For the past month I’ve been competing around Australia – from Bells Beach to Newcastle. We had decided that this year, I would venture into a new world of Pro Juniors and even try to get into a couple of World Qualifying Series competitions.
The best girls in the 18 and under divisions and open women from all around the world want the top spot to either represent their country at the World Pro Junior or qualify for the World Championship Tour – the WCT.
It’s quite hard to even get into the competitions themselves; first you have to establish a ranking, but you can’t really do that without entering a competition first, so it’s quite a challenging process! I’m starting with baby steps!
We started by packing our boards into trusty (rusty!) old van and driving 1786 km to get to the subway pro junior competition at Bells beach in Victoria. It always has an amazing, sacred atmosphere. During one sunset surf session a seal popped up in the line-up…while I was on a wave! We love the Atlantic.
Soon it was time to compete. I had a good start in my heat- getting some scores, but as the perfect 4 wave set came through, I was 4th priority and the girls suddenly let the first wave go. This meant they got the rest… and I was waiting for a wave that never came…
So, for the rest of our time there, I got to soak up the powerful energy of Torquay coastline and have fun with good friends we were staying with; music, wood fired pizza parties and lots of laughs! It was great to catch up with Laura Enever too – who came along as the Subway ambassador – so much fun!
Next we drove through 15 hours in 40C heat in our hot wheels to NSW for my first ever QS 1000 comp. Yep, that’s commitment! The destination was Maroubra – just outside of Sydney.
I surfed the small, difficult conditions and missed out on getting through my first heat by 0.1. It was really hard because I was so close!
But there’s always a good side to the surfing rollercoaster! It meant I had a couple of days to explore Sydney, reconnecting with friends, watching street performers, exploring the harbour on the ferries, surfing under rainbows and taking in the iconic sights.
We went to sunny Cronulla for another Pro Junior. I felt nervous but excited to surf my heat- and with some fun waves, I got through. I was so relieved to make it, even though my next heat was full of surfers who ripped. I had so many funny times, meeting new friends and old, some longer than 5 years. I didn’t get though my next heat but again absorbed it all and wrote it down to learn from.
A week later, I competed in my second QS 1000 in Cabarita, just 30 mins down the road! I progressed through my first heat with a lot of seaweed in my hair, ready for the next heat. I had big names again in my round 2 heat but I tried to turn my nervousness into light-hearted fun! It was another loss – but my score was decent and I felt encouraged to keep trying.
The last competition for a while was held in Newcastle. I was pretty sick, with a sore throat and swollen glands and had just finished a photo shoot with 14 hour days. We were about to cancel, but thought that we should soldier on and see what it was like to compete with this bit of handicap. We drove through the night to realise I was on the last heat of the day – in the middle of a heat wave (40+C) and all we had was our oven-like car with no air-conditioning to rest up in – about as useful as a surfboard with no wax!
And then came another challenge. Even though my heat was already stacked (with Nationals under 18s winner India Robinson and Brazillian champion Taina Hinkel), it was an added surprise to see that World junior champion Macey Callaghan was put in our heat as well!
Macy had just won the Boomerang beach WQS that morning and had arrived too late her first heat (so the other two surfers got a walk through) . Instead Macy was added to the last heat of the day. Oh well – nothing like surfing a final in your first heat!
All I could do was to try and hold onto my confidence, repeating the mantra in my head; ‘I can do this’. I stuck with the heat- posting a respectable score and then needing just one more wave. Well… The wave never came. I was out of another competition.
I felt really frustrated because my score line would have gotten me through almost every other of the 7 heats. So after less than 12 hours in Newcastle, we drove the 8 hours back home to a full day in bed with lemon and honey and ginger tea.
This whole experience was about growing, learning and realising what it takes to reach that next level. I feel more certain that it’s not an impossible feat – just one more turn, one more level of commitment, one more stroke of luck in finding the right waves!
So this year, I’m dipping my toes in the pond of high level competition. Next year I hope to wade through the shallows. Finally, with a lot of hard work, coaching (thanks Clayton!), support (thanks Mum, Billabong and everyone else!) and a bit of luck – I hope to dive deep into serious competitive surfing!