A ST ANDREWS graduate who feared she would never walk again is bidding to become the UK’s next windsurfing champion.
Sophia Joy Gilje, 24, broke her back in 2007 after a horrific snowboarding accident while working as a ski instructor in the Pyrenees in southern France.
The part-time model was then in the process of intensive physiotherapy when she then fell and injured her back for a second time.
Her injuries were so severe she was even told not to use her arms.
But Sophia, who was awarded a masters at the Scottish University in sustainable development, has now bounced back and is due to compete in the Tiree Wave Classic windsurfing competition in the Inner Hebrides.
Sophia, currently ranked number 2 in the women’s rankings, described her injuries after the snowboarding trip: “My vertebrae isn’t the same shape as it used to be – I hurt myself so badly,” she said.
“Maybe because of my studying I hadn’t been training enough.”
The glamorous adrenaline junkie then had to spend years building her strength up and re-shaping her spine.
She continued: “I thought that after I graduated I was ready to really start my new life nut it didn’t end up that way.
“It was very frustrating – it was long and boring and I had to do lots of exercises every day to get my back in shape again.
“But I’m okay now and I’m really excited – I can’t wait to get to Tiree.”
The surfing competition in Tiree is a week-long event on one of the most westerly waters of Scotland – bearing the brunt of the stormy weather that comes right off the Atlantic Ocean.
Sophia, who was born in France and raised in Norway before coming to study in Scotland, is fresh from competing in an event in Ireland nearly two weeks ago.
Last year in Tiree she finished the event in second place and has amassed a wealth of support from fans and sponsors.
She added: “It’s awesome – they’re really nice, like a little family.
“I feel really supported and it’s good to know that I’m not on my own.
“Last year it was the beginning of it all for me and I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone again.
“I loved the whole atmosphere and the conditions were good.”
Sophia is aiming to become a professional windsurfer and is eager to compete in the Professional Windsurfers Association world tour next year.