutes makes a big different and dials up the performance level. The competitors came from up and down the state. I think the jerseys need to be discontinued, they kill speed. Performance bodysurfing is all about speed through water and a jersey of any kind kills that speed we work so hard to achieve.
Meredith Rose - The energy and excitement in and out of the water was incredibly positive. Like most bodysurfing contests I've been to, even though it's highly competitive, the vibe is all about camaraderie and cheering each other on. The crowd of supporters was fired up to see us out there doing our best. The waves were so fun. The wind had been howling the day before, but just in time for the competition, we had beautiful, glassy conditions. The barrels held up well, allowing for some creative maneuvers and unusually long travel time in the tube. The use of the StactApp allowed fans and supporters to follow the competition in real-time from anywhere in the world, so I was getting texts from friends about my waves that weren't even at the beach! The announcing of electronic, live scoring from the judges' tent made the event feel really professional. It also got the crowd more engaged and allowed the competitors to up their game because everyone knew what score was needed to take the lead.
SJS - What is your preparation (physically, and mentally) for competitive bodysurfing?
Mark Drewelow - I am in the water nearly every day early AM whenever there are waves with tubes. If conditions are sloppy with onshore winds, I give it a pass. My bodysurfing sessions last on average 2-3 hours and I catch a lot of waves, 50 in a session is common. I do at least 30 minutes of stretching daily and also mix in dry land work outs and run about 10-15 miles a week. I don’t currently do any pool training but will probably add that soon, probably focus on sprints and underwater finswimming techniques, and apnea. If work prevents time in the water, I focus on stretching. At my age it’s really important to be as flexible as possible. Flexibility means higher performance and less chance of injury. Mentally, in the water and while working out, I visualize in slowmo the maneuvers and tricks I am learning and perfecting. In the water during comps I find myself mostly relaxed, I like to chat and joke with the other competitors, maybe put them off guard … hahaha.
Meredith Rose - I bodysurf almost every weekend with the Del Mar Bodysurfing Club. I find that bodysurfing with others who are equally passionate about the sport is a great way to learn new techniques and challenge myself (and make great friends too!). I also do Pilates regularly, which helps me stay conditioned and balanced.
SJS - The Huntington Beach Handplane and Bodysurfing Championships is the next event for the CBT, will you plan on competing? Do you have any thoughts on this event?
Mark Drewelow - Yes, I will be there, in both disciplines if my shoulders cooperate. Last year the Huntington comp was very challenging due to the current. Most my energy was spent avoiding getting swept through the pier. If there is swell it is a fantastic wave with variety. Being in the heart of surf city USA adds to the excitement of the event. Last year was my first Chubascos event and they ran it really well.
Meredith Rose - The competition in Huntington Beach is one of my favorites. It's one of the few contests that includes a division where I get to compete with my handplane, which I love. There are also some creative and fun aspects to this contest that make it unique, like the "Tandem" event. It's a 2-day event that draws top bodysurfing talent and a big, fun crowd. I'm looking forward to competing in the women's division and the handplane division.
SJS - The CBT is the first Bodysurfing tour in the United States. What are your thoughts regarding competitive bodysurfing, as well as a formal tour?
Mark Drewelow - I grew up competitive swimming and water polo and am competitive by nature. I see us in the water competing against the clock and maximizing points, not so much maneuvering for position against each other. There is a lot of respect in the water and we all just stay in our own water. With the tour in place, for the athletes that are really looking to be at the top of the leader board, I think we are going to see a shift to more aggressive maneuvering to get into priority position. Maybe a priority system will be needed in the future. I have been watching the European tour for the past couple years and admire what they have accomplished. With the CBT in place, it’s only a matter of time when we have a true world bodysurfing tour, a combined USA, European, Australian, South America tour or even a virtual tour of some sort.
Meredith Rose - It's so exciting to be a part of this movement. I think the CBT is going to take bodysurfing to the next level. It will bring awareness to others about how much fun bodysurfing is, as well as what a challenging sport it is. It's enjoyable for the competitors and the spectators. Adding an organized, competitive element and taking it to new breaks on a formal tour will really shine the light on this amazing sport.
