Azores! 

Sao Miguel , Azores Islands, Portugal… Spectacular landscapes, life changing experiences and one of the most changeable waves I’ve ever come across – representing Australia in the ISA world junior surf championships was a dream come true!
 
It was a historic gathering, with a record of 39 different countries represented in over 371 surfers, all on this small island, doing what they love! It was the first ISA world junior competition following the announcement of surfing becoming an Olympic sport in the next Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.
 
It was a long way away, the Azores – somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean! 14 hours to Dubai then another 8 to reach Lisbon, Portugal and after a night in Lisbon, 2 hours to Azores – 12 young competitors, loaded up with bulging board bags in our green and gold team shirts! It was the first time I had travelled without my family, so very far away – exciting and nerve wracking at the same time…a feeling so hard to describe…
 
But for me this journey began a long time ago – firstly competing in the state titles, then coming 2nd in the under 16 girls in the Nationals last November. We raised the funds for my ticket through GoFundMe, my friends, family and generous sponsors. Help has been there every step of the way in equipment, coaching and moral support – I’m so thankful!
 
Travelling with us was Clancy and Cameron from the HPC and the legend Jay ‘Bottle’ Thomson, who always gave us the best advice and constant support.
 
‘Relentlessness’, ‘Passion’, ‘Pride’, ‘Mateship’ and ‘Adaptability’ were our Ozzie team keywords. We were determined to find something good in bad situations- by smelling the roses! These values helped us through our wins and losses as well as our many, many good times.
 
Being in such a remote part of the world made me think about how lucky we are to surf every day and hopefully forge a future life out of this profession.
 
We stayed on one side of the island with the competition site was on the other side. Every morning we were blessed with views to a volcano on our left and cute little towns and villages on our right on our way along the narrow road, driving (very slowly and carefully) through small communities along the way– greeted by big smiles.
 
The beach where the competition was held, is hugged by beautiful cliffs and the town of Ribera Grande. Some of the local kids would hang around and grab any unwanted snapped boards and we would see them the next day surfing their new sled!
 
The town was so close to the beach, we walked to the supermarket for lunch almost every day – marvelling at the different kinds of food available in this part of the world. After long days at the beach, cheering our team, we would head back to the hotel for dinner then collapse on our beds to gather energy for the day ahead!
 
Every night, I would go to sleep and feel so excited for the next day- new experiences, exciting waves and new people to meet! There was so much adrenalin, for my heats, watching other team members heats – watching, learning and trying our best! I was so happy to reach the quarterfinals, but disappointed that my campaign ended there…I realised how much more I have to learn, practice and grow to progress in this brilliant sport!
 
It was such a good feeling to be part of a team. We all learned so much about what it meant to work together, cheering each other on, supporting and encouraging each other. With blow up kangaroos and screeching whistles, we kept up the Ozzie tradition of cheering on all our team members! I was happy to see my contribution help Australia gather the points to come 2nd overall in the world! France was so happy to win – the first time ever in history!
 
This competition, from a far, felt so daunting surfing at a world stage- but as soon as I got into the water, it was like any other and every other competition- it made me think how possible ‘big’ comps really are. Obviously with lots more practice, it makes the qualifying series not look as scary!
It was an experience of a life time and I’m so happy I got to be part of team Australia!
 
Now I’m in the land of baguettes and croissants, soaking up the incredible French culture!   

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