Born in South Africa and raised on the right hand points of the Eastern Cape, Rosy Hodge still has fond memories of her motherland. She grew up in the town of East London, on the south-eastern Cape (about 4 hours up the coast from J-Bay). The city, about the size of Newcastle, produced a 4 x World Champion in Wendy Botha. There were others too; Greg Emslie became a fixture on the WCT for many years, and there was Dave Fish before that, a hometown legend that influenced so many. There was Wayne Monk and young prodigy, Royden Bryson. But it was Botha that many compared a young Rosy Hodge to, she had a similar style growing up and was one determined young lady.
I remember having to jump out onto the rocks at Victoria Bay (a rocky right hand point break) to rescue Rose, who would have been all of 10 years old at the time… attempting to paddle out in a boys heat in solid 6 foot surf, mistiming the jump off, but so determined to have a crack.
That approach to surfing and life stuck with her throughout her career and with some hard work, she broke into the World Championship Tour and enjoyed what she’d describe as some success. Fast forward a few years and Rosy found herself in Hawaii at the end of 2010, knocked off the tour and reassessing. She felt a little deflated at the time, when Kate Bain (WSL Producer who was working for Roxy at the time) asked Rose to commentate at the upcoming Roxy Pro on the Gold Coast, it gave her entry to another career pathway. Thankfully she agreed.
One thing lead to the next and Rosy found herself commentating at multiple events that year. It wasn’t all easy from the start either, but it was something the tall South African grew into and when the new WSL was formed and took over the events, she was offered a full time roll. And it’s one she has since made her own and as the quality of the WSL production improved, so did Rosy.
“It’s so much fun! Getting to travel and surf and have the whole experience without the stress of competing is awesome.” She says. She doesn’t even mind watching the surf when it’s pumping anymore and would rather be behind the mike than slipping on the contest jersey.
In every situation behind the mike, her signature dimpled-smile is disarming, in the most positive way. And while she has won thousands of fans around the world for her work, it’s her endearing traits of humility and grace that truly connect her to the athletes as well as her fans.
At the end of 2016 while standing at the base of the Pipe Masters towers, just after she got engaged and moved sponsors to Rip Curl, I asked her if she was the happiest woman in professional surfing? She just laughed and rather than blurt out a predictable response, she responded with something a little more philosophical. “We all go through things, and there are challenges but when things work out how they are supposed to and the timing is right, everything just falls into place.”
It feels like all of us are the benefactors of Rosy Hodges’ life falling into place. I think she is the happiest woman in professional surfing and she plays a key part in the broadcast team. Quite simply the webcasts wouldn’t be the same without her. But she’s also grown up into a remarkable women, she’s married to the love of her life, Ian Foulke (a great surfer and respected industry personality) and they have set down roots in San Clemente, California. And whilst leaving her family (they have a dog called Mak) is one of her challenges, I’m sure I speak on behalf of the worlds pro surfing fans when I say – Cant wait to see you at Snapper Rosy!
Rose, you’re pretty established in your role as WSL Commentator now. What’s been the biggest learning curve for you in the role?
I am constantly learning, that’s what makes the job so fun.
Every day is different and you have to bring your best. I think something to always be conscious of, is bringing out the best in the person you are interviewing.
You have to focus and make sure you don’t say something or miss the mark. Everyone has a different energy so picking up on that and letting it flow.
I’m sure there have been many, but are there any standout moments that have stuck with you over the years?
I admire all the athletes so much, I love seeing the clutch performances and being there for the initial reaction. I think interviewing Sally in the water in Fiji after she won with a burst ear drum, made me tear up so did interviewing Tyler Wright when she won her first world title. After everything she had been through that year, it was emotional and seeing John John win his second world title at Pipe last year was amazing.
Do you still get nervous interviewing surfers like the GOAT?
Oh my gosh I get nervous full stop and I don’t mind having those nervous moments because I do care about doing well and connecting people who are watching to the athletes.
You also made the transition from being a pro surfer into this role, and you’ve also kept your sponsorships along the way. What does an agreement with someone like Rip Curl look like for you these days?
