Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
International Women’s Day (IWD) is a day where we celebrate women, in all their diversities. We celebrate women who paved the way, women who are here now, and women of the future. As part of this celebration, we interviewed two women that inspire us here at Flite: Jocelyn Neumueller and Katja Berkhout (you can read Katja’s interview here).
Jocelyn Neumueller is at home in the water as a Para World Champion in canoeing and surfing. In 2012 she was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease that resulted in lower limb paralysis. Sport played a huge role in her recovery and she recently added Fliteboarding to her long list of passions that include surfing, sailing, kite surfing, white water rafting, scuba diving, sit skiing and hand cycling.
Flite: How does sport play a role in your everyday life?
Jocelyn: I guess sport first and foremost has had and continues to have a huge impact in my journey - helping me regain a sense of purpose and identity while also helping to re-establish my abilities and limitations. Sport is also a fantastic platform to connect with like-minded people, while doing something I love, and gain the sense of community and support that comes along with it.
Flite: What else has supported you through your journey after being diagnosed?
Jocelyn: The support I have received from friends and family, and the greater community have been pivotal in getting me to where I am today. I think for me, working towards establishing a career that champions my skill sets and abilities has been also really important.
Flite: What is one of your favourite memories on the water?
Jocelyn: I can’t pinpoint a specific memory, but the feeling of freedom and independence I get whilst surfing or on a Fliteboard is a feeling like nothing else I can experience on land. Also the fact that the ocean doesn’t discriminate keeps me coming back for more.
I’ve experienced kayaking at the Paralympics and surfing at world champs, and although I enjoy those elite high level competitions, every single time I get to go in the water and experience the stoke these water sports bring, these moments are undoubtedly my favourite part of the week.
Flite: How has taking risks and pushing limits helped you get to where you are today?
Jocelyn: I would not be where I am today if I had stayed within my comfort zone. Being open to opportunities that come my way, always wanting to find my own limitations and pushing boundaries and expectations is something I continually strive to do, as it is what has enabled me to be who I am today.
Flite: How did it feel to Fliteboard for the first time and what does it give you?
Fliteboarding for the first time was a really unique feeling, and clearly something that I can’t get enough of now! The complete sense of freedom and almost ‘weightlessness’ or ‘flying’ is just something you can’t get anywhere else. It gives me a sense of freedom and exhilaration that is incomparable to anything else I have done. The fact that I am in complete control and don’t rely on others to assist me in the water is amazing.
Flite: What does freedom mean to you?
Jocelyn: Freedom to me is a lack of limitations or boundaries, whether they be physical, societal or inferred.
Flite: How does it feel to know that you inspire others?
Jocelyn: I really dislike being called inspirational because as a general rule, in the disability space people are too often referred to as inspirational for just ‘living’, however I am proud of the positive impact I am able to have on others lives. In hard times I look to others for inspiration to help me; it is humbling to know that I provide inspiration for others.
Flite: Can you tell us about a woman who inspires you?
Jocelyn: Bernadette Wallace is someone who has had a significant impact on my journey and continues to inspire me. The way she has overcome adversity, paved the way in Women’s Canoe in Australia and created her own path to success is truly motivating.
Flite: Do you have any words of motivation that you come back to regularly?
Jocelyn: Life is a journey, travel it well.
Flite: What makes you feel empowered?
Jocelyn: Setting and achieving goals, ongoing learning and self improvement and having the freedom to do as I please and make my own decisions, all contribute to my self empowerment.
Flite: What advice do you have for people going through tough times?
Jocelyn: Remember life is a journey. Focus on keeping moving forward. It’s so easy to focus on the things you can’t do or something that is challenging, but try to focus on the things that are in your control and the things that you can change. A small step forward is still a step in the right direction!
Flite: What do you feel is your biggest achievement?
Jocelyn: While some may think that my biggest achievements to date have been winning world championship titles in Paracanoe and Para Surfing, or competing at the Paralympics, I truly feel that my biggest achievement to date is actually championing true inclusion and progression within sport (surfing) and sharing the stoke and opportunities that para sport can offer with more and more people.
Sharing experiences or opportunities, like getting out in the surf or Fliteboarding for example, which have been truly life changing for me, with others that benefit from them just as much, if not more, gives me the biggest sense of achievement.
Flite: What would you like to achieve next?
Jocelyn: Well, maybe the list would be shorter if you asked, what do I not want to achieve next.
I guess some of my biggest goals this year are to:
- Surf a 10-12+ foot wave (hopefully July)
- Defend my AASP world championship tour title from 2022
- Be the first female prone rider to get air off of the lip of a wave and land it
- Master the Fliteboard and begin riding waves with it
- Double the participation in para surfing in South Australia
Flite: What advice would you give the next generation of female athletes?
Jocelyn: The most important thing is to believe in yourself. Believe that you can achieve what you put your mind to, because you can. Dream big, but make sure you have smaller goals as well.
Happy International Women’s Day. You can learn more about Jocelyn by visiting her website or Instagram. Check out the Fliteboard socials for content from our IWD Ride at Fliteboard Gold Coast on 8 March 2023.