We are excited to welcome surfer and model Imogen Caldwell to the O'Neill family! Hailing from a tiny town (as in, population 13, tiny) in Western Australia, Imogen grew up charging big waves, diving, fishing, riding dirt bikes, and managed to find success in modeling as well. Read below to get to know and adore Imogen, as she redefines what it means to 'do it all' (and all with equal parts grit and grace).
FROM A YOUNG AGE YOUR FAMILY MOVED TO A VERY REMOTE PART OF NW AUSTRALIA HUNDREDS OF MILES FROM ANYWHERE. HOW WAS IT GROWING UP THERE?
I am who I am today because of the childhood my parents gave my siblings and I. Every day was an adventure and I am lucky enough to still call it home, as my parents still manage the camp ground at The Bluff (A notorious big wave spot in Western Australia)
YOU ARE SO FAR AWAY FROM ANY KIND OF SOCIAL AMENITIES, LIKE SHOPS AND CINEMAS. DID YOU FEEL YOU WERE MISSING OUT ON CITY LIFE?
My parents have been traveling with us since I could remember, 5 kids didn't stop them from having Christmas overseas or visiting family on the east coast. We would all get sick of the city life within days and long to be home in the desert.
WHAT DID YOU DO FOR ENTERTAINMENT?
Everything on offer! We learned to surf, fish, dive, and work on the sheep station in between home schooling.
DESCRIBE YOUR CONNECTION TO THE SEA.
I grew up pretty much on the beach, with the ocean at my front door and the desert at my back. I lived and breathed the ocean day throughout my younger years, which resulted in my severe distaste fir cities and overpopulated places. I travel all year, but at the end of the day, all I want is to be back where the desert meets the sea.
HOW DID YOU GET INTO SURFING?
Perfect left handers with only my friends and family out for a majority of the year, how could you not want to be amongst that?
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN SURFING?
Roughly 7 years... and counting!
WHAT KIND OF BOARDS DID YOU RIDE BACK THEN?
Anything I could get my hands on really, I’d steal my brothers boards and wetsuits then he’d find out and try drown me.. but that didn’t stop me. I eventually got my own board from a tourist who snapped his, so I fixed it.
Longboard or shortboard?
Ya kidding? SHORTY!
We saw photos of you riding a gnarly wave back in 2014. The nearest doctors must have been miles away if you ever got hurt. Did that ever happen?
I have lots of scars were I should have had stitches but the docs were just too far so I never went, but nothing major. I’ve been pretty lucky so far.
What size were the waves that you used to ride?
I haven’t really had a moment yet where I’ve thought, no I can’t go out if it’s too big. Now I’m with Cortney Brown, who’s definition of a “big wave” is on another level entirely. This winter has me nervous already.
Have you ridden big waves outside of NW Australia? If so where?
The biggest have been in WA, but I’ve surfed pipe pretty solid and most places in Indo.
Top 3 surf breaks?
Red Bluff Quobba Station, Greenbush Mentawai... and I'm sure Fiji will make the list this year!
Since you left NW Australia, you’ve traveled the world. Where’s been your favorite place you visited and what did you like about it?
It’s hard to pick a favorite! I love every place for different reasons. I just got back from Whistler, Canada and that really topped the charts.
How did you go from living in the middle of nowhere to being a mega surf industry star and model? Did it feel weird when you left Gnarlaroo and first started modeling?
A “mega surf industry star and model” ha ha?? Not really, I started travelling at such a young age I was familiar with how it all works. The modeling industry is still surprising me though, that’s a different ball game all together and definitely one that takes some getting used to.
How do you stay fit and toned?
I’m always busy, outside doing things I love which in turn keeps me fit. I’ve started doing a couple of days a week with a PT, but I’m not a gym person.
You skate, you surf, you snowboard - would you describe yourself as a bit of a tomboy?
Ha Ha, sure. I am just competitive and don’t like not being able to do things, I love a challenge. (I don’t skate very well, I’m not afraid to admit that).
What music are listening to right now?
Who is your fashion muse?
Who inspires you and why?
My family, each one has different qualities that I aspire to and admire.
Who do you look up to? Do you have a mentor in the surfing community?
My fiancé, Cort is probably my biggest mentor. He pushes me to go bigger and to never back down.
Where did you meet your man Cortney? From your social media it looks like you two have a really fun life, how would your perfect day go? Describe your interesting life
We met at The Bluff, he’d visit often for the bigger swells and then eventually he started coming when there were no waves. There’s not much we do apart, he’s my best mate and I couldn’t imagine where I would be today without him. We are always adventuring, when he isn’t Crayfishing we spend most days surfing or hunting the coastline on our motorbikes
Where do you call home these days?
Kalbarri, 6hrs South of Red Bluff. I live with my fiancé, Cortney Brown and our two Siberian Huskies Casper and Ghost.
What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
In 10 years!! Maybe with a small tribe of mini Imo’s. But for the nearer future I have some big goals I’d like to kick in and out of the water.
Best advice you've ever received?
The fear of not doing something is worse than the fear of actually doing it... or at least that's what I tell myself.
What’s your favorite motto to live by?