She's the number one junior surfing champion in the world, so 19-year-old Isabella Nichols was more than qualified to show off her skills as Blake Lively's surfer stunt double in The Shallows.
But there was just one problem. The Aussie pro surfer chatted to Be about how her biggest struggle during filming was making time to do her homework!
The Coolum Beach local, who is currently traveling through Europe with her family, took a break from her travels to chat with Be about working with Blake Lively, her advice for young girls wanting to become pro-surfers, and the perils of studying for your QCE on a film set!
What was the casting process like for The Shallows?
“It was pretty simple, they rang up the HPC [The Hurley Surfing Australia High Performance Centre] asking for girls of a certain build similar to Blake’s, then the HPC put them in contact with my manager who sent through a bio, clip and body dimensions and we pretty much got a call up a couple days later asking if I'd like to do the job!”
Where were you when you got the news? Did you flip out?
“I was driving home from a surf at Noosa when I got the call, I was pretty excited because I didn't really think it was going to happen! So yeah you could say I definitely flipped out a bit!!”
Surfing is already hard enough, but was being a stunt double even harder than you thought it would be?
“Nah, not necessarily, I didn't have to do anything different to what I do every day. The hardest part was trying to manage my downtime because I had to finish all of my assignments for the end of year 12!”
Was the water freezing? How did you deal with that?
“The water was absolutely freezing! We couldn't surf for more than 40 minutes at a time and it took an hour to warm up again! On the boat we had with us heaps of hot water bottles, heat packs, blankets and ugg boots.”
Did you get to spend much time with Blake? Did you get star struck?
“I spent quite a lot of time with her on set, teaching her how to look like a surfer to make it more authentic. Of course I was a little bit star struck but she was such an awesome human so it was easy to get along with her.”
Did you give her some surfing pointers?
“As many as I could! Mostly just paddling tips and small things here and there, like waxing a board and putting a leg rope on.”
You were working with nature to shoot the surf scenes – were there any days on set when things didn’t quite go right?
“There were many of those days! The whole set was outside, [so] every day we would wake up and the scene that was shot that day depended on the weather.”
How did the fitness schedule vary from your usual surfing training?
“It didn't vary at all, it was a bit more difficult as there weren't any gyms on the island, so I had to improvise with whatever was available.”
What was your highlight of doing the film?
“The highlight of my trip was getting to surf, pumping waves with three people out and being able to spend three weeks on Lord Howe Island with my mum!”
When did you start surfing?
“I started surfing when I was eleven.”
What advice do you have for other young women who are passionate about surfing?
“My advice to young women is to have as much fun as you can with surfing, therefore it feels like a passion rather than something you have to do.”
Wise words, Izzy!
To be a stunt double, not only do you need to be insanely fit, but if you’re standing in for someone like Blake Lively, you’ve got to have the killer bod to match.
But this Queenslander is all about staying fit. During a recent interview with Teen Vogue, Isabella revealed her “gnarly” daily routine that gets her “prepared for taking on anything”.
Want a body like a pro-surfer? Here’s what you need to do...
“These are great for my lower body plyometric power," she told Teen Vogue.
“I pull my shoulder blades down into their set position, then I pull my chest up to the bar above me," she revealed.
Isabella is all about straights, hooks and upper cuts.
Get down low and go, go, go," Isabella said. "It’s great for my lower body strength and power."
Front squats with barbell
“They’re great for lower body strength and mobility," she said.
It’s not all cardio for Isabella with downward dog and sun salutations making it into her fitness routine.
See Isabella in action in The Shallows - out now in Australian cinemas.