It’s always been fascinating to see what’s possible within our sport and, since the beginning, gender equality has always been a high priority in my coaching. Most can agree, by its very nature, freestyle at its core produces boundary breakers. Female athleticism is spreading across freestyle disciplines, from big wave adventures to the ICF World Championships; continuing to demonstrate how phenomenal these athletes truly are, and how important it is to support and celebrate their dedication to both the sport and chosen lifestyle.

The ASP (Athlete Support Programme) has made substantial contributions to the development of women’s and girl’s competitive freestyle over the last decade, providing a programme supporting pioneering female freestyle athletes to reach new levels of performance. Going beyond winning, it is firmly rooted in exploring new possibilities for performance; breaking old misconceptions along the way.

Our training and competition activities have shown that there’s no difference in skill set between male and female athletes, with Claire O’hara back in 2014 clearly establishing that it’s possible for ladies to perform any skills on the ICF score sheet (including main trophies like Lunar-loops, Back-loop-Mc Nasties, Tricky-loops). Achieving the same with wave tricks through 2015-16 seasons (including Aircrews and Pistol Flips). The current challenge being the frequency of which these tricks can be performed within the allocated 45seconds. It’s apparent that the junior girls are following the same trend, with Ottilie Robinson-Shaw (multiple world champion) blazing the way, raising the bar to new heights – leaving her final year as a junior scoring 1245 (with ICF judges) in the 2020 GB team selections.

We’re on the cusp of seeing men and women’s competition at the same level, with frequency of moves being the only defining factor. It’s phenomenal, and a privilege to be part of these athletes’ journeys.

However, there is always more that can be done, and we can make progress only if we work together, in partnership, to remove any misperceptions about the limitations of female’ freestylers. It’s up to us all to ensure that the future generation of women and girls will no longer feel the pressure to be anything other than progressive freestylers.

This year brings a new incredible chapter in freestyle…