Personal Health

Meet Isabella Nicholls: THE Woman To Watch In The World Surf League

We chatted to the former Junior World champ – who, btw, is the queen of quarantine workouts – about her fitness regime, the women who inspire her and her favourite break in the world.


What’s your isolation situation?

I’m living in Northern NSW at the moment, just south of the QLD border. I’m actually really loving the extra time to get things done that I wouldn’t normally have, like house chores, gardening and learning to cook. I am super introverted so I’m quite enjoying the isolation.

How has your training been impacted?

My training has probably been impacted the most, although I’m trying to come up with solutions to optimise that non face-to-face contact that I’m not having with my coaches/support crew. One of my surf coaches, Mark Richardson, lives just over the border in QLD, which isn’t too hard to cross, but my other coach lives in Victoria and it’s impossible to get there at the moment so I’m getting filmed in the surf as much as I can and sending clips to both of them for feedback. I was doing gym training at the Surfing Australia headquarters through the High-Performance Program but obviously that’s been shut down so I’m taking zoom calls with my trainer and I’ve set up a little make-shift gym in my garage for the time being!

What does a week of training look like for you now? 

Most of my days are quite similar! I’ll wake up early and have my morning surf, come home for breakfast and if the waves are still fun I’ll head back to the beach around 11 for another surf. After lunch I put time aside to do some uni work and an afternoon gym session which generally lasts for about an hour and a half. That’ll see me through till dinner and I’ll have some me-time in the evening.

How are you managing your mental health while in lockdown? 

Keeping in contact with friends and family is a big part of what keeps me sane. My family live in Coolum, and we are having regular family video chats. Keeping physical is really great for my mental health so luckily the beaches aren’t closed for surfing because it’s definitely keeping me sane, getting in the water every day helps to keep me balanced.


What drew you to study mechanical engineering and how do you balance your studies with your surfing career?

 I really enjoyed maths and physics in school. I loved problem-solving and that is a major factor in engineering, so I figured it could be a good avenue for me to go down! I’m also really interested in wave pool design and technology so I’m hoping to merge the two together one day and design my own wave pool model. Studying actually balances out my surfing career, it gives me something else to focus on and takes away a bit of the extra pressure that I used to put on myself when I am competing. I have found that this combination works for me.

Can you talk us through your food philosophy and standard day on a plate?

My food philosophy is ‘Everything in moderation!’. I try to eat as healthy as I can and put in the right amount of good fats, carbs and proteins in my tummy. This might look like toast with avocado cheese and Vegemite or porridge (there is always a coffee involved!) for breakfast, Braw Natural protein smoothie with a chicken salad wrap for lunch and a veggie, rice & beans buddha bowl for dinner! It varies but that’s what it normally looks like. Pre and post training I will munch on a muesli bar and a banana to keep me going.

Do you have any pre-comp rituals or superstitions?

 Before my heats I juggle a soccer ball, it brings a bit of fun into my pre heat routine and it switches on both sides of the brain! I’ve always had a superstition about getting filmed during heats which is a bit of a funny one, I’ve had that since I was a little grom and somehow I’ve let it carry through.

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(Caution: rant below 😬😹) Couldn’t dream of a better finish to the year! Time to exhale 😹🙌 thanks to everyone who helped me out, not just during this contest, but throughout the whole year! So much love to @lisbethnichols @rossnichols1 @helena_nichols22 @alexander.nichols, without you guys a wouldn’t be doing what I do xx Thanks to @kurtyjay for being the best support I could ask for, @markrichosurfcoach @cahill_tokenvictorian @adamrobbo1 @jo_parsonage_ @takkesh @dhdsurf @biancarichardson @michelle.mitchell16 @jason.patchell for being in my corner and supporting me, and my sponsors @billabongwomens @billabong_womens_australia @dhdsurf @sunbum @fcs_surf @brawnatural @acciona_geotech for helping me to do what I love 🙏 What a crazy journey ❤️ 📷 @ethdogsmith

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View this post on Instagram

(Caution: rant below 😬😹) Couldn’t dream of a better finish to the year! Time to exhale 😹🙌 thanks to everyone who helped me out, not just during this contest, but throughout the whole year! So much love to @lisbethnichols @rossnichols1 @helena_nichols22 @alexander.nichols, without you guys a wouldn’t be doing what I do xx Thanks to @kurtyjay for being the best support I could ask for, @markrichosurfcoach @cahill_tokenvictorian @adamrobbo1 @jo_parsonage_ @takkesh @dhdsurf @biancarichardson @michelle.mitchell16 @jason.patchell for being in my corner and supporting me, and my sponsors @billabongwomens @billabong_womens_australia @dhdsurf @sunbum @fcs_surf @brawnatural @acciona_geotech for helping me to do what I love 🙏 What a crazy journey ❤️ 📷 @ethdogsmith

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Do you have any practices or habits outside of physical training that help with your performance?

 Through the Surfing Australia High-Performance Program I see Jason Patchell who is a sports psychologist. Jason helps to prepare me for the mental side of competing and everyday life! I’ve found my time with him to be highly beneficial. For the past few months I’ve been getting regular acupuncture and naturopath consults from the beautiful people at Life Synergy, and I feel it’s helped balance out my emotions and improve my overall wellbeing.

Who are the women that inspire you most? 

Any woman that follows her dreams and loves what she does is an inspiration! When I was young I had pictures of Steph Gilmore and Carissa Moore stuck to my wall and they really inspired me to pursue surfing as a career.

Where’s your favourite surfing spot around the world?

I went on an amazing surf trip halfway through last year to a place called Simeulue. The waves were amazing and it was such a beautiful place! 100% going back as soon as we can travel again.

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✨✨ @billabongwomens ~ @naniwelchkeliihoomalu

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✨✨ @billabongwomens ~ @naniwelchkeliihoomalu

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