Millie Chalker has a bright future as a bodyboarder and hopes to be a world champion, but with the world focused on surfing, she believes her sport has been forgotten.

The 15-year-old from Foster-Tuncurry on the New South Wales mid-coast most recently took home the bronze at the 2017 national titles held at Tweed Heads.

She has been bodyboarding for three years and feels talented bodyboarders deserve more recognition.

"I don't think people realise how much strength is needed for bodyboarding," Millie said.

"It's an incredible feeling, having the power of the wave behind you."

Millie explained bodyboarding was a high impact sport with a reputation for taking on bigger waves compared to surfing.

"When I started out, being wiped out scared me," she said.

"It bashes you around and it's a painful couple of seconds."

Women's surfing movement

Bodyboarder Millie Chalker in the water, shot showing flippers and board.

Millie believes when it comes to water sports, bodyboarding has been pushed to the sidelines when compared to surfing.

"Everyone thinks surfing is so cool, but they haven't even considered the talent needed for bodyboarding," she said.

Three-time world bodyboarding champion Ben Player said he too had seen a regression in bodyboarding in Australia, despite the profile abroad.

"In places like Japan, Brazil and Portugal, the profile for female bodyboarders is much bigger and it's more popular," Player said.

"I think on home soil, due to our influence from America, we have seen a massive movement for women's surfing.

"So when girls start approaching the ocean, they are influenced by role models in female surfing.

"We don't see the same marketing for bodyboarding in America or more locally in Australia, and that's affected the popularity of the sport."

Boosting sport's profile

Millie explained that she had been one of only five girls competing at the national bodyboarding championships in August last year.

"Men's Opens is usually the biggest division and they have the ability to requalify," she said.

"They don't allow for requalify in women's because there aren't enough competitors. At Nationals, we only had enough girls for one heat."

Millie said without major sponsorship and with such limited competitors, her career trajectory was limited.

External Link: Millie and Lilly Pollard video

"There's pretty much no money in it [and] even becoming the best in Australia might not be enough to be considered for the world tour," she said.

Her dad and mentor Shane Chalker believes bodyboarding is not receiving the profile it deserves.

"Women's bodyboarding in particular has substantially less competitors, but the prize money just isn't there," he said.

"The ladies who are at the top of their game at the moment are unreal; they could match the majority of the men for sure."

Passion is key to international success

Professional Ben Player said that compared to surfing, bodyboarding had a stronger sense of community.

"When a sport becomes too big and a profitable business model — like surfing — the grass roots and mentorship aspect gets left behind," he said.

"But in bodyboarding, whether on an elite level or first paddle out into the water, we support each other."

Millie Chalker riding barrel of a wave.

Player's advice to young bodyboarders such as Millie was to maintain a passion for the sport.

"Even if you don't end up on a podium, it doesn't matter because if you love the sport you are always meeting your goals," he said.

Millie said despite the lack of sponsorship support, she refuses to give up the sport she loves.

"I'll continue to compete until my body stops me," she said.

"I want to be 40 or 50 and still in the water."

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