The Aje Report


In Conversation | Josie May Prendergast

Josie May Prendergast is making waves.


From building an inclusive environment in the surf to supporting the next generation of women, the model and accomplished athlete is making her mark here in Australia and her birthplace, the Philippines.


In celebration of International Women’s Day, we speak to the Aje muse in her hometown of Byron Bay, where she took to the water in the latest look from Summer 24 ‘Abstraction’.


Josie wears the Bambie Denim Mini Dress

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?


International Women's Day to me means celebrating. It means celebrating my mum. It means celebrating my Aunties. It means celebrating my friends. It means celebrating all the women around me and before me and after me.


Surfing is predominantly regarded as a male-dominated sport. How did you get inspired to start surfing?


I got inspired to start surfing because of my dad. He's been such a big inspiration for me. We've also grown up in the Philippines on a little island, and the water is obviously very close to us, and the same here in Byron. I've always grown up in Suffolk Park and my dad introduced us to surfing in the ocean at such a young age, so it's always been evident, and in our family.


Do you remember those first moments?


Yeah, definitely. When we were young, our days were always spent at Suffolk Park Beach, and we would just be there all day, every day. I remember being at Broken Head, catching my first wave, and that's still such a strong memory for me. Having those memories with my brothers and my dad — and also my mom, even though she doesn't surf — and being on the beach has always just been around us, both here in the Philippines and in Australia.


Can you tell me about any women or any woman in particular who's inspired you with positive change for your personal life or your career?


I would say the biggest woman who has been the most influential in my life is my mum, for sure. I think all the sacrifices I've seen her make for my brothers and me, for my family to have an incredible life is just otherworldly. She's come from a small town and the Philippines and from the day she moved to South Park, she has been working not only for us but for her family in the Philippines.


And she just shows me what it is to be a hard worker and be selfless and give love and show love and be supportive. She's also grown so much, from a small island to now being in the Western world, a lot of her values have changed, and she's shifting with all the positive change that's happening in the world.



She’s just so inspirational to me. She's just showing me what real love is. And not real love just for us, but real love for everyone around her. She's my hero.

The theme for this year's International Women's Day is ‘Inspiring Inclusivity’. How do you hope to inspire inclusivity? And have you been inspired by anyone in the past? And the moment?


When it comes to inclusivity, it's so awesome for me to see so many women around me, in so many different aspects. Just for me, in a sense, I'll just talk about surfing, but having a lineup full of men in the surf can be quite daunting. And I will say that my partner Taj has been such a big person for me out there, who always pushes women to get more waves and get the waves they deserve.


It’s inspiring to have a few of my girlfriends out surfing with me — a lot of the time it is just me, if not me and another girl surfing the point — at our local break. Having one of my best friends Elise, who absolutely charges and does not let any guys allow her to feel down — she just pushes me so much — and having some other girls in the water to just take a stance and not let guys drop in on us and snake us all the time was pretty cool. I feel like that makes such an inclusive environment for women in the surf, having women push you and push themselves and push the men around us like. I feel like it just becomes way more inviting, and way more inclusive, and it makes more girls want to do it.


And I see more girls doing it because of just a certain few people who are paving that little cycle and having Lauren Hill. She's another beautiful surfer, and she's just this eco-warrior and this graceful but powerful female in the lineup who just charges and charges in the most graceful, dominant way.

I think having women like that really shows us how powerful we are without having to be — I don't know the word — but just having so many women in the lineup, and they're showing us how to be powerful in the most graceful, yet strong way.


Is there any advice you would give to your younger self?


If I could give advice to my younger self, I'd be saying to her, “Don't be so hard on yourself”. I mean, I should be taking my own advice now, it's so easy to just be really hard on yourself in this world. We're all living our lives. Everyone's living their lives. Yeah, we all struggle, and we all succeed, and we all have moments of happiness. Be easy on us. Be easy on each other and be easy on ourselves.


What keeps you motivated?


Surfing definitely keeps me motivated. Having people around me to push me keeps me motivated. Exercise keeps me motivated. Love keeps me motivated. My family, friends, and people who have the same values as me keep me motivated. Everything around me. Just living in this beautiful place keeps me motivated.


