Hello Bella: Cool queen | Noosa Today

Isabella Nichols charging her way to victory at Margaret River. WSL photo.

Somehow I’d missed most of the rise and rise of Coolum dynamo Isabella Nichols these past few years, but all that changed as I watched her charge through the draw to win the Margaret River Pro last week.

It wasn’t just the power and graceful style of the 24-year-old – who has been described as a cross between Steph Gilmore and Carissa Moore – but more the whole package. As well as being an extremely talented surfer who has picked up a bag of tactical skills and smarts in just a season and a half on the championship tour, the 2016 world junior champion has developed into a smart, sassy and stylish young woman who seems right at home in the WSL legends factory.

But her joyous celebration on the beach at Margaret’s, having beaten the best in the world to secure her first WCT win and her spot on tour into 2023, showed that she is still a stoked grom. I like that in anyone who suddenly gets thrust onto the world stage, so I did a bit of overdue homework on “Bella”.

Born a twin in Denmark in 1997 to Danish mum Lisbeth and Aussie surfer Ron Nichols, Isabella and sister Helena moved to Australia at the age of three after Ron could no longer resist and had to trade the cold climate for some warm water Sunny Coast barrels. The move to Coolum suited the whole family, and Ron was soon pushing Bella into tiny peelers at Double Island Point.

But childhood wasn’t all beer and skittles. As Bella told Kate McMahon in an exclusive interview for Australia’s Surfing Life, in grade one she and Helena fell ill on the same day with the same condition. “We ended up in hospital, diagnosed with a hereditary blood disorder called spherocytosis. My spleen completely shut down because it had to work overtime to filter the red blood cells, and my sister’s was badly damaged. This means, if I get sick I can get a little sicker than a fully healthy person. I have to be super careful with bacterial infections and cuts as those are the ones that can really make me ill. ”

While the condition made life even more difficult than most during the pandemic, Bella told Kate that her challenges continue: “I can get tired a lot quicker so recovery for me is crucial, and looking after the body. I’ve also had my gallbladder removed as a result of the blood disorder. I was in and out of the hospital quite regularly as a kid. ”

None of this stopped her from dreaming of becoming a pro surfer, and at 13 she began her advance through the junior ranks. In 2015 she claimed the Australasia Junior Tour title and didn’t drop a heat on the way to winning the World Junior Championships in Ericeira, Portugal in 2016. The following year she found tabloid fame as the double surfing for Hollywood star Blake Lively in the hit shark scare movie The Shallows, shot on Lord Howe Island, winning the job when the producers contacted Surfing Queensland’s High Performance Center on the Sunshine Coast, looking for “anyone who was tall with blonde hair and the same kind of figure as Blake and could surf ”, as Bella told the girl magazines, possibly underselling herself.

This brush with fame as she finished school didn’t help her much on the rough and tumble qualifying series, and after a string of disappointing results on tour, Bella started to consider an alternative career path. While she stepped up her yoga and gym sessions to improve performance, at the start of 2019 she applied to study for an honors degree in mechanical engineering at Victoria’s Deakin University as a backup if her surfing dreams didn’t pan out.

After finishing runner-up in the first two big qualifier events of the year, it looked like she mightn’t need the backup, but throughout the pandemic and the tour cancellations, Bella kept studying remotely and is nearing the end of her studies this year. , much to the delight of the faculty at Deakin, who posted: “Congratulations to elite-athlete student Isabella Nichols on winning the Margaret River Pro in Western Australia this week! Perfecting her technique as a teen, she went on to claim a series of national competitions in recent years to secure her WSL debut in 2020. Isabella was also named our Rising Star Award recipient in the 2020 Deakin Sport Awards, an annual event which recognizes and celebrates the achievements of Deakin’s elite-athlete students. ”

Although her rookie year on the championship tour was delayed by Covid, she hasn’t looked back since joining it last year, and sitting in fourth place on the rankings going into the back half of this season, Isabella Nichols has a chance to claim a world title at the highest level.

And if not, she’s going to use her degree skills to design a better wave pool.

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