Sophia set to make waves

Champion windsurfer Sophie Joy Gilje at Tiree
Champion windsurfer Sophie Joy Gilje at Tiree
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A ST ANDREWS University graduate, who broke her back five years ago, was told “not to use her arms” as part of her build up to a major windsurfing competition.

Part-time model Sophia Joy Gilje, who graduated this summer with a Masters in Sustainable Development, has successfully undergone intensive rehab in an effort to be fit for this year’s Tiree Wave Classic.

The 24-year-old, who feared she may never walk again after a snow-boarding accident in the Pyranees in 2007, hurt her back again when competing earlier this year.

“Maybe because of my studying, I hadn’t been training enough,” said Sophia.

“My vertebrae isn’t the same shape as it used to be, and I hurt myself badly,” she said.

Sophia was even told to not use her arms to lift anything for six weeks, and she had to spend several hours a day slowly building up her strength again.

“I thought that after I had graduated, I was ready to really start my new life, but it didn’t end up that way,” she said.

“It was very frustrating, and it’s not the first time it’s happened.”

“It was long and boring, and I had to do lots of exercises every day to get my back in shape again.

“But now I’m ok – and I’m really excited, and just can’t wait to get back to Tiree.”

The Tiree Wave Classic is Britain’s most important and longest-standing event on the British Wavesailing Association’s UK Wave tour.

This year’s competition starts tomorrow (Saturday) and is backed by EventScotland.

Held on the remote inner-hebridean island of Tiree, the week-long event is the third leg of the tour.

Sophia finished second in the women’s event of last year’s Tiree Wave Classic, and now is backed by several sponsors.

“It’s awesome, they’re really nice as well, like a little family,” she said.

“They look after me very well. I feel supported and it’s really good to know that I’m not on my own.

Sophia has spent some of the summer in Ireland, and can’t wait to get back to Scotland.

“Last year it was the beginning of it all for me, and I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone again,” said Sophia, who was born in France but also brought up in Norway.

Tiree is particularly popular among windsurfers because it has beaches on all sides of the island, so no matter which direction the wind is blowing, there is opportunity to take to the water.

Ultimately, Sophia is aiming to be a professional windsurfer and is keen to next year try her hand on the Professional Windsurfers Association world tour.

She is currently second in the women’s standings in the UK Wave tour after events in Wales and Ireland.