Surf Studio: Kerri Thomas
World and Australian Ironwoman Champion
On the latest episode of Surf Studio, we chat to former World and Australian Ironwoman Champion Kerri Thomas from Maroochydore SLSC, on the Sunshine Coast.
Paving the way for many more women to come after her, Kerri was one of the pioneering women in surf sports who lived and competed in an era of dynamic change for women in surf sports.
Kerri Thomas is notably known for winning back to back Aussie Ironwoman titles in 1998 when the race was just the board and swim legs and then again in 1999 when the ski leg was first introduced to Australian ironwoman racing.
Having competed from the early days of women’s surf sports, Kerri recalls that the pathways and races that are available today didn’t exist at the time.
“When I first went into seniors even, there wasn’t an ironwoman. There was just a swim race and a board race, and it was straight into open category,” Kerri said of the options available for women at the time.
By 1992 the Ironwoman was brought into the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, but only included the board and swim legs, and remained this way until 1999.
“My goal was always to win this Australian title,” Kerri said of her much anticipated Aussie title in 1998 and 1999.
“There was possibly two or three races that I should’ve won, but these random things would just happen.
“I often look back now and think did those things happen to keep me going to make sure the sport did eventually get the ski leg in, and that I was proactive and supporting that happening.”
In 1999, Kerri won her second consecutive Aussie Ironwoman title, and became the first woman to win in the modernised format of swim, board and ski.
Previous to the ski being introduced to Australian Ironwoman racing, Kerri already had two World Surf Ski titles under her belt from 1994 and 1998, as well as the 1998 World Ironwoman title which included the ski leg for the very first time.
“It was strange to me too, because my first ever world titles that I went to… actually had a ski race in it. It was sort of something that I was thrust into… but then I actually quite enjoyed it,” Kerri said of her introduction to competitive ski paddling.
“The surf was massive, there was like three breaks and it was huge, and I’d probably only had nine to twelve months experience with it.
“I guess that’s where the hesitation came from for women because in a big surf like that, did we have the strength, did we have that ability to handle those sorts of conditions.”
A trailblazer in many senses for women in Surf Sports, Kerri Thomas was a pioneer in the changing landscape for women in surf sports throughout her career.
“When you look at it now and I look at the girls and how great they are on it, and we’ve got ski relays…we just never had any of that…we didn’t have a Surf Team,” Kerri said of the Women’s team events in the early years of her career.
“It was the women’s comradery that was really lacking in the women’s side of the sport, which eventually came, which was fantastic!
“I suppose in my career… I kind of was in that era for paving the way for modernising the sport for women in lifesaving.”
Surf Studio is regular online show with each episode featuring stories from around Australia and covering a range of topics such as sport, lifesaving, leadership, education etc and Surf Life Saving Australia encourages everyone to be involved. If you, or anyone you know has a story that you would like to share via Surf Studio please email email@example.com