Film-maker reveals what it is about Byron surfer, Josie Prendergast, that has everyone watching

EFFORTLESS MOTION: Josie Prendergast on her home break. Photo by Nathan Oldfield.
EFFORTLESS MOTION: Josie Prendergast on her home break. Photo by Nathan Oldfield.

Nathan Oldfield posted a photo of Josie as a young teenager to his many instagram followers with the caption: 'This girl has the right stuff. Someone needs to put some good surfboards beneath her feet.'

Within a week McTavish Surfboards had "hooked her up and were building her boards".

Today, she has 196k Instagram followers, has become a world class surfer in her own right and is forever grateful to the Byron surfing community that has nurtured her rise.

"I first noticed Josie surfing when she was thirteen or fourteen. I've been surfing for close to forty years, and documenting surfing in still and moving pictures for half of that time, so I have seen a lot of good surfing.

"I instantly knew that she had something special, even though she was still evolving her technique, developing her approach and creating her own lines.

"Despite the lack of maturity in her surfing and despite the fact she wasn't on the right board, her style and grace shone through.

"It's almost like the kind of noble and beautiful and effortless elegance that good dancers are born with. Plus, she was just a sweet kid: smiley, grateful, polite, humble. The product of good parenting," says Nathan.

Those who have watched his films, The Heart and The Sea, Church of The Open Sky or The Gathering understand what Nathan sees in Josie's smooth turns.

He's picked up awards from surf festivals from Berlin to San Diego, Florida to Anglet in France. His photographs are regularly published in international surfing magazines and he is a contributing filmmaker for Patagonia.

"I resonate with Josie's clean, unhurried, uncluttered style."

Nathan shoots with both men and women because he believes it's a "more rounded and inclusive portrayal of our surfing world".

"The Northern Rivers Region is fortunate that our surfing playgrounds are intact ecosystems...We have a great variety of waves. There is diversity in our surfing communities: women, men, boy, girls, grandparents surfing with their children and grandchildren, elders surfing with grommets. It's a beautiful place to raise a family, to be in community, to live a surfing life.

Josie is equally grateful. Born in the Philippines to a Latin-Filipino mother and a Scottish-Australian dad, her parents moved to Byron when she was five and she finished school at Byron High.

"I've always had the ocean around me. It's one of my blessings. And fortunately enough, Byron is one of those magical places.

"It's the place I grew up surfing and the place where my love for the sport and ocean really flourished. I find it so powerful being part of a surf community that is very inclusive and more and more women are surfing."

Both share a passion for longboarding, especially as the waves suit the culture and look forward to the Byron Bay Surf Festival each year.

"The Byron Bay Surf Festival is a meeting place. A space and opportunity for the tribe to gather and connect and trade and share," says Nathan.

Surfing with her dad has meant she was always surrounded by "older guys".

"I was doing the Malibu club when I was younger. I would constantly just watch the amazing surfers... and I feel grateful that I have learned some techniques from them.

"I believe we all have our own unique style. I hope to just convey that surfing is seriously just so fun and I'd love to encourage more people to do it, especially girls.

"When Nathan grew up he says surfing was more exclusively a male pursuit...and much more macho and aggressive than it is now. I think the female presence in the ocean changes the lineup and makes it a better place."

Nathan is constantly trying to capture surfing in creative ways.

"Men and women dance differently and surf differently, but I feel that women bring a grace to the dance that really stands apart from the kind of grace that men bring."

COVID has had a huge impact on both their careers but neither are complaining.

"So many folk around the planet are doing it so tough. I am one of the fortunate ones for sure," says Nathan.

"I've really come to realize how much I love my home....Staying healthy, happy and safe- and knowing my loved ones are too, is most important," says Josie.

SMOOTH LINES: Josie Prendergast at home in Byron Bay. Photo by Nathan Oldfield.

SMOOTH LINES: Josie Prendergast at home in Byron Bay. Photo by Nathan Oldfield.

OCEAN CAPTURE: Nathan Oldfied behind the camera. Pic by Eliza.

OCEAN CAPTURE: Nathan Oldfied behind the camera. Pic by Eliza.