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Laurie McGregor’s trip from surf mags to contests

Surfer riding the nose of a wave

Milkshakes, sharks, homemade boards, contests, family, locals… you name it, we talked about it! One hour chatting never passed so fast as Laurie McGregor ran through her love for surfing, a love that started when she was just 11 years old.

Laurie grew up in East London, but not the one you’re thinking about. East London, South Africa… the tip of a continent, and her area was bizarrely known for its milkshakes and sharks. 

It’s a breathing ground for Great Whites and Ragged-tooth sharks, but hey at least they had good milkshakes too! “I presume I’ve swum with them yeah, seen a few fins but never got close and personal… you just get out as fast as you can.”

“The sharks you see are the good ones…” she continued and before dropping this story of a double shark attack on a surfer, at her spot! 

I gulped, luckily it’s not something any local surfer here has to worry about!

A love born from print mags

“For our 11th birthday, my twin sister and I received a newspaper clipping for a free surf lesson at a weekly surf clinic, every Saturday, which we then begged to do on Sunday, and then Wednesday and then finally every day of the week.”

Two 11-year-old girls, with a common love for salty sea. Alice went on to become the number 1 female surfer in South Africa, “and so we got to surf pretty much everywhere, up and down the country.”

Her sister now lives in London, the one you were thinking of earlier, so her surfing days are fairly limited, but Laurie, based in Gozo still can’t get enough of the sea.

“I love the colour of the sea here, there are so many tunnels, you can see so deep. I love the colour of the rocks, the grass…Gozo looks like you’re walking in vivid mode, like walking with a filter on. I love seeing The locals pulling their horses from the back of the car, the funny things like the cacti, but then knowing why they are there to hold up the walls, its brilliant.”

“The spots on Gozo work with a North Easterly. Qbajjar and Ramla are pretty fun, but when everything lines up Ramla Bay is my favourite spot!”

Laurie’s also surfed in Malta, just once at the Cold Water Invitational, where she finished in third spot, behind Frenchman Basile Rio and the dominant Brazilian storm Nando Theo.

The winter was a quiet one in Gozo, “I wish we had to option to surf daily, but you can’t have everything.” Daily surfs are all a part of the routine in South Africa, and she cut her teeth at Nahoon Reef, a super local spot. 

Local spots are often hard to penetrate, but Laurie’s style helped her get through. “When you’re a young grommet, an older person will choose you and look after you… you’ll sit on the shoulder till someone lets you in…”

And that’s the defining moment “Better to charge in and wipe out, than pull out, if you did that you could stay there.”

“It’s always nice to surf with people who are excited to be there and are so good…”

That last line is a feeling she shares here in the Maltese surf scene. “These guys are hungry and dedicated, hyping the community on and it’s great.”

Two young surfers posing for a photo at sunset on a beach
Two young grommets in South Africa

We declared ourselves surfers

“My mum’s boss’ son was moving to go to Uni somewhere else in South Africa and he gave my mum a whole load of surf mags – ZIGZAG. (Side note: 🫶!)

“We tore out all the pages, stuck them across the whole wall as long as we could reach onto the roof of our bedroom, using the bunkbeds to reach higher. We declared ourselves surfers and that was it!”

These two grommies must have been a handful! One of Laurie’s favourite surfing memories takes her back to a time her and her sister Alice ditched school to surf. “We were laughing all the way, the bay was empty as everyone was at school or at work.”

Ironically, surfing was also offered as a class at school, so figure that one out!

It’s always fun for BOMBA to compare surf scenes in different countries, and Laurie gave an inside scoop on East London’s.

“Same same but different.” she summed up.  People just want to hang on the beach, everyone is different and are there because we love being sandy or salty, even just watching waves… that is a surf community. It’s not just the people in the water. Surfers all dress as surfers. You can spot them anywhere.”

It’s so amazing to think that our tiny island has a budding surf community that makes us proud to be together!

Laurie’s one of the most experienced surfers on our islands. She loves all styles and types of boards, but gets “ inspiration from graceful surfers, using the waves rather than forcing turns. Surfing with the wave, rather than against it really.” 

Surfer rides on a wave
Laurie smashing it at Qbajjar! – photo by @mamocarlitos, together with the featured photo above!

Dominate the foamie first

With that experience, comes a final touch of wisdom, a tip for the starters:

“One of the biggest mistakes people make is to drop down a surfboard size too quickly. You should be able to go left and right, both directions of the next wave before you step down to a short board. Otherwise, you’re just sitting at the back, it’s way harder to catch waves and are not in control. 

Take it slow, it’s not a race to be the best surfer – keep on the bigger boards and learn to ride them all the way in.”

It’s solid advice, given by a surfer who was raised on boards, surrounded by sharks. Live and learn groms! 

Surfer cutting on a wave
Alice McGregor, South Africa’s number 1 female surfer


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