Gemma Holland: Road To Recovery

Gemma, the stoke machine tells us about dealing with her ankle injury, getting back in the on board at Keira this year and longboarding media with depth. 

Good morning Gemma. How are you?
Yeah, I’m great! Full throttle, as always haha.

What’s full throttle sleeping like?
Limiting but, it’s worth it, If I don’t have a full throttle day, I can’t get a good sleep.

How was your week?
Pretty Challenging, Amazing, Frustrating, fun.
Between dance rehearsals in Brisbane, studying to be a kick-ass bartender at the Spirit House, stoking out on what 2018 could look like in Australia Gravity Sports, and getting more confident with my ankle, I’d say – hectic!

Apart from Newtons & Kiera, what else is there?
There’s the Yarra Valley race, Monkypig Derby race, Noosa ProAm at Hillclimb, Wild Wild West, and a few others.
But there’s gold mines everywhere, it’s just knowing who to talk to and, if your skill level is there. If you are worthy and respectful we will take you there.

If you are worthy and respectful we will take you there.

Dance rehearsals with no legs
I must admit it was a heavy challenge to get back into it. Getting used to weird movements, twists and jumps…
First month and a bit, it used to swell up and hurt. I had lots of ice bathing, heat packs, massages. Lots of complaining. But now, it’s not so bad. I’m pretty stubborn, it’s like a catch 22.

What’s the catch 22?
Being stubborn and strong minded usually gets in the way of what my body is capable of. So, you could imagine what it was like recovering and getting back to what I love to do. It took so much longer than it needed.

Last time we spoke, you were on team broke-off. Are you back?
I’m still broken but, I’ll throw down whenever I need or want to. I’d say I’m as good as it can be, just takes me a little longer to get going.

Can you skate yet?
Yeah I can. I’m more aware and cautious now skating open roads, but I’ll throw down in a sanctioned race any day.
I don’t get out nearly enough, big kid stuff is beginning to get in the way.

How did you lose your ankle?
Not sure if I lost my ankle haha. I just had to find it and get to know it again.
A month out from VLT in Philippines, skating the famous Drifters on the Sunshine Coast. I was hauling down doing little skiddies and came in way too hot on the bottom left.
Board slipped out, stomped my left foot on the ground, foot bent inwards trying to run it out, rolled and hit my fibula on the gutter.
My doctors statement said I spiral fractured and snapped fibula in 2, ripped all lateral ligaments in the ankle, tore the muscle between the tibia and fibula at the base of the ankle so they whacked a screw in there to hold it together.

8 months later, I got sick of that damn screw so, I told the doctor ”I want it out and, I want it out now”. Even though they advised not to. I don’t regret that decision, I just had to work a little harder and longer with my recovery.

It’s weird because I kinda knew something like that was going to happen. Almost like it needed to happen… strange.
Why did it need to happen?
Maybe to bring me down a few notches. Maybe someone out there wanted me to see or know something that I wasn’t aware of. Who knows?
I’ve learnt a lot since I broke my ankle. Observing, listening while trying to figure myself out.

How high were you and what’s so good about being down?
Being down, it levels you, tests you.
Will you lay in your memories of what was? Will you get back up, find yourself and how it works now, make it you and, be great?
I remember when I was younger, we visited my Aunt Elma in the Philippines. This was years after she had competed in the Olympics track and field. She had injured her back pretty badly and, we went to one of her appointments.

She had electro-acupuncture and, I saw her muscles tense up and she was sweating, yelling and groaning in pain. She couldn’t flinch or move every time it hurt because there were needles in her pressure points. But, she knew it had to be done to keep going.
Those experiences really built character, strength, determination and I learnt a lot from that experience – of what it takes to be the best and remain the best.
I think she recently got awarded the “Palarong Pambansa Lifetime Achievement Award” still killin’ it coming into her 50’s.

If you have the willpower and want it bad enough, you will constantly work at it till you are satisfied.

What have you learnt since then?
It really is all in your head and, who you surround yourself with. If you have the willpower and want it bad enough, you will constantly work at it till you are satisfied (while looking after yourself and that ankle as much as you can). I’m really bad at the ‘looking after yourself part’. Recovery was like a roller coaster for me;
it was almost like a cross between a female filipino soapie show and an Auzzie country mentality:

“Man, this sucks! I’m going to miss out on this this and that… my life is over”

“What the hell? I’m going over to Filo with these damn crutches and my balloon ankle. Get this cast off and give me a moon boot because I want to go swimming when I get over there”

“When I came back, I got the all clear from the doctor, but only for light activities”

Then, I’d go out for a mellow slide session with the only contact on the board being the ball of my foot and my ankle swelled like a balloon, and I had to ice-bath it for most of the day. I’d toss and turn thinking whether to stick it or quit it, is it worth it?

“How am I going to make this work, how long is it going to take?”
“I quit… no wait…. One more go…. I quit…. I can’t even last a day at work… It’s swollen, I’m sick of buying ice and getting water all over this part of the couch, I’m sick of living like this.”
But then I have to snap myself out of it and say,
“S#!t happens, just get on with it, Gemma, stop complaining.”

Is it worth it?
100%.  It could have gone a little smoother but being a stubborn woman doesn’t help haha.
If I didn’t go through those motions, I wouldn’t have grown into the person I am now.