I’m proud to be a part of the Rip Curl team, Im stoked they see value in my position with the WSL and my surfing. I love representing a brand that supports so many great athletes and put support into events. There are certain companies when you get to events that make sure everyone is taken care of.
When you arrive at Bells Beach for the Rip Curl Pro, they make sure everyone is aware of the heritage and that people are welcome and that adds to the depth of the event and the interest people take in it.
I have been fortunate to have epic support throughout my career, so it’s cool to take a different path and have that same support. I’m traveling to all these locations, it’s easy to get new content and I’m going to be on camera wearing Rip Curl everyday the event runs and Im proud to be a positive influence for the brand.
You live in San Clemente, California now – how was that transition for you? Moving and settling in a new country?
I’ve travelled from such a young age that its been important to feel comfortable anywhere. I’m a lot more settled now that I have my green card, before it was a little stressful going in and out of the country, even though I hadn’t done anything wrong, you still feel sketchy. I love South Africa and it will always be home but I’m really happy living in San Clemente.
You also found love over there? ☺
I did:) Its always been important for me to follow my intuition and I’m happy I found Ian and we get to make a life together.
A few years ago now, you did a pretty risqué photo shoot with STAB. What are your thoughts on that shoot now?
Haha I’m glad you asked;) I got to work with a great photog and team and it was a fun shoot but in all honesty it’s just not me, not that I have a problem with any of it or when I see similar shoots in mags I can appreciate how amazing the people look.
But what I learned and learning is important, is that intimate shoots and sharing those images is just not my thing.
Do you have a view on how surf brands (or sports brands) market their athletes?
I love seeing brands market their athletes with depth. There are some people that are obviously easy to market because of the way they look but also the story they have behind their success.
I want to be inspired by the hard work, grace and courage they carry themselves with and connect with them in a way that makes me want to see them be successful and inspired to push myself to do better.
What is your view on surf brands using models instead of surfers in their campaigns?
I LOVE seeing brands use their athletes in campaigns, why wouldn’t you?
You have inspiring, influential, beautiful people representing your brand, make them the face and tell their story.
It will empower them to represent the brand more proudly and that flows back to having outsiders wanting to buy into the brand and the story.
What is the best part of the job you have?
I love having the opportunity to travel and see all of these events happen first hand, I think the broadcast has come so far and I’m proud to be a part of the family at WSL.
Most challenging part?
I miss home, my dog and husband lots sometimes.
Do you have any other business interests outside of your work with the WSL?
I have been pretty interested in property and it’s been fun to be able to have a few places and fix them up. I wouldn’t mind getting into the interior design side of things one day.
Is there any particular location you look forward to going to on tour? (more than others)
South Africa for sure. I get to go home once a year and see my family during the event, that’s what I look forward to most.
Have you had a go in the Lemoore wavepool yet??
Yes, it’s mind bending and it takes a while to grasp the whole concept. I’m really looking forward to going back.
Looking back at your time South Africa – what would some of you fav memories be?
The variety of waves, surfing with my family and the raw beauty of where I grew up.
South Africa has so many talented surfers. Why do you think we are not seeing more of them on the world tour?
M Feb came pretty close at the end of last year. I would love to see more Zaffies on tour.
There is a lot of talent but not as much support and push for our athletes at home.
You really do have to put your head down, have the self belief and willingness to sacrifice to get on tour now days.
What is your view on South Africa these days?
I love home and I’m hopeful with the recent changes in government that things will get better.
Biggest lessons learnt or earned in your career so far?
Make the most of opportunities that come your way and be open to trying new things.
The commentary team seems pretty tight knit. How is it working with the team?
I love everyone on the team.
We have gotten pretty close over the years and it’s pretty rare to spend so much time with the same people and every year look forward to going to work with them.
I think we all know how lucky we are and we all respect each other so it works.
Are there other aspirations you have in the broadcasting world/space beyond surfing?
I have been glued to watching the Winter Olympics and listening to all the announcers. It would be incredible to be at the Olympics, I think that would be pretty special.
If I had to put you on the spot – who will win the 2018 World Champion Tour – men’s and women’s?
John or Gabe. Carissa or Steph.
Feature image: WSL / Ed Sloane.