Surfing legend Layne Beachley has opened up on her struggle with depression and how learning she was adopted pushed her to win seven world championship titles.
When she was just eight years old, the man Beachley thought was her biological father broke the news that she was not blood related and was put up for adoption as a baby.
Her biological mother was a 17-year-old aspiring model, living in Sydney from Glasgow, who was date-raped by a modelling agency employee.
Appearing on ABC’s Anh’s Brush With Fame on Tuesday night, Beachley said hearing the news just a year after her adoptive mother died made her feel ‘worthless’.
Appearing on ABC’s Anh’s Brush With Fame on Tuesday night, Layne Beachley said hearing the news just a year after she lost her adoptive mother made her feel ‘worthless’
Surfing legend Layne Beachley has described the moment a male surfer threatened to beat her up, her struggle with depression and how her adoption pushed her to win seven world championship titles
‘The more he spoke and the more comforting he was, the bigger the couch grew and the more it swallowed me, because I started feeling worthless,’ the champion surfer said.
‘Being rejected by our own mother…you just feel like, “Hang on, I wasn’t deserving of my own mother’s love who whose am I deserving of?”.’
Beachley, who began surfing at Sydney’s northern beaches, made a pact with herself that day to become a world champion – and set her sights on professional surfing.
‘All I’m choosing to hear is “‘I’m undeserving of love”, and if I become a world champion then I’ll be deserving of everyone’s love,’ she said.
‘So that’s what drove me.’
But being a young girl trying to get her start in Manly, Beachley said she had to fight for her waves and often came face-to-face with ‘guys who weren’t that welcoming’.
‘I didn’t understand the natural etiquette or pecking order in the water,’ she reminisced.
‘It wasn’t until one of the guys paddled up to me and said, “Doing that is only p***ing me off and if you keep doing that, I will beat you up”.’
But being a young girl trying to get her start in Manly, Beachley said she had to fight for her waves and often came face-to-face with guys who ‘weren’t that welcoming’
Beachley, who began surfing at Sydney’s northern beaches, made a pact with herself that very same day to become a world champion and she set her sights on professional surfing
While she didn’t know what she had done wrong Beachley said she started to ‘listen’ and ‘stopped doing things that p***ed people off’.
At 17 years old she turned pro and joined the ASP World Tour where she pushed herself, but it wasn’t until just before her 21st birthday that it all came together.
‘It was just complete disbelief that I’d won this event and I remember just bawling my eyes going, “I can’t…This is just phenomenal”,’ she said.
The seven-time world champion, who is married to INXS guitarist Kirk Pengilly, revealed the ‘expectation and rejection’ with being the ‘best surfer in the world’ put extra pressure on her.
She said she knew people wanted to see her lose, but she learned to ‘make success look like a struggle’ to gain support.
‘If you have a dream in mind and you get there, all of a sudden you believe that you have to be twice as good to deserve the right to do it again,’ the 48-year-old said.
‘So I had weighed my life down. Not only my life but also everyone around me.’
When she was just eight years old, Beachley’s adoptive father broke the news that she was not blood related and was put up for adoption
The seven-time world champion, who is married to INXS guitarist Kirk Pengilly (pictured), revealed that the ‘expectation and rejection’ with being the ‘best surfer in the world’ put lots of pressure on her
She said she knew people wanted to see her lose but she learnt to ‘make success look like a struggle’ to gain support
After winning six consecutive world titles – a friend questioned if Beachley’s adoption drove her.
‘That resonated with my heart so strongly and I went, “Yes, it’s my fear of rejection.” I had defined success as becoming the most successful surfer in history and I had rejected myself and everyone around me up until the point when I achieved that,’ she said.
‘And then when I got there I went, “Oh. OK, I’ll stop rejecting things now”.’
The feeling of hopelessness and of being worthless remained throughout her long surfing career, and Beachley said it was not until she won her sixth World Championship that she decided to let it all go.
Beachley has been open about suffering with depression throughout her career, with her first experience with mental illness at age 24.
She said her body was begging her to take a break but she refused, so after a year of injuries and ‘niggling ailments’ she realised she was in a ‘dark state of despair and depression’.
‘It wasn’t until I started thinking about different ways to kill myself. It wasn’t until I became aware of the fact that I had suicidal thoughts did I become truly frightened by the fact that I’m now clinically depressed,’ she said.
After winning six consecutive world titles – and earning the title of the world’s greatest surfer – a friend questioned if Beachley’s adoption drove her
Beachley has been open about suffering with depression throughout her career, with her first experience with the mental illness at 24
‘And I had to do something about it ’cause that scared me.’
After a six-month waking up with suicidal thoughts, Beachley finally decided to open up about her struggle to a close friend, just before her seventh world title in 2006.
It was at this time that she felt ‘restlessness’ around her identity and started searching for answers about her biological mother.
Years later Beachley’s biological mother, Maggie, called her.
‘I’d accepted the fact that, yes, there was another mother out there for me and that this woman had my best interests at heart but she came on too strong too soon. Yeah, I was really confronted by it,’ she said.
Months later she agreed to meet Maggie and it was their first time seeing each other in 27 years. The surfer said it was like looking in a mirror.
‘We had this to-and-fro tumultuous relationship for the duration of her life,’ Beachley said.
After a three year break from surfing, Beachley went on to win her seventh world title and was inducted into the Australian and American halls of fame.
She announced her retirement in October 2008.