Cover story

Riding the Waves


Carolyn Murphy

Carolyn Murphy Talks Modeling, Embracing Change & Protecting The Oceans

She’s been modeling for more than two decades, working for the best brands in the business, and CAROLYN MURPHY just keeps getting better. The keen surfer tells EVE CLAXTON about her enduring love for the ocean, the secret to her longevity, and the next bittersweet chapter in her life

Photography Terence ConnorsStyling Catherine Newell-Hanson
Cover Stories

Supermodel Carolyn Murphy drives a pickup truck. In it, she keeps her trusty surfboard and Patagonia wetsuit made out of renewable natural rubber and wool. And although, following our photo shoot, the Long Island weather is not the best – the water is so cold that she can’t feel her fingers – Murphy is determined to paddle around for a while, just to experience the water.

“It’s like you walk down the beach and you start taking in deep breaths,” the 43-year-old says a few days later in New York. “The sun is shining, you feel your shoulders drop, and you exhale. I’m just very fortunate to know that that’s what I need. And when I’m surfing, it’s definitely my sweet spot.”

Murphy, who started modeling in 1993 as a teenager, had her first surfing experience when she took a trip to Costa Rica in 1997 with some girlfriends. She ended up staying for months, escaping the frenetic fashion world for a time. “I was so in love with Costa Rica, so in love with the ocean,” she remembers. “I was so in love with the feeling that it gave me; it was such a healthy separation from what I was doing with modeling.”

“You walk down the beach and you start taking in DEEP breaths. You feel your shoulders drop, you EXHALE. Surfing is definitely my SWEET spot”

Top image: Bikini top Fella; sweater Elizabeth and James; pants Miu Miu. This image: Sweater Elizabeth and James; bikini top Haight
Top Elizabeth and James; bikini briefs Eres

She did return to the world of fashion, of course, fronting numerous high-profile campaigns including Estée Lauder since 2001, but surfing has remained an ardent passion. These days, she can be found riding the waves near the home she keeps in the Hamptons and making regular surf trips back to her beloved Costa Rica. Her daughter, Dylan Blue, from her marriage to surfer Jake Schroeder, often joins her. “She’s more of an equestrian,” observes Murphy. “But sometimes she’ll get out there with a couple of other kids. We have family friends who like to surf, and they all egg each other on. That’s what’s great about surfing – you become this nucleus…”

For Murphy, who grew up around the ocean, living close to a body of water is a necessity. “I was born on the Gulf of Mexico in a town called Seaside,” she says. “My earliest memories are of being pulled around on my raft by my uncle – I was maybe four or five.” As a young girl, she swam competitively and dreamed not of walking runways but of becoming a marine biologist and befriending Jacques Cousteau.

Sweater Saint Laurent; bikini briefs Emma Pake
Top Jason Wu

“The OCEAN is as much to us and the air we BREATHE as the forest is. It’s ABSORBING more than a quarter of the CO2 emissions”

Jacket Stella McCartney; bikini top Haight; shorts MDS Stripes
Sweater Elizabeth and James; necklace Isabel Marant
Jacket Norma Kamali; bikini top Eres; shorts Re/Done; necklace and necklace Isabel Marant
Top Solid & Striped x Re/Done; earrings Isabel Marant

While other famous faces tend to broadcast their philanthropic interests, Murphy has been a quiet advocate for the oceans for years, working for under-the-radar organizations such as Waves for Water. “The ocean is as much to us and the air we breathe as the forest is,” she points out. “So you have to take that into consideration, and that it’s absorbing more than a quarter of the CO2 emissions.” She cites the area in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii where there are over 80,000 tons of floating plastic waste. “I get really overheated talking about it, it infuriates me,” she says passionately.

As you would expect, she has long been conscientious about staying away from plastic. “I haven’t used a plastic grocery bag or even a paper bag in years; I keep canvas bags in my car,” she says. “I’ve got my produce bags and my bulk bags – they’re all made of linen.” She uses bamboo toothbrushes and an old-fashioned, reusable stainless-steel razor that “lasts forever”. Recently, she wrote a note to a major toilet-paper manufacturer, asking them if they could stop wrapping their recycled paper in plastic.

“What is YOUTH? Why should any type of image or person PERSONIFY youth? You’re as old as you FEEL”

Living a life in tune with nature and the environment clearly suits Murphy, who positively shines with that indefinable, elusive, much-desired ‘glow’. What’s her secret? “You know, I think first of all I’m just generally a happy person,” she says. “But I’m not perfect; I definitely have my moods. I’m crap if I don’t sleep – I need at least a good eight hours. I really hate hormones right now, so I’m trying all kinds of different things – magnesium at night, Ayurvedic herbs. I’m always experimenting. I think that our bodies also change, and if we listen, they’ll let us know what we need.” She’s a big believer in simple breathing exercises. “Even if it’s for 10 minutes a day, I try to breathe,” she explains. “I meditate in the bath because then I can kill two birds with one stone. I fill the tub up with magnesium salts, Epsom salts, oils and potions, and it’s heaven.”

Top Solid & Striped x Re/Done; pants Miu Miu
Sweater Ganni
Sweater Elizabeth and James; shorts Re/Done

“WOMEN make up over 80% of the consumer market. And it’s not like we keel over after a certain AGE – we shop for our families, our household. So WHY shouldn’t I still be working?”

“I don’t know my LIFE without being surrounded by the water… It’s my MEDITATION. It’s what helps me to feel at ONE”

It’s a pleasure to see a model at the very top of her game – at the top of the entire game – in her 40s. “I think at the end of the day we want relatability. Women make up over 80% of the consumer market; we shop. And it’s not like we keel over after a certain age – we’re shopping for our families, our children, our household. So why shouldn’t I still be working? What is youth? I mean, it’s so relative. Why should any type of image or person personify youth? You’re as old as you feel.”

As a single mom, Murphy is aware that she’s about to embark on a new phase of her life now that Dylan is growing up. “She’s going to flee the nest in a year and a half,” says the model, her brow wrinkling. “She’s going to go to college. We have some things that we need to do before then, and I’m not talking just SAT and school prep.” To that end, the pair just spent six months in Costa Rica, where Dylan was homeschooled, so that they could reconnect and enjoy experiences, and the water, together.

Murphy says that the ocean has always been her much-needed constant. “I don’t know my life without being surrounded by the water,” she muses. “It’s the way that I connect. It’s my meditation. It’s what helps me to feel at one.” With people like Murphy showing us how to protect our oceans, hopefully it will stay that way.

Top Prada; wetsuit Carolyn’s own

The Call of the Ocean

Press play to hear supermodel Carolyn Murphy reveal her favorite surfing memory, and discover how she has inspired others to preserve the ocean’s precious life

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown.