Jo Dennison has recently been appointed as head coach at Surf Snowdonia’s surf academy. Not only that she has scooped the women’s title at the Welsh National Surfing Championships which took place at Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire.
The Championship triumph marks the fourth Welsh title win for Jo, who heads up the Surf Academy team at the hugely anticipated Surf Snowdonia in the Conwy Valley. The world’s first ever publicly accessible Wavegarden Surf Lagoon is now in its final construction phase and opens its doors to the public this summer.
Jo saw off a gutsy performance from defending champion Emily Williams as well as credible threats from strong contenders Gwen Spurlock and Niamh Mathias in order to take the title home. The competition, which took place across three days, benefited from a powerful swell, pushing the performance level up a few notches on previous years.
The 29 year old from Pembrokeshire is no stranger to success on the competition circuit. Jo is a former British Champion, and has twice surfed as part of the British team at the ISA World Surfing Games. She has also taken part in the ASP World Qualifying Series since 2011. We had a quick chat with Jo about her new job and how she stays so fit and healthy.
After years of travelling around the world Jo, how’s your new job as Head Coach at Surf Snowdonia?
I’m over the moon with the win and delighted to be able to return to work with the buzz of another Welsh title under my belt. With just a few months to go until opening there is a huge sense of excitement and anticipation amongst our growing team, and the Welsh Nationals win feels like it is the icing on the cake. The whole academy team is, as you might imagine, passionate about the sport of surfing, and we’re all immensely excited about the potential for Surf Snowdonia to make surfing so much more accessible. And who knows, perhaps we will coach some future champions too. We are all absolutely focused on delivering an absolutely compelling experience for all visitors to the Surf Snowdonia surf academy. We’re 100% focused on making Surf Snowdonia a must-go destination for families and elite surfers alike.”
As a competitive surfer how important is diet and fitness to your surfing?
I used to think; ‘I surf enough, I don’t need to do anything else.’ That was ok, I was reasonably fit and healthy by normal standards, but competing against the pro’s I realised I had to put a lot more training in so I started working with a coach Martin Waltz (PT Surfskills Coaching Projects) who kicked me into gear. I didn’t realise how weak my legs were. You need so much power comes from the legs and core when your surfing. I would surf for hours on end but in the high intensity of a heat, I’d really fatigue. I’m doing more sport specific training now, and I’m feeling the difference already. It means the difference between falling on the last turn or being able to compress and hold on to your bottom turn and make those extra points.
What does your daily diet consist of and how strict are you on sticking to it?
I’m reasonably good with my diet, I’m one of the weirdoes that actually like salads, but it could still be better. I increase and decrease what I eat with how much I have been surfing, it’s important to listen to your body. I like to have small snacks all day. Big meals make me lethargic and it’s hard to train or surf when you are bloated and full. Everyone is different you have to find what works for you. My usual day is something like this;
I’ll usually have porridge or natural yogurt with blueberries or walnuts and honey. They’re a good source of carbohydrate, which keeps me energized for the day. Don’t forget the coffee!
An omelette or grilled chicken salad. I usually have a light lunch like a salad with lean meat. Including protein is important to help recovery. I don’t want to feel too full when I lie on my board.
I love fresh fish and vegetables with a little rice or pasta. I always try and avoid processed food and try and cook with fresh simple ingredients.
Avocado on brown toast
I always drink lots of water, especially in hot climates. I drink at least two liters a day.
I love chocolate, so a treat on my day off would be a pain ou chocolate or chocolate cake, chocolate chip muffin, anything with chocolate in it basically.
How often do you workout in a week?
I will try and do at least four land activities a week, but it could be up to two a day. It really depends on how much you’re surfing and working. When dealing with the natural environment you have to work around the conditions. If the waves are bad I will hit the swimming pool more. But I will try and do a session every other day even when I’m surfing. It could be a 5km run, circuit training, core work, skate board simulation or interval training.
How many boards in your quiver and what’s your favourite board?
My quiver isn’t that big actually, I usually take four with me when I’m travelling, but overall I think I have 15 boards. Rob Vaughn at Billabong Surfboard Factory has been my shaper for at least 5 years so we have a great relationship. He usually makes exactly what I need, I don’t know how he does it but they are always better than before. I get super lightweight high performance boards and I surf them until they die. No point in having loads of surfboards just lying around. You just need your favourite.
Any tips for up and coming surf girls?
You create your own reality, T.S.Eliot said; “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” We only live once, don’t let anyone tell you ‘you can’t!’
Read the full surf report from the Welsh Surfing Federation here. And more about Surf Snowdonia, including details of how to book your session, here.