We recently announced that Rachael Tilly joined the RYD family as a global ambassador! And we couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of joining forces with the 2015 WSL Women’s Longboarding World Champion!
The stylish Californian surfer currently resides on the Gold Coast of Australia and has a contest record that speaks for itself; she was the youngest ever world champ at 17 years of age, has competed for her home country (USA), won gold medals at the ISA World Surfing Games and has taken home a host of state and national titles while staying in the top 5 of the WSL World Longboard rankings.
And while those contest results are amazing, it’s not the only thing about Rachael that caught our eye! Despite her success as a pro surfer, the ever-smiling natural footer has an incredibly humble approach to life. She values the family unit, dedicated herself to getting a degree under her belt and seems wise beyond her years – and let’s face it, with the world in its current state – it’s a great trait to have!
She’s also the perfect advocate for spreading the joy of surfing around the world – her stoke is infectious and we are so excited to share Rachael’s story, and collaborate on our mission to impact people positively through spreading that stoke around!
Enjoy our chat with Rachael below.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR SURFING JOURNEY, WHERE IT STARTED AND HOW IT EVOLVED?
My first introduction to surfing was sitting on the beach with my mom and brother and watching my dad compete. He used to compete as a professional short boarder, so it was only natural that he introduced my brother and I to the sport at a young age. Spending time at the beach and surfing was just what our family did together! I did my first contest when I was 6. Which as you can imagine, was just my dad pushing me into waves, and me giving my best to go straight in the whitewash. At 8 I won my first content (not that my surfing ability had improved much from going straight in the whitewash!) but I did find that I had a competitive drive in me, and I wanted to start entering competitions more. That’s when it all started!
YOU EARNED A WORLD TITLE AT SUCH A YOUNG AGE, DESCRIBE HOW THAT ACHIEVEMENT CAME ABOUT AND WHAT IT MEANT FOR YOU?
It sounds like such a big dream at 10 years old, but it was around that age that I decided to set the goal for myself to become the youngest World Champion. Like I said, I had this competitive drive in me from the start and knew I wanted to keep winning until I won the World Title. On top of that, I had this additional drive to really set my name in history in some way and that’s where the youngest world champion part came to it.
Looking back now, it seems like such a big thing to say as a 10-year-old and really believe it with all my heart. And I really did. I believed with all my heart that if I worked my butt off, there was no reason why it wouldn’t happen. I had the support of my mom and dad to make it happen and the ambition to work hard, so from then until the day it happened, I put all my heart and soul into it. When it actually happened, I couldn’t believe it. I actually still can’t believe it sometimes.
It was my last year to have the opportunity to still take the youngest title, but in all honesty, I wasn’t thinking about it. I was there to do my best, which took the pressure off myself, and I still look at it as one of my favourite times competing. I was really enjoying myself, surfing in the moment, and it all came together!
YOUR CONTEST RECORD SPEAKS FOR ITSELF, AND ITS A LONG LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS… WHAT ARE YOU FUTURE GOALS FOR COMPETING?
Another world title is still on the cards. There is a younger crew coming up and they’re working hard and not letting any pressure up. It’s going to be hard work. Winning one doesn’t make winning another one any easier, so I’ll be working hard to put it all back together again. I miss competing. With no competitions all last year, it’s really put into perspective what an impact it’s made in my life and I appreciate it so much. I just can’t wait to put a jersey back on.
YOU'VE TRAVELLED FAR AND WIDE PRIOR TO THE COVID PANDEMIC - WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAV DESTINATIONS?
Most of my favourite competition memories are not just about what the waves were like or what the result was. It’s about the memories I made with my friends around the event. In 2019, we had back-to-back stops in Spain and New York. I was traveling with my brother and some of my best friends for a month around Spain, surfing and competing. Then we kept the fun going together, straight to New York and doing it all over again. That’s one thing I appreciate about the long boarding crew is we have so much fun together in and out of the competitions. They live all around the world so I can’t wait until we get to the next contest to catch up with everyone again. Probably the first place I can’t wait to travel to again to surf though is Europe. I was really excited to travel to France to surf last year, which didn’t happen. I’ve never surfed in France, so that will be where I pick it back up.
YOU'RE LIVING IN AUSTRALIA NOW - HOW DOES LIFE DIFFER (OR IS SIMILAR) TO YOUR LIFE IN SAN CLEMENTE?
Growing up in San Clemente, I was surrounded by a very surf centric community. Living on the Gold Coast is not too dissimilar to that. Surfing is such a huge part of the culture here and there are so many world class spots nearby. So, activity wise, everything looks pretty similar, the majority of my free time is spent surfing. The difference is I’m not here with my family, and not being able to visit for over a year now has been really tough, so I really can’t wait to visit home and reconnect with everyone in person.