Be easy on us. Be easy on each other and be easy on ourselves.

You said before that growing up around the ocean, both in the Philippines and Australia, shaped you. Can you tell us more about how you feel when you’re in the water?


I feel so calm when I'm in the water because it's actually all I know, really. From the moment I was born, we've been across the road from the beach, to the moment I moved to Byron Bay, we've been across the road from the beach. So it's a sense of comfort for me. It is just so nice because I've been in the water and around the water with my brothers, with my mom, and fishing with my dad who taught me how to surf. With my uncles who are fishermen, with my aunties who fish, with my cousins — it’s just a sense of calmness for me.


You were born in the Philippines and you grew up in Australia. How have these two countries impacted you?


I would say both the Philippines and Australia have impacted me in an incredibly positive way. I'm very grateful to have both cultures in my heart, and in my blood. I'm very, very grateful for that.


It's allowed me to have an altered sense of what privilege means. I feel like now, people say being privileged is making lots of money and working and having all these incredible things. And I used to kind of think of my family on the island as not privileged, and I would say knowing both cultures and having an understanding of both different ways of life, has taught me that maybe the most simple way in the Philippines is the most privileged way.


They're just happy because they're happy. They have what they have, they fish, they swim, they surf, and they’re with family. That's what's most important, and I think having these two sides of me shows me different things. Having my Filipino side and having that small island girl side of me shows me love and simplicity, and the Western side of me is so different but also has taught me so much in a sense that it's just taught me so much that you couldn't learn on a small island.


For example, we don't have [the concept of] mental health on the small island. It's not a conversation, whereas here we have these things and I get to teach them to my cousins or the young girls. Even in the Philippines, I have my young little cousins, and it breaks my heart, they're like “Oh, Auntie Josie, you are so beautiful”. And I'll say, “You are so beautiful”. And they'll say, “I'm not beautiful. I'm brown. I'm not beautiful”. And I'm like [gasps], whereas I feel like my Western side has taught me I'm beautiful because I'm brown. And then I have my family over there, and young girls saying they're not beautiful because they're brown, you know? [It] shows me just all aspects of things. And we all want what we can't have.


It’s lovely that they have you as someone to look up to.


Yeah, I love them all. I miss them. Yeah, it's such a shame, though. Because they're, I consider them the most beautiful people in the world. Like all my aunties, all the little cousins, all the young girls. It breaks my heart when I tell them, “You are so beautiful”, and they respond, “You're lying. I'm dark, I'm ugly”. These are the five-year-old girls telling me this, too.


I just want to teach them that they're beautiful, and they should be proud of their skin, they should be proud of their colour. They should be proud of their roots. I mean, I'm definitely proud of where I come from, and where I just want them to be as well.


And it is changing. Now I'll speak to them and ask “Who's beautiful?” and they respond “I'm beautiful”. And when I ask, “Why are you beautiful?” They say, “I’m beautiful, because I'm brown”, which is really important for me.


Things are changing in the world and there's a lot more acceptance. And over there in the Philippines, they are starting to truly be proud of their skin and their colour and their heritage and their culture. Because it never used to be like that. Like, even me, growing up as a surfer and coming home to the Philippines, they'd be like, “You're too dark”. And now they're appreciating that side of me. I think it's really important to make people feel loved for who they are.



And you can teach them how to surf and be their role model.


It's so epic. Some of the young girls are still scared of getting dark, but I've managed to take one of my little neighbours surfing for her first time, and she absolutely loved it. Her dad's the boatman, and he let me do it, and now she is addicted. It's like, “Auntie Josie, can you take me surfing? Take me surfing!”


Last year, we brought 10 boards back for the kids over in our little village. And they are addicted. So it's really nice to share that love of surfing, especially when it's hard to get boards over there. We've managed to find five-dollar secondhand boards at Vinny’s and just bring them over for the kids.


Anyone who knows me just knows that I love kids and I love my family and all the kids in the Philippines. It's my whole heart.


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