Fierce Female Interview No. 19: Mathilde ZAMPIERI – Fierce Windsurfer and Film Star
• • • After moving to Raiatea island, French Polynesia at the age of 7, Mathilde Zampier quickly developed a love of windsurfing. Her fierce passion and talent for the sport led her to become the youngest windsurf girl to compete on the PWA World Tour Windsurfing and enter the World TOP 20 as a woman.
Hi Mathilde! Tell me about your connection to the ocean, what does it mean to you?
The ocean is everything to me. I always had a special connection with it and I’m very grateful that I live in a place surrounded by the sea.
At age 16 you became the youngest female professional windsurfer in the world. Can you tell me more how you got started windsurfing?
When I was 7, my family and I moved to Raiatea island in French Polynesia. My dad is a windsurfer and I watched him riding in the lagoon every single day. I was desperate to try so I asked my dad to buy me my first board and sail, and I began learning to windsurf with him.
Since that day I have never stopped. When I was 16, I had the honor of becoming the youngest windsurf girl to ride in the PWA World Cup slalom. It was such an amazing experience.
Recently you got a lot of negative comments directed your way because you wore a bikini whilst windsurfing, have you found a lot of sexist behaviour directed towards you in the windsurfing profession and how do you deal and respond to those inappropriate comments? Are there many females participating in windsurfing at a professional level? (If not, why do you think this is the case?)
As a woman, and especially when you’re a young girl, it can be very hard to receive insults and be sexualized just because you’re wearing a bikini. Honestly, I was so disappointed to see comments like “she’s not a real windsurfer” or “she’s wearing a bikini just to get boy’s attention”. This is such a shame and it makes me feel so bad for all the young girls out there who are receiving the same sexist messages.
But I did not find a lot of sexist behaviour directed towards me from the windsurfing profession. There’s disrespectful guys everywhere and I was very happy to see all the support I received from the riding sports community and also from all the tahitian people who were so supportive.
To be honest, I don’t really know the best way to respond to this kind of behaviour. I think ignoring them is the best but sometimes it’s also so important to denounce these behaviors.
More and more women are participating in windsurfing at professional level and I’m so stoked to see all these fierce women, blasting in their sport and fighting for equality.
If a woman wants to compete in a hijab? Fine. If she want to put a wetsuit on? Fine. And if she wants to ride with a bikini on? That’s fine too. What a woman is wearing should not define her sport skills, and making disrespectful comments about it is not okay.
Growing up in French Polynesia and being surrounded by the ocean, have you noticed any changes in the way that humans have interacted with the waters and what is something that you think needs to change in our relationship with the ocean?
In the past few year, I’ve seen a lot of changes in our relationship with the sea. For example, a team of youth in Moorea Island started a company called “Coral Gardeners”. Their goal is to raise awareness about climate change and the impact of that on the reef.
This is so awesome to see a bunch of kids fighting for our oceans and taking such a huge part in reef restoration. I am very proud to be one of the Coral Gardeners ambassadors for one year now.
What are the key environmental issues that you see a lot and want to change?
What I see the most that makes me so angry, is people throwing cigarettes on the ground.
I really think that little actions make a huge difference and seeing people doing zero effort for the planet is very sad.
You’ve starred in two movies, Meherio and Vahine i te moana, that have documented your relationship with the ocean and windsurfing. Tell me more about how these projects came to life?
Starring in these two films was such an incredible experience. I got so lucky actually, the director Colter Johnson reached out to me via instagram and sent me the storyline of the movie. A few months later, we were shooting the first film. Vahine I Te Moana (Girl In The Sea Part I) was released in 2017 and won 3 Awards after a World Premiere in Miami. Thanks to the success of this first episode, we decided to shoot the second part in 2018.
What message do you hope they illustrate across to other young girls who may look up to you?
The second film, Meherio (Girl in the sea part II) is also starring young surfer Aelan Vaast and Miss Tahiti 2015 and longboarder Vaimiti Teiefitu. This project was so cool because it illustrates perfectly this young generation of girls, blasting in their sport and spreading good vibes around them.
I really hope that if young girls watched the movie, they saw that nothing is impossible and hard work pays off. We’re all fierce females.
Have you got any exciting projects that are coming up in the next few months you can talk with us about ?
I got so many exciting projects coming up soon! I can’t talk about the coolest ones yet but I can tell you that I have so many great photoshootings coming soon and I’ll be in Japan in January for the Défi wind Japan 2020!
• • • Mathilde and her incredible achievements inspire confidence in women of all ages, and we’re looking forward to seeing what other exciting opportunities are waiting for her.