MEREWETHER surfer Philippa Anderson can thank COVID-19 for speeding up the development of her eponymous surf lesson school in Newcastle.
"It was definitely in my mind to do it for a few years but I was focusing on competing and qualifying [for the World Surf League tour]," says Anderson.
In lockdown, the 28-year-old kept training, moved home with her parents and, "losing her mind", enrolled in an accounting course at TAFE.
When the WSL halted competition, her father suggested she make a positive from a negative and get her business off the ground.
"I had applied for some jobs at Woolies and Coles and with friends' businesses, but I wasn't successful and I thought 'Right, it's time to focus'," she said.
On Friday, she launched the Philippa Anderson Surf School, with her mates and fellow pro surfers Sarah Baum and Ellie Lambkin instructing with her. A veteran coach at Surf Fest Surf School, she loves the fun and discipline it brings.
"Instructing gives me so much joy, especially with the little kids - one day they can't stand up and then you see when they finally do and it's so amazing," she says. "I think of growing up in the beach in South Africa, all we did was surf, it's pure joy."
Still on the qualification hunt with Baum and Lambkin, Anderson hopes her pupils can draw positive memories amid the pandemic: "I want to get more kids in the water and have something to look forward to, and we are hoping to set up a girls program after school that's not just surfing but they can hang out with us and just talk about life."
Anderson says she doesn't want her school to be "pigeon-holed" as being for girls and women only, and says it will also teach boys and men of all skills.
"It's aimed at everyone, all ages, all levels, we definitely want to make sure people are comfortable booking in," she says.
That said, as an all-female, pro-surfer instructed school, she relished the chance to set an example.
"We want to set that women empowerment, women can be in charge, run businesses - we have coaches who have achieved so much ... I love mentoring young girls," she said, adding that she had coached 17-year-old Lambkin for the past few years.
Both Anderson and Baum have been in the qualifying series from the age of 19 and Anderson is still aiming at WSL qualification.
"My aim is to join Ryan (Callinan) and Morgan (Cibilic ) on the world championship tour," she says.
Anderson is grateful for the support she's had to launch her business - from her family, her close group of friends, her sponsor, Foam Riders, and Host A Surfer founds Kirsten Ansell.
She has surprised herself in launching her first business.
"I was very stressed up until yesterday, and the last three months, I've been thinking, "Why am I doing it?" she admits.
"I had a lot of competing stress but this was totally out of this world and Dad was like let's do this by ourselves, you'll feel so incredibly proud when you get it all rolling."
"When it went live it was awesome. I've come from a competitive background so for me to do this mainly by myself, with help, I never thought I would.
"I'm not book smart ... but I surprised myself, I am just so thankful that this year has been so crazy and there are so many worse off people, and i'm grateful for this opportunity."
While you're with us, did you know the Newcastle Herald offers breaking news alerts, daily email newsletters and more? Keep up to date with all the local news - sign up here.
IN THE NEWS: