In this article, Caitlin Creeper sits down to talk Thailand’s Growing Surf Scene with Dew Promchareon.
Where are you from?
Rayong, Thailand. I learnt how to surf there but I usually move down to Phuket or Khao Lak as they get more swell. I am also a quarter Vietnamese but have no family there.
When did you start surfing?
I started surfing properly (as in surfing most days of the week or weekly) during the Covid pandemic around May 2020. I touched a soft top for the first time in 2017, and then maybe once a month or two in the second half of 2019 at university.
What is the Thailand’s Growing Surf Scene like? What is it like for women?
Thais are starting to realise that you can surf in Thailand and the international community too. There is definitely a small but strong community that holds surf to its core. Slowly, more funding is going into it which is always nice. Surfing in Thailand can be rooted back decades ago, but it was very niche.
“Thais are starting to realise that you can surf in Thailand and the international community too.”
Thais love taking photos, which has become a blessing to the surfers here – it has opened and connected us to the international scene and allowed the majority to make a living out of it. We’re still on the momentum of encouraging more people to surf in our country and so the localism is still not strong. If you rip, the locals will feel inspired and give you respect – that is if you respect them back too. Sometimes the surf scene can turn slightly out of hand and feel like it is just a fashion when advertised to people from the city. It’s important for Thailand’s growing surf scene that there is a good balance between fashion and passion.
“If you rip, the locals will feel inspired and give you respect – that is if you respect them back too.”
In general, women are very inclusive here. They bring in a lot of beauty and style into the line up. Which is celebrated in a rather equal split between longboarders and shortboarders. Women here definitely have the greater opportunity in going into somewhat of a professional surf career. And so, a lot of us are encouraged to get in the sea. The majority longboard, but the shortboarders are growing. The men treat you with respect in the water and cheer for you too sometimes! You can get too used to that but the groms really teach you to get your claws out sometimes haha. It does surprise me a lot when I surf in other places to see how aggressive men can be in the water.
What I love about Thailand is that everyone is always supporting each other. If someone does something sick in a comp, everyone goes wild. Doesn’t matter who they are. That’s what I love about my country, we’re always cheering for everyone’s progress and achievements.
“That’s what I love about my country, we’re always cheering for everyone’s progress and achievements.”
If you’re wondering, in 2019, my two female friends representing Thailand received a silver and a bronze medal in the SEA Beach Games. How’s that for a country you supposedly can’t surf at 🙂
What are you studying and why did you choose Scotland?
I’m studying Economics – to become a surfer haha! My dad was a scholarship student to study in the UK. His goal was to always save up for me to study there for university. In the UK, you’re only allowed to apply to 5 universities. 3 were top universities for Economics. The other 2 chosen satisfied my question of “where can I surf?” – this was when I had only surfed 3 times before in my life.
I ended up choosing Scotland as I wanted to embrace a new culture. I didn’t really want to live somewhere far from the beach or pure nature. 5mm hooded wetsuit, gloves and 7mm booties with pumping barrels was a massive shift from the bikini life of soft knee-shoulder high longboard waves. It is still tough to adjust, but nothing in life comes easy and you can only come out of it better than you were before anyway.
“It is still tough to adjust, but nothing in life comes easy and you can only come out of it better than you were before anyway.”
Can you talk about your experience in the WSL Board Masters Pro? How did that come about? What mental and physical blocks did you have to work through to be confident to compete?
There are only 3 longboard QS events this year and it was just an opportunity I could not miss. Especially if I was already holding a visa for the UK via university. It has been my dream to be on the WSL ranking. Or even just to see a Thai flag on it. With the majority of the funding coming from Ripcurl Thailand, I flew over with no board or wetsuit. Blessed by my friend waiting to drive me around there. I managed to communicate with some local shapers. They were all so kind and willing to let me borrow their boards for the event. Ripcurl Europe even gave me a wetsuit – it was a trip I felt so much love from the international surf community.