SJS - How do you see bodysurfing progressing in the future?
Mark Drewelow - I believe we will see some amazing accomplishments soon due to the use of proper finswimming techniques combined with bodysurfing. 99% of bodysurfing history has us planning on the surface, while the real energy is underwater. The speed attained by using the right form underwater, gives us fantastic speed to do full bodysurfing air when breaking the surface. Once in the air, then the tricks start, front flip, back flip, spinners, flat spins, and more. I study video of dolphins riding waves for inspiration.
Meredith Rose - There are no limits or rules about what a bodysurfer can do with just a pair of fins in the ocean. Just when I think I've seen it all, someone invents something new. Sometimes it's spontaneous, and sometimes it takes a ton of practice. Based on the talent I’m seeing, I think there are things that are seen today as barriers and limitations, but they will keep being broken down. When I watch a dolphin play around in the waves, it makes me realize that we are just scratching the surface of how we humans can harness the power of and harmonize with the energy of the ocean.
SJS - Would you like to acknowledge any supporters, or sponsorships?
Mark Drewelow - Huge thank you to my wife Cristina and daughters Julia and Lucy for having patience to allow me to chase the gold. DMC Fins and Don McCredie deserve a very long round of applause. A title sponsor that has heart and soul behind their involvement is very key. Thanks to DMC, other sponsors and athletes are attracted. And thank you to my sponsor, coach and inspiration Mauricio Jordan aka Mr. Leblon Fins in Brazil, he has educated and trained me in finswimming techniques and opened my eyes to what the possibilities are when we train properly and push our personal abilities.
Meredith Rose - In addition to my supportive family and friends, I'd like to acknowledge the Del Mar Bodysurfing Club (DMBC) as a group of wonderful friends and supporters that keep me motivated to compete and promote bodysurfing. I'd like to than Don McCredie of DMC Fins. He's done so much for this sport, including sponsoring contests and making the best bodysurfing fins. He not only sponsors me with the DMC Repellor fins, but he even made a signature model of them for me called the "La Mer" - in hot pink! I also want to thank David Archer of Garage Handplanes for sponsoring me. He's incredibly masterful when it comes to making the perfect handplane.
SJS - Any other thoughts or words of wisdom?
Mark Drewelow - More bodysurfers should try proper swimming wet suits like Xterra. The increase in speed through the water is remarkable using the right wet suit, and more speed opens up the door to more maneuvers and more in and out tube rides.
Meredith Rose - I would encourage anyone that is on the fence about competing to try it! It's so much fun. You'll learn a lot about bodysurfing and meet a lot of wonderful people on the beach. It just keeps evolving and getting better. As my friend Vince from DMBC says, "You won't regret it!".
2019 ZUMA BODYSURFING CLASSIC
The 2019 Zuma Bodysurfing Classic kicked off the first event of the California Bodysurf Tour in grand fashion. 70+ competitors from up and down the coast gathered at Zuma beach with punchy 2’ – 5’ south swell peeks consistently breaking, with glassy conditions all day long. The stacked field of competitors featured seven former World Champions including the defending Women’s World Champion Krista Hargrave.
The Grand Champions of the event were Mark Drewelow, and Meredith Rose, who now command the ratings lead going into the next event at Huntington Beach. Meredith was in great form all day long and dominated the Grand Final. The men’s Grand Final was extremely close with James Fenny III, and Chris Ford tying each other just behind Drewelow. The contrasting styles between the Grand Finalist was a highlight of the day. Drewelow utilized his powerful underwater takeoffs to set himself apart from all other competitors, and defeat two former World Champions. Fenny III was showcasing progressive bodysurfing at its finest, performing radical re-entries and belly spins. Ford was combining traditional power maneuvers with the longest rides of the day.
DMC fins was the main event sponsor providing the latest and greatest REPPELOR fins for awards and event infrastructure. DMC founder, Don McCredie, made his way from Australia to be a part of this competition.
We would like to thank Duncan Selby for providing event photography throughout the day. All photos can be viewed on his website by clicking on the link below.