Photos by Alex Brunton
Women’s surfing, as graceful and awesome as it is, is still centred around the competitive faction.
There isn’t the rich freesurfing history on the women’s side, yet, but things are changing. Enter one Jaleesa Vincent, a woman from the Sunshine Coast who’s more concerned with travel, music and soaking up all aspects of the surfing experience than she is with points and coloured rash vests. Jaleesa’s 20 and grew up in Coolum on the Sunshine Coast. She describes herself as a “girly tomboy”, which is an oxymoron, but still an accurate description of Jaleesa’s get-up. “I loved to show off,” Jaleesa says of her formative years. “I loved dancing and acting and dressing up, but also loved surfing and doing whatever the boys were doing.” Jaleesa and her brother Jake are one of the great contemporary pairs of surf siblings, the two having perfected the art of travelling and egging each other on. In an honest moment, Jaleesa describes her brother as having “inspired me throughout my whole life.”
Also known as “Jellybean”—for her unparalleled ability to guess the amount of jellybeans in a jar—Jaleesa gave the competitive surfing thing a go when she left school, before deciding that it wasn’t really her style. “I did a bit of travelling the one year I was on the Qualifying Series,” she tells me. “I travelled to Mexico, El Salvador, California… but didn’t get to experience the places cause I was doing to the comps and the surf was crowded with QS grinders. That’s when I decided to stop doing comps and just enjoy surfing.” The whole “enjoying surfing” thing has been nothing but positive for Jellybean, with her laissez-faire approach attracting the attention of various fringe-focussed surf co’s like Resin, Misfit, Drag and now seemingly Billabong. Jaleesa is also the only female rider on the Rage roster, which mightn’t be the most lucrative deal in women’s surfing right now, but is priceless in terms of precious cultural capital. I ask Jaleesa what she writes under “occupation” on her immigration form. “Lifeguard,” her reply.
It’s fun reminiscing with someone like Jaleesa. Your early twenties is the time when most people first start getting to grips with who they are and what they like to do, but it also means that the cringe-worthy teenage years aren’t long gone. Jaleesa admits that her favourite surfer not so long ago was Layne Beachley. Then I asked her who her favourite surfer is now: “Layne Beachley,” her deadpan reply. “The surf’s definitely gotten more crowded than it was when I was growing up too, which can be annoying,” she continues. “But there’s also way more girls in the water which is awesome.” Things have definitely changed in the music department as well. The Vincents are a musical family, of sorts, with Jake fronting noise band Cloacas, and Jaleesa playing the drums for various outfits. Jaleesa’s graduated from her Black Eyed Peas phase, and now lists “AC/DC, Sheer Mag, Patti Smith, The Cramps and The Pixies” currently scoring her travels.
Speaking of travel, taking advantage of her status as a wandering surf minstrel is an utmost priority presently, and Jaleesa’s currently in the midst of a travel surf bender. “I’m keen to basically travel everywhere I can,” she says. “I’m currently in Sri Lanka and heading to Indo tomorrow.” Whilst surfing’s always at the centre of Jaleesa’s plans, it’s her interest in the broader things that make her a compelling subject in women’s surfing. I ask her if there’s anything that’s inspired her recently outside surfing, and she points to a recent cultural Brisbane jaunt. “I saw the Patricia Piccinini display in Brisbane,” Jaleesa says. “She makes these crazy realistic silicon human-animal deformed creatures that are super confronting, but absolutely amazing and beautiful. I think if an art piece makes you gasp, laugh or cringe they’ve done a good job. She definitely nailed it.” In the modern, inclusive variation of surfing in which we currently find ourselves, there’s plenty of space for someone like Jaleesa to roam, and it’s an exemplary pursuit. The more women ripping and expressing themselves the better.