To be very honest, I knew I wasn’t ready for it at all. Mostly because I had barely surfed my log for 9 months and my experience with a wetsuit any thicker than 3mm has not been kind on my surf. The cold also always gets to me in the most drastic way. I had no idea what board I’d be riding and how jet lagged I would be.
But I did it anyway for the experience and friends that I could make along the way. If you have the opportunity to, then why not?
I competed and did not make it through the first heat, which meant I wouldn’t even be up on the WSL rankings. It was tough travelling so far for it and I cried a lot. I struggled a lot with putting too much pressure on myself, which a lot to do with a good amount of sponsorships and attention coming in, etc. I can say now that it was a massive reason why I did not perform as well. Coming back to Thailand after, I felt kind of embarrassed having gone so far for supposedly nothing, and having to bring back memories of elimination when people kept asking.
“If you have the opportunity to, then why not?”
Those closer to me in my community helped me a lot in reconnecting my mindset. “Just surf like an old lady” – as in, just surf. Don’t expect anything from it, just enjoy it. It was after then did I have the most fun in my last competition at home. What really inclines me towards competitions is that you get to surf a beautiful break with only 1-3 people out! Stop thinking and just enjoy it, silly Dew.
What do you hope the future of surf looks like for women and girls in Thailand’s Growing Surf Scene?
I hope in the eyes of the international surf community, we become a rad group of Thai chicks that people somewhat know about. I hope more funding comes through to support our girls in Thailand’s growing surf scene. We have a sick group of upcoming groms that will rip in the future with the right kind of support. I hope we continue to grow in a way such that everyone knows each other and continues to support one another. Regardless of competition. We’re still one Thai family holding on to a larger purpose together.
“I hope more funding comes through to support our girls. We have a sick group of upcoming groms that will rip in the future with the right kind of support.”
What is your favourite Salty Club class on the platform?
I love the 20-30 day challenges! It really keeps me motivated and accounted for. It also gets me into workouts that I would not usually willingly choose (i.e. strength haha.) Especially as someone that just trains herself most of the time. I don’t care if my schedule clashes, if it’s a reasonable enough excuse then I’ll miss a day or two. It’s making sure you stay disciplined enough to come back and finish what you started.
Other than that, I have loved the yoga classes showing me how to stretch in ways and places I never knew I could, those that are surf inspired are extra groovy! The Ginastica Natural classes are also a highlight as there’s nowhere this easy and for such a low cost that you can learn that sort of thing. Not in Thailand anyway…
I can easily say that The Salty Club is my surf life when I’m not near the surf, and a companion to it when I am 🙂
What is the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourself in the past year?
That I am capable of a lot of things if it is what my heart desires. I am proud of myself for the rapid improvement I gained from surfing in just over a year during the Covid pandemic. I also learnt that I perform best when I focus on one thing at a time and put my heart into it. It’s been difficult finding the time to get out to the sea as a full-time student, an hour from the coast with no car.
Training my body has helped me keep the stoke, but also to keep surfing in my dreams helps a lot. A lot of people freak out when they don’t surf for just a week and that used to be me too. Unfortunately, I don’t have that privilege anymore 6 months a year. It was tough but I learnt that I can get through that process of transition and change. It is uncomfortable moments like those that help you break through in surf and just life too I believe.
“A lot of people freak out when they don’t surf for just a week and that used to be me too. Unfortunately, I don’t have that privilege anymore 6 months a year. It was tough but I learnt that I can get through that process of transition and change. It is uncomfortable moments like those that help you break through in surf and just life too I believe.”
What are your goals for the next few years?
I’m hoping to graduate from university with a good grade to make my family proud. After that, I would love to find a way to travel and surf in new places and meet new or even old friends that I’ve never met before – maybe connect with those from the Salty Club! Improving my surf, especially on my log, is obviously a big one and if possible, it would be a big accomplishment to compete in an international contest again and get through into deeper rounds.
If possible, I am keen on getting into Muay Thai properly and learning about my heritage’s sport and becoming a better athlete overall. Also super keen to step up my headstand game into a handstand as a yogi!
You can follow Dew >> HERE <<
Feature Image: @onedayasurfer