Surfing for self-love

Open Letter

Interview & Words: Elisa Routa

Images: Deni Firman, Gonçalo Carvalho, Andrew Carruthers, Giang Alam Wardani, justine legrand

Acceptance, beach, care, love, photography, surfing, self-love & therapy.

These few words could be a shortcut for Amy Rose Hewton’s alphabet. Amy was born and raised in Brisbane, Australia. As a teenager, she discovered surfing before suffering from mental and substance abuse disorders. Today, at age 35, Amy has found her way back on a longboard, using it as a medicine — able to contribute to her psychological well-being. From Sydney to Java, from Noosa to Europe, surfing has helped Amy’s mental health recovery. “A few years ago, when I started surfing again after therapy and a few other consistent life changes, I was back walking at my own pace again.” Through a honest and intimate open letter, the Byron Bay-based photographer, model, artist, and poet invited us to join her on a journey toward unconditional self-love, self-care, and self-acceptance.

We lived in the suburbs but my parents loved the beach so we did the drive up every weekend. Going to the beach was the best, everyone loved it and everyone fell asleep on the way home, it was bliss. 

Mum and Dad always had a saying for my sister and I: “They are only boys”. We were heavily into sports and, I guess, other male-dominated activities. Mid-teens, being from the burbs, music and skating was our thing. My Nana, Gladys Rose Hewton, was an artist so every Saturday when we visited, she would let me draw, show me her work and guide me. She gave me books to learn from, it was amazing. Music has always been in my life, thanks Dad. From a young age, listening to Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd kicked off a love for the tunes. I would be glued to the TV watching Rage or Video Hits as a kid, the 90s was an epic mix of music. My parents never limited what we wanted to do, they were supportive to a fault, fair and hard on us in a way that pushed us out of our own way and helped us achieve.

“This is not the time, but it’s the place
and I don’t think I have the face
to run in circles in this race
I can’t keep up with the pace
Why did they dress me in lace
it sends an itch,
all over it itches
all over the place”

As a kid, I was a “Brownie,” which is like a Scout or a Girl Guide. That was awesome. Camping, adventures, helping… Working with old people and people with disabilities from a young age normalized acceptance of others outside of the accepted norm. It taught me to be inclusive and caring.

In the 70s, my dad surfed, he still had his old bronza under the house. Before I got my driver’s licence, I would catch the train down the coast and throw myself in the ocean. Then my parents bought me a 7”4 minimal and a wetsuit for my birthday. Soon after, I got a car and all I did every weekend was wake up pre-dawn and hit the waves before the sun came up.

 “I had bulimia nervosa and alcoholism in my late teens and 20’s. That tore me away from surfing and me, my happy self.”

This is a long story and the chapters just keep writing themselves, which is this beautiful layering of the years, but it’s taken me a long time to feel like myself again, walking at my own pace. In a nutshell, I had bulimia nervosa and alcoholism in my late teens and 20s. That tore me away from surfing and me, my happy self. These conditions were just a by-product of some things I couldn’t relate to, understand or deal with very well. A few years ago, when I started surfing again after therapy and a few other consistent life changes, I was back walking at my own pace again. I currently feel like a wave slave. I will try surf every day, and I love it. Surfing is a perfect dance of self-expression. I feel it flows out without a single hitch, it is a fuel to my fire.

 “To get out of the head, one must get into the body, and shake it all about and you do the hokey pokey and… or something like that.”

Today, I travel for surfing. I have been wonderfully invited to some amazing festivals around the world. It’s been a wild experience.  have met some of the greatest friends and lovers. Seeing different cultures and ways of life is exhilarating and free, it opens my curiosity up and pushes my brain out to learn and absorb. Java (Indonesia) is a place where I found my way back from the rat race, to myself and connection to everything. It taught me life and death, and the impermanence of things. I also work from home as a graphic designer, I write poems everyday as well as draw and take photos. Modeling is somewhat of a weird thing I have been asked to do which helped me re-love myself. I also became my own muse a few years back and ended up showing some of the photos I took in a group exhibition in Sydney called Objectified

“I have strong environmental and equality visions. The waves, just like women, are not your property.”

I have strong environmental and equality visions. It is ridiculous not to have equal pay or equal amounts of men and women surfing in events. It is definitely not from lack of attendees anymore since girls are taking over the lineups. Outside of surfing, I feel sad for all my mothers, being squashed out and illegitimate. There is so much history that has been taken from women. I recently created the project Ladies of my Lineage. I wanted to honor all the women and their lines of descent. I have this radical notion that marriage, and taking the name of my partner, is steeped in the past and of the ownership of women. As women, we still silently take this normalcy as fact. For me, marriage holds this pattern and gives it life in modern times. Long gone are the days of women being owned like property, bought and sold from our fathers to another man.

take me to your station
I didn’t have the patience
You were such domination
all I wanted was a vacation
from the constant incineration
of my name”

I recently wrote, “The waves, just like women, are not your property. We’re wild and free, we choose to be who we want to be and flow where we want to go. Localism is the same institutionalized bullshit as coverture, you can’t own the land or the sea, or me.” For me, this localism is similar to coverture: the legal status of a married woman considered to be under her husband’s protection and authority. Humans forcefully deny the sovereignty of many things in order to gain power. I do believe there is a way to have localism where locals protect and monitor areas, meaning to look after the beaches, clean them, be safe in the water, regulate the line-up when needed, but not demand they own it. Likewise, visitors can be respectful of the local people, they can engage and share love. Aboriginal first nations people of Australia are guardians and protectors of the land and sea, not owners. 

“Love more, start with yourself. ”

SistersMarlee and Keely Silva Kamilaroi/Dunghutti sisters started Tiddas 4 Tiddas, a sharing network that showcases successful Aboriginal and Toress Strait Islander women role models and their stories. They have just been nominated for a human rights award. These women circulate advice and academic, sporting, and other opportunities for young indigenous women to reach their full potential. They are empowering the most marginalized group in Australia and I am so in awe of them. 

What social change do I want to see in the bigger world? Love. It’s hard but in this society, we are not taught to love ourselves and a lot stems from that. Greed is our biggest enemy, it is the demise of it all; our planet, our resources and our relationships. Love more, start with yourself. 

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