Lucy Robson, 26, is a lucky woman. The commercial property solicitor with Thomas Eggar - one of the largest firms in the south with offices in London, Gatwick, Chichester and Worthing – gets to indulge her love of Flakkers, Spocks, Vulcans and Grubbies before, during and after work. “I have a very nice boss,” she says. “If I couldn’t get out there I’d go mad.”
Robson is one of the best windsurfers in Britain. She was crowned the UK Freewave Champion in 2005 and has competed internationally on the Professional Windsurfers Association (PWA) world tour, coming ninth overall in 2006. Tall, striking and athletic, Robson looks more beach babe than legal eagle, but she has managed to carve out a career in the law that keeps her craving for water time sated.
“If conditions are good I’ll windsurf before work, during my lunch break and, now that we have lighter evenings, after work as well,” she says, which makes me think that her boss must be more than merely nice. I wonder if said superior – partner Jeremy Wootton – is consciously pioneering the best flexi-time practice in the country, or whether he’s soft on Robson. Neither is the case. “He’s a windsurfer,” says Robson. “He understands what drives me.”
Robson’s love of windsurfing is also rather welcome among Thomas Eggar’s clients. She works from the firm’s Worthing office, and many clients are themselves part of the town’s sizeable windsurfing community. “I’ll often get a call from a client not about business but to talk about a session the preceding weekend, or to ask me if I’m heading out windsurfing later. The conversation will end with a ‘see you on the water.’”
A former windsurfer myself, I decide to find out how good Robson is. I was once capable of jumping waves and getting my board vertically above my head, a feat that I hope will impress the Sussex University graduate and achieve some modest form of sporting parity. I wonder if Robson can do likewise. “Of course,” she says. What about loops, can you do them as well? “Well, you have to,” she says. “If you’re going to compete seriously as a wave-sailor you need to be able to do forward and back loops, and handle double mast-high conditions.”
The conversation then veers into discussion of Spocks and Grubbies, manoeuvres of whose execution I would dream if I understood them, which I don’t. Suffice to say that anyone who can effortlessly pull off forward and back loops – not to mention Flakkers - is in the seriously good category. Robson’s achievements are all the more impressive given the relatively short time she has pursued the sport.
“I started in the midst of a surf trip,” she explains. “I’d just finished the Bar Vocational Course and four of us got in a van and headed down the west coast of Europe. The plan was just to go surfing but we stopped during a flat spell at a sea inlet called Foz de Arelho in Portugal, where I borrowed some windsurfing kit. That was it. I was smitten.” This was just over three years ago, but since then Robson has put in water time at some of the world’s best windsurfing locations – Tarifa in Spain, Guincho in Portugal, the Canary Island of Fuerteventura and Hookipa, on Maui. She soon found herself sponsored and facing a tough choice – to stick with the law or try her hand as a pro windsurfer.
After a year on the PWA circuit, the law beckoned. However, Robson is still sponsored and she still competes in select UK events - and admits that if someone offered her a lawyer’s wage to be a windsurfer she might reconsider her decision. For now, though, she seems to have the perfect set-up. She can windsurf during her lunch break and make the time up later. Windsurfing gives her a feeling of “ultimate escapism, a sense of total mental and physical freedom.” Today she heads off to Morocco for a week’s training. She has a work-life balance to die for – not to mention a very understanding boss.