We are very happy to bring you an interview from the extremely talented and motivated Tehillah McGuinness. Originally from South Africa, Tehillah has become a role model for many a surfer, both her athletic prowess and her business acumen are something to be admired. We are pumped to be hearing from her and will be keeping an eye on her throughout the coming years competitions!
Give a brief rundown on how you got into surfing?
I always loved the ocean and we pretty much grew up on the beach as kids. My mom enrolled us at our local lifesaving club when we were about 11 and I would always see my friends hanging out at the club house on weekends, surfing and having a good time. Everyone was so welcoming and it made me want to be a part of this ‘surfing family’. I remember telling my mom how much I wanted to surf and (as with everything I have wanted to do through my life), she surprised me with a surf board for my 13th birthday. I used it a few times, but I was still very much committed to running at the time. We moved to house right on the beach when I was 16 and that is when I really fell in love with the sport and the freedom I felt from it.
At what point did you realise that surfing was going to be more than just a hobby for you?
Literally, from the very first wave I ever caught something in me changed and I knew this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I didn’t know what exactly and didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I just knew. It wasnt until I was in my early twenties and was working and studying in the health and fitness industry, along with signing with some of my very first sponsors that my vision became a bit clearer and I started to put my plans into motion, along with the incredible help from my family. Once I started experiencing how surfing was truly shaping my life and career I knew I wanted to share this with others.
Do you think your background in competitive running affects the way you train now/approach competitions?
It definitely has an effect, up until a certain point. I am a pretty competitive person by nature, which definitely stems back to my career in running from an early age. Don’t get me wrong I have had some serious battles with my snooze alarm, but on the whole I am passionate about what I do and that definitely helps me to focus and keeps me driven. When it comes to the actual competitive arena in surfing, I find this completely opposite to competing in running events. I know there is only a certain amount which I can control in any competitive situation but with surfing there are a lot external factors which have taken me a while to get used to again.
How do you deal with losing a competition?
I have a little cry and call my mom if she is not with me…haha 🙂 I know it sounds silly and I know I am not competing on the world tour where there is so much at stake, but I think I am so passionate about what I do and I juggle so much to be able to work, travel to contests and still have enough time to train and surf, that when I don’t achieve the result I would have liked to it is very disappointing. I know contests don’t define who I am, I do them because I enjoy them and they help me to keep improving my surfing. As my mom always reminds me – I have so much to be grateful for in my life and so many opportunities which have come from surfing, so I focus on the good and keep moving forward. I am trying to find the perfect balance between having fun with contests and enjoy the travelling/adventure part, rather than focus on the pressure…I will let you know when I find it 🙂
You get the opportunity to train a lot of celebrities in your work? Have you ever been star stuck? And have you had to deal with any divas?
haha…good question! Hmmm…In all honestly I can proudly say I have never had to work with any divas (yet) 🙂 I think an important factor is that all the celebrities I have worked with have come to me for help specifically, so they have been much more inclined to work with me, rather than feeling like they are forced to. I treat every client the same, whether a celebrity or not and although it feels a bit surreal at times I know that the celebrities I have trained, mostly just want to be treated like a ‘normal person’…no special treatment. This will probably sound strange but I have never really been star struck. I would say I have had more ‘Am I really sitting having a post training coffee with someone a just watched at the cinema a few months ago/ heard on the radio’ type moment. Its a little crazy but awesome 🙂
Which of your celebrity clients are the best at surfing?
Stay tuned… 😉
How do you motivate yourself on days that you feel tired or just not into it?
I have to have a strong word with myself…followed by a strong cup of coffee:) In the last few months I have felt completely swamped and I guess the strange beauty of the media and social media is that people only get to see a tiny fraction of your day. Not how you are truly feeling emotionally, your worries, your lack of motivation or any of the other barriers we all face on a daily basis. On the same side people don’t always see the ‘wow…I feel so blessed’ moments or witness the little miracles that happen on a daily basis. I thank God for my blessings and the life I live everyday, especially with all the crazy things happening in the world every second of the day. My mom helps me to put everything in my life into perspective and one day it all clicked. I asked myself, ‘who am I doing this all for?’. Its not for my own ego or self praise…its for my mom and my family. As a testament to all their sacrifices and support every single day of my life. To all the brands and people who support me and make so many things possible. To all the lives I want to help and change through what I am doing. This is what pushes me, what drives me and makes me go that extra mile when I just want to sleep for another hour or take a day off. I think when you realise who or what you are chasing your dreams for and the reason why you do it, you find something within you that drives you like never before. You find your ‘WHY’. Don’t get me wrong, I am not super human – I wake up some mornings and my body aches, I am tired and I have very little motivation. I think it is a privilege to be able to feel those aches and emotions…to be able to have the opportunity to chase your dreams when so many wake up to war or poverty. That is what motivates me.
You’re an ambassador for Women’s Sports, how important is it getting young girls into sports?
I truly believe it can have life changing effects. Even if its not surfing, I believe any sport you love will have a positive effect on your mental and physical well being. I know people are sick of speaking about body image but it is a HUGE issue, which is not made easier by the media. I believe taking part in sport will help to take the pressure off ‘working out to look a certain way’ and actually help you to focus more on the skill and enjoy the benefits of having a ‘healthy body’ and mind. Sport builds confidence, builds friendships and helps you to stay active which has a positive knock on effect in all areas of your life. As a spokeswomen for Women’s Sports I want to encourage women to be confident and happy in their own skin. To be brave, bold and beautiful!
If you could change one thing about the way the world of competitive surfing works…what would it be?
Wow…tough question. I may have to get back to you on this on! 🙂
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Business wise, we are all working on so much as a family (my mother and siblings) and to have everything come together in the way we pray and dream about is definitely top priority. With my family, spreading the love of surfing, growing our businesses, having achieved my own personal sporting goals and making a difference in the lives of others will make me a very happy Tee:)
Dream surfing location?
Put my family and I on a boat somewhere tropical with great waves and we can be best friends 🙂
Scariest surfing moment?
I broke my hand a few years ago and that was a pretty scary moment for me. Just looking back now and what could have happened, as the spot I was surfing was very shallow and when I surfaced (after going over the falls) I was standing in ankle deep water. I definitely had my guardian angels working over time that day. Sorry guys
Favourite and least favourite thing about surfing/ocean?
Favourite – Having a break from technology, doing something I love, being in nature with family and friends and just creating the best memories.
Least Favourite – Reefs, sharks, crowds and ‘flying’ surfboards 🙂
We loved hearing from Tehillah and as we say, we will be keeping a close eye on how she gets on and with her comps this year and will keep you all up to date!