photography by: bernadette mcalinden

photography by: bernadette mcalinden

Cooper Chapman started surfing when he was seven or eight years old. Coming from a family of beach lovers, surfing was in the blood and the talent came naturally. 

The year is already off to a strong start for Cooper, placing 2nd at Mothernest Great Lakes Pro and 9th at the Vissla Central Coast Pro. The surfer, #36 in the Men’s QS WSL rankings, is excited for the competition to come to Manly. 

“It’s the one event of the year that my friends and family get to come and watch me. It’s always good to put on a show while I have the support there. I feel extremely ready, I’ve been training really hard and my boards are feeling really good”, Cooper says. 

Though Cooper has been competing for 15 years, he believes every event is still different. He feels extremely comfortable surfing familiar breaks, but explains that even this comes with the pressure of playing to a home crowd. 

“I just try to take it on as a positive and really run off the energy of the crowd. Pressure’s what you make of it, I try and use it as a tool so I can compete better.” 

Cooper’s favourite break in the world is Jeffreys Bay in South Africa because it feels like home with its beautiful scenery, friendly locals and unbelievably good waves. To him it’s a living dream of the surf movies he watched as a kid. Indonesia is also a favourite for the 24 year old, which he says is “pretty much second to none”. 

When asked how he’s preparing for the Vissla Sydney Surf Pro, he tells me that he’s actually working full time as a builder because he doesn’t have a sponsor. His weekday mornings start at 5:30am for a surf before he works a nine hour day, heading back to the beach for a post-work session. As if that isn’t enough, he follows this with an hour and a half at the gym. 

For the last month and a half, this has been Cooper’s life. The loss of sponsorship last year was disheartening at first: now, he’s taking it on the chin and is nothing but appreciative for the life he gets to live. The young surfer seems to have a knack for seeing the silver lining. 

“It’s always tough juggling the training and surfing when I’m home, but then when I get to go away it just makes it extra special. I get to relax and really enjoy my surfing a lot more. It really makes me appreciate how good the life I live is.”

According to Cooper, he’s in a stage of his life where he doesn’t have time for leisure time. Surfing and all its preparations, as much as it’s a second job, brings him a lot of joy with his ultimate priority being to get on the world tour. Despite juggling a million-and-one side hustles, Cooper says that in the next year the key will be taking opportunities and knuckling down when it counts. 

Cooper has been good friends with Mick Fanning for a few years and calls the three time world champion his biggest inspiration as a surfer. 

“He has a work ethic second to none, he’s always giving back to the community, I’ve never had a conversation with him that’s been bad, he’s always just happy, always upbeat. That’s who I really try and base myself off. 

He’s such a gentle human and I hope one day I can have the same psyche around me, and have people look up to me for being a good person and not just a top athlete.” 

For those looking to get into competitive surfing Cooper says the best advice he has is to just have fun. He’s learnt the importance of having other things going for you, and not putting all your eggs in one basket. 

His hopes for the future include speaking at schools about mental health and possibly going on to study after his surfing career.

“I just really want to be a good person. Just being kind to other people and being grateful is really important.” •