About Brittani Nicholl
Brittani was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease at 7 years of age, and although she has had to face adversity, she has tackled it head on and will not let it stop her from living her life. Having grown up on the Tweed Coast of Australia it was only a matter of time before Brittani took to the water, learning to surf at the age of 12.
After numerous times in and out of hospital, Brittani was 16 when she was told the news that major surgery was inevitable. At first the surgery was a success, although several complications and a near death experience meant that Brittani had no option but to undergo further surgery, requiring a stoma/ileostomy bag.
The ileostomy bag would allow the bowel to rest, but doctors could not say how long the ileostomy bag would be required and there was still discussion that they may have to remove the entire bowel. For Brittani, living with an ileostomy was hard enough to get her head around, but surfing with an ileostomy…that was her challenge. She learnt not to eat at least 1-2 hours leading up to a surf, wearing a one-piece swimsuit and at times a wetsuit to keep everything in place on her stomach. Brittani had a few mishaps with leakage and irritation whilst surfing with the bag, but it was all worth it just to be doing something she loved.
Brittani continued to travel and achieve a lot in her surfing career with an ileostomy bag. With various Pro Junior results already under her belt, Brittani won her first Open Women’s NSW State Title 2009, later creating history by winning the event 3 years consecutively. Winning her first Australian Open Women’s Title in the third year.
In November 2009, Brittani required surgery and a screw after suffering from two broken bones in her ankle during a surfing session at home. While out of action with an ankle injury, Brittani’s surgeon thought it’d be best to do the reversal of the ileostomy bag…this meant 5 months out of the water for Brittani.
After almost 3 years of living with a stoma/ileostomy bag, the reversal surgery was a success in 2010. Brittani was daunted by the thought of the reversal because the ileostomy had been the best thing for her and her health, it was her life saver. With the outcome of the reversal being unknown until it was done, she was scared that things would go back downhill…but fortunately this was not the case, in late 2012 Brittani was told that she was in remission for the first time in 16 years.
In 2011 Brittani became a National Ambassador for Crohn’s & Colitis Australia. Brittani has not only shared her story with people she has met along the way, she has spoken at Parliament House, various charity, luncheons and youth camps. Brittani would like people to have a better understanding of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and wishes to promote this disease more openly; as it can affect anyone at any time and it isn’t an easy thing speak about.
Brittani finished her 2013 WQS competitive surfing campaign with a World Ranking of 24, but unexpected health obstacles in 2014 meant that she was unable to compete in all events, finishing off 2014 with a World Ranking of 39.
2015 was an extremely difficult year, with life being put on hold yet again due to her health… Brittani required an ileostomy bag for a second time, which ended up being the least of her worries! Brittani spent 10 months out of action, fighting her way through several different surgeries and hospital visits. After ongoing complications, Brittani had 20cm’s of her small bowel removed, and in late 2015 she had her second ileostomy reversed after 9 months.
Brittani entered the water again just before the new year, with the hope of a fresh start for 2016. She started competing again and travelled to various locations overseas, although soon realised her health was deteriorating. Unfortunately, the moments of feeling healthy were short lived and her Crohn’s Disease relapsed. Brittani persisted and pushed through it for as long as she could, even representing Australia in the 2016 ISA World Surfing Games held in Costa Rica where she was unwell but managed to make it through 6 days of surfing in the event to give it her all and represent her country.
Brittani also represented Australia as Team Captain in the 2017 ISA World Surfing Games in Biarritz, though after more time in hospital, she has had no choice but to pull back from her competitive surfing career. However, she is still involved within the industry. Brittani was recently part of the commentary team for the QS6000 Port Stephens Toyota Pro, and went above and beyond in her role as Team Manager for the NSW Junior Surfing Team at the Australian Junior Surfing Titles.
Brittani is still in a relapse and doing all she can to get on top of things to regain her health. It’s been a long road, but she is now showing improvement and is determined that she is on the right path. Her focus is on getting her health back to where it should be, while spending as much time as she can just simply loving surfing and being in the water surfing. Brittani aims to continue working within the industry, while also studying a degree in Digital Media and Communications
Keep Smiling 🙂