YOU'VE COMPLETED A DEGREE IN SPORTS MANAGEMENT - WHAT WAS THE MOTIVATION FOR STUDYING AND GETTING THIS UNDER YOUR BELT?
A few years back, I started attending meetings at the WSL as the Women’s Longboard Surfer’s Representative. This gave me incredible insight into the fact that so much happens behind the scenes to make the sport what it is. It gave me a passion to pursue a pathway to get involved in more behind the scenes of the events. I’d really love to make a positive impact in surfing and the longboarding community and hopefully the knowledge I got from my degree will help!
IDENTITY IS SUCH A CHALLENGING TOPIC AMONG TEENAGERS (AND EVEN ADULTS) TODAY - WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE THOSE WHO ARE LOOKING TO FIND THEIR IDENTITY?
This is a great question and very topical as I feel now that I’m living as an adult, I’m re-finding my identity in what it means to be an adult. So, for starters, my first comment is that there will always be a question no matter what age you’re at, so work at being content in where you’re at in this moment.
Secondly, I learned early on in competing that once the event ended and I was back home, it was the memories and fun in and around the event that I remembered, rather than just the results. Don’t get me wrong, I work hard for great results, but it wasn’t what defined everything.
So, for those who are trying to find their identity, don’t put it into fleeting things such as a contest result, test result, etc. Even when I think back to my World Title, while I’m so proud to have it and want to work hard to earn another, the next day when I woke up after winning, I remember thinking “wow I’m still just me”.
In other words, the best result in my entire life didn’t magically change me. It made me really happy, but I was thankful it’s not something I felt would define me because if I was expecting it would change me drastically overnight, it didn’t. I still had to be intrinsically happy with who I was. In other words, it didn’t change me, it changed opportunities I got in the future, and it was up to me on how to take advantage of that.
My advice: put your identity into the hard work and passion you have about things, because no matter what the result is at the time, there will always be another opportunity and if you put everything into your passion, it will keep you going to try again and again.
ANY ADVICE ON HOW TO HANDLE, MANAGE, NAVIGATE SOCIAL MEDIA FOR YOUNG PEOPLE?
Well, I’m not the best at managing social media in terms of consistency and followers, so if you want advice on that, I’m not the person! (Laughs!) As for managing it in day-to-day life, I really like to be in the moment. It’s so easy to obsess over a photo you’re about to post, on whether you look good, whether you look like you’re having enough fun, etc., unfortunately I do it too.
But I look back at photos I posted a few years ago, and ones that I would have tried so hard to have a great caption or stared at for so long to decide if it was good enough to post, and that photo was in people’s minds for seconds and the only person who might look back on it is me!
I try hard to not take myself too seriously. Another thing I’ve learned from my own platform and my friends is that it really is a highlight reel. There are times when I’m going through a tough time but if you looked at my Instagram feed, you’d think life was the best!
Which maybe says I should be more candid around my reality, but also says you never really know what’s going on in other people’s lives and to not compare your very real life to the social media perception you get of another person’s life. The only thing that it does, is gives you a false sense of reality and constant feeling of not living up to something.
YOU LANDED A JOB AT THE AUSTRALIAN HEADQUARTERS OF THE WSL LAST YEAR - TELL US ABOUT THAT OPPORTUNITY!
It’s the dream opportunity really. Like I said before, my whole purpose for getting my degree in Sport Management was for the passion that I have to make an impact in the sport of surfing. To now have this opportunity working at the WSL has been an incredible chance and I’ve been loving every day that I’ve been working. I’m learning so much and the team in the Australia WSL office are incredible to work with, I learn so much by just watching the way they lead and the way we work and interact with each other. It’s an incredible office and I’m so appreciative to be where I am.
WHAT DOES 2021 LOOK LIKE FOR YOU? PLANS, GOALS, PASSIONS, PROJECTS ETC.
Hopefully we get to compete again this year. Competing and winning is always on top on my list! I will definitely be in the water working toward that. Along with that, my main goal is to really absorb my surroundings like a sponge and learn who I am as an adult and as a businesswoman. I’ve kind of labelled this year as my year of growth, so I guess my goal is to be ok with the ebbs and flows of what comes with growth and challenging myself outside of my comfort zone in both surfing and work.
HOW DID YOU INITIALLY FEEL ABOUT JOINING THE RYD FAMILY?
How could I be anything but stoked to be a part of the RYD family?! I’m so excited! They really are a family made up of members all around the world and I’m excited to now be a part of it and representing it wherever I am around the world.
WHAT MADE THE BRAND SO APPEALING TO YOU?
Surfing first and foremost, has always been fun for me. Fun and stoke are what RYD’s foundation is built around and it was something I felt set RYD apart from the others, and that really identified with me. I’m stoked to be with such an uplifting and positive team and looking forward to seeing what this partnership brings.
Amazing Rachael! We wish you all the best for 2021 and we can’t wait to see how this next season in your life unfolds!
May the waves be good where you are!