Californian surf, snow and lifestyle brand O’Neill is excited to announce Imogen Caldwell as the newest addition to the global team. At 22, Imogen is currently one of the hardest charging female surfers, cutting her teeth at Western Australia’s most frightening reef break. With an uncanny ability in big waves, it’s no surprise this adrenaline seeking beauty is currently one of Australia’s most iconic female freesurfers.
Growing up on Quobba Station, home to one of the best waves on Australia’s west coast, Imogen started surfing in her mid-teens alongside her father and three brothers. With a surfing style learned at The Bluff, a steep, fast and powerful lefthander, Imogen quickly showed signs of surfing greatness. Her fearless nature and sheer determination has since led her to surf some of the heaviest barrels that Australia’s coastline has to offer.
Blue waters and empty lineups fringed the red, rough desert area where Imogen grew up, and at 130km from the nearest town, life at Red Bluff was isolated. Imogen’s unique upbringing saw her spend more time in the ocean than not, and on flat days, you would find her diving and fishing.
As part of an exciting new adventure, Imogen joins Jordy Smith, Russell Bierke and Soli Bailey on the all-star O’Neill global surf team. We asked the Imo how her life has changed since she left Red Bluff.
From a young age your family moved to a very remote part of NW Australia hundreds of miles from anywhere. How was it growing up there?
I am who I am today because of the childhood my parents gave my siblings and I. Every day was an adventure, I’m lucky enough to still call it home, as my parents still manage the camp ground at The Bluff.
What about your family, what are their names and what was family life like? Do you get on with them well?
I am one of five, I have an older brother Lockie and an older sister, Ebony. I have two younger brothers Jaspa, and Oska. My parents, Jim and Bek had us quite young and close together so there isn’t much of an age gap between us. We’re a pretty tight knit family and even though we are all spread out across the state, we come together often.
In that part of Australia the surf is really scary, with dangerous waves, sharp reefs and sharks. Were you ever scared and how did you over come your fears?
When you put it like that it doesn’t sound very alluring, I never saw it that way. It was all we knew and grew to be comfortable with.
What size were the waves that you used to ride?
I haven’t really had a moment yet where I’ve thought, no I can’t go out its too big. Now I’m with my boyfriend Cortney Brown, who’s definition of a “big wave” is on another level entirely. This winter has me nervous already.
Have you ridden big waves outside of NW Australia? If so where?
The biggest have been in WA, but I’ve surfed pipe pretty solid and most places in Indo. I have my heart set on Fiji this year.
Since you left, you’ve travelled the world. Where’s been your favourite place you visited?
It’s hard to pick a favourite! I love every place for different reasons. I just got back from Whistler, Canada and that really topped the charts.
Where do you call home these days?
Kalbarri, 6hrs South of Red Bluff. I live with my fiancé, Cortney Brown and our two Siberian Huskies Casper and Ghost.
Are you still surf big waves – is that something you’re into?
Yes and yes!
You skate, you surf, you snowboard – would you describe yourself as a bit of a tomboy?
Ha, ha, sure. I am just competitive and don’t like not being able to do things, I love a challenge. (I don’t skate very well, I’m not afraid to admit that).
Who inspires you and why?
My family, each one has different qualities that I aspire to and admire.
Where did you meet your man Cortney? From your social media it looks like you two have a really fun life, how would your perfect day go? Describe what you like to do, where you like to go.
We met at The Bluff, he’d visit often for the bigger swells and then eventually he started coming when there were no waves. There’s not much we do apart, he’s my best mate and I couldn’t imagine where I would be today without him.
We are always adventuring, when he isn’t Crayfishing we spend most days surfing or hunting the coastline on our motorbikes.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
In 10 years!! Maybe with a small tribe of mini Imo’s. But for the nearer future I have some big goals I’d like to kick in and out of the water.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
The fear of not doing something is worse than the fear of actually doing it… Or at least that’s what I tell myself !