Isn’t it too risky to skate before you’re 100%?
100% but it’s part of my personality.
People that know me know how stubborn I can be and, in some cases, it does bite me in the butt.
If I wasn’t so stubborn, I would have recovered in half the time.

If I wasn’t so stubborn, I would have recovered in half the time.

What’s the toughest thing about being on the sidelines?
Walking up and down the track in crutches, trying to carry your water bottle, wallet, and food! By the time you get to the corner, your ankle is swollen like a balloon. Then, you see people throw down and you’re thinking ”man, I could have so given them a run for their money”.

I guess you just want to be shredding with your mates, but in saying that, you get a chance to really look after your mates, while they look after you.
Spot corners, doing drive runs, get them food/drinks, taking photos, making sure everything is on schedule on trips.

You also see things from a different perspective, listening and observing.
But in saying that the toughest thing was the voices in my head and the accepting the state you’re in.

How did you keep your stoke up while you couldn’t skate?
I was out for a good 12 months, you can never know how long tendons and ligaments take to heal and then trying to stretch them out again, it takes a while. Because I was so active, and to have it stop so suddenly, it really played on my mind.

Having my friends, my mum and dad and family and my partner Paddy made a huge impact on my stoke levels.
When the boys would go out for their morning surf, I’d ask Paddy to walk me into the water and the first few sets of waves until it was deep enough to swim out to the back-line. I’d tread water for those couple of hours and hold onto the boy’s board when I got a little tired, until a set came through.
If there was a party, I’d still go, If I had to scale 100 steps to see and swim at a beautiful waterfall in crutches, I’d do it, and I’d crutch it back up again.
I kept trying to live out my normal routine, I just needed a little help, even when I didn’t want it, and alter a lot of things.
Behind the scenes, I’d have to ice bath my ankle and I’d be in pain for a while in denial and in my head haha.

Is asking for help tough?
So hard for me.
I never ask for things that I know I can do myself or think I can. For the longest time, it was a sign of weakness for me. I guess it comes down to how I was raised in the country, I get it from my dad.
Getting better at it though.

When was your first proper skate?
Hill Climb Pro Am and Mt Keira.

Woah. Isn’t Keira a bit hardcore for a comeback skate?
I was back and forth about going, My ankle was about 60%. I could barely push and still on the ball of my back foot.
It was just good to see where I stood at the time, If I could still throw down like this.
“Yeah I’ll just take it chill, see where I’m at.”
But for some reason, every time I get on that start line, the flip switches and it doesn’t matter how much or how little I’ve practised before hand, I’m here to throw down and be the underdog.
I think they call that old school Auzzie ignorance haha.

How did it go?
Scary as hell, it was rougher than I remember; wobbling and carving everywhere.
Took it super chill on practice day trying to figure out my ankle, adapting to corners with my ankle, figuring out how to tuck effectively, while finding that spark of confidence again.
Like always it swelled up half way through the day, just massage, ice, stretch, repeat.
Not the smartest but it’s what I do, I know my true limitations.

Did you ride your Daddow?
No I don’t ride for Daddow anymore but he’s always a part of my family, and still see him from time to time. I ride for Landyachtz now, and was so thankful that they kept me when I was broken. Yatesy and the QLD crew helped me a lot through my recovery and can’t thank them enough for that.

It’s been 3 years since our last chat. Have you skated Kozakov?
It’s still on my list.

What else is on the list?
Would Love to go to South Korea for the IDF race there.
Canada is on my list, visit the crew at landy, shred and link it with some dance workshops.


Norway and Europe

I’d like to go everywhere haha.

Done any VLTs since?
I went to VLT with the Auzzie NBS crew with my broken ankle if that counts haha. Other than that, no! I’d love to go back soon and life the island life.

Still in touch with the family out there?
Not as much as I used to, but we are all family. They have taught me so much about life that I owe them so much in return.
We talk from time to time and it fills my cup.

How’s the bush mechanic?
Mike English…. Yeah he’s alright, don’t really get to see him much anymore. He’s a PE Teacher now in High School.

Is 2017 fun so far?
I named this year as “Under Construction”. Learning how to do all the things I love doing with my ankle.
Skating, Dancing, Tricking, Surfing.
Finding what works and compromising with it to make it happen
I’d say It’s been challenging but every time I see improvements I gain a little part of me back and that means more than words.
Less mood swings too so Paddy and the family really appreciate it haha.

I flip through media… looking for depth or some sort of meaning but… we only see the skill,the quality of film and the number of views. You don’t see the heart.

How would you like the next phase of your life to go?
I’d say creating depth, purpose and meaning in what I do. I flip through media all the time looking for depth or some sort of meaning but most of the time we only see the skill,the quality of film and the number of views. You don’t see the heart. You don’t know the sequence of motions that goes on in their head and their body language.
It’s just finding someone that wants and can help capture with that with me.

Can we expect to see depth projects from you?
Yeah for sure, it will just take more time to piece it together. Have to find a Videographer to work with… cough cough…. Linus…

Who should we interview next?
Patrick Walker & Brennan Bass.

Gemmy Gem Gem. Thanks for taking the time out. Always fun to catch up. Hugs.
Any last words?
Be true, be respectful of the hill and the crews especially the OGs.
Know your capabilities and stoke out with crew.