Reef’s first female UK ambassador has carved out a unique career as a surfer, photographer, stylist, and all-round lover of life. Just back from a trip to Costa Rica, WL talked to her ahead of her appearance at the Spring Classic Surf Invitational.
Evie Johnstone should be jet-lagged, though she is determined to ignore it. That morning she had returned from a trip to Costa Rica to her home in Newquay, and unpacking isn’t straightforward for the surfer, photographer, and stylist.
“My mum picked up my camera bag this morning and almost broke her back. It weighs 55 kilograms, which I carry as hand luggage,” Johnstone says. “I also usually travel with three surfboards, plus my luggage. And, there’s all the product I take from my clients for the shoots. I’m walking through the airport carrying almost 100 kilos!”
Johnstone isn’t complaining though. Her endless positivity is just one of the traits that have helped her carve out a unique career in the space where surf, photography, brand campaigns, and content intersect. It has made her both a creative force and a safe pair of hands. It also led to Reef signing her as their first female UK ambassador.
“I’ve always just tried to be true to what I am,” she says. “I don’t see myself, or want to be seen as, an influencer. I don’t do paid posts for example. I just work with brands that I like and that resonate with me and reflect my love of surfing and travel. That’s why the Reef Ambassador role is such a great fit.”
It is no surprise that Johnstone’s latest trip was to Costa Rica. After finishing school aged 17 she bought a one-way ticket to the Central American country and stayed there for the next seven years. While she had been taught to surf by her Dad on the south coast of the UK near her home of Chichester, it was in the Costa Rican surf town of Santa Teresa where her passion caught fire.
“When I left the UK, I was really not very good at surfing, well, I’m still not that good,” she laughs. “But over there at the start, I was very much in the deep end. However, I just dedicated myself, day in, day out. I worked with a trainer and started going to contests and just really threw myself into the sport at 100 million miles an hour.”
The results were immediate and impressive. She scored multiple podiums on the Costa Rican Pro Tour and soon had enough sponsors to fund her surf trips up and down the Central American coast. Flushed with a little success, and a whole lot of ambition, she returned to the UK and hit the British circuit. In 2012 she won the UK Pro Surf Tour to become the British Champion. Her goal of getting the big sponsor sticker on the nose of the board and being a professional surfer seemed within her grasp – ’till it wasn’t.
“The competition side of surfing made me happy as it appealed to my competitive nature, but later it became stressful over time,” she said. “I realised that I wasn’t really doing it for the pure love of surfing, which was the most important thing for me. By 25 or so I was done with that side of surfing.”
Johnstone had always been a keen photographer, and more and more she turned to documenting her surf trips and traveling lifestyle. Working with Surf Girl led to opportunities with various brands, and in the last five years, she added styling and content curation to her creative quiver. Working as a one-woman tour de force, she travels the globe, handpicking the models, styling the shoots, and doing all the photography herself. Well, in between surfing her brains out.
When she arrived back in the UK, she also had one other box to unpack – a new set of Reef stickers. “This was the dream since I was 17 and I’m 33 now, so to be putting these freshies on my board is so exciting. I had long since parked it, but here we are. An exciting new chapter begins.”
Evie’s next travels will be a little less exotic, but no less fun. She is heading up to Woolacombe as an invitee in the Spring Classic Surf Invitational, to be held on Saturday 27th May. As a self-proclaimed “lockdown longboarder” she’s looking forward to riding the array of retro craft and enjoying a meeting of the UK surf tribes.
“I can’t imagine the competitive juices will kick in, as it’s just a good old-fashioned knees-up, right?” Evie laughs. “I’ll bring my van, have a few bevvies and listen to some great music. We all know, that no one does festivals better than the UK. Bring it on I say!”
Grab your tickets now to watch Evie paddling out amongst some of the UK’s finest surf talent at the Spring Classic Surf Invitational.