The year 2017 has opened up a new level for me in surfing professionally – moving from grom comps in Australia, to competing in the World Qualifying Series (WQS) all around the world – thanks to extra help from my main sponsor, Billabong. The confidence to keep going and set the bar higher reflects the belief and support from so many – especially from my family. It’s given me the courage to travel overseas (often as a solo traveller), follow my heart and beliefs on environmental campaigns and share the stoke of a sustainable surfing lifestyle.
In 2017 I started in my first ever WQS (1000) event in Marourbra in January, where I didn’t progress through the first heat. I learned a lot, and took this into the next event in Cabarita where I did move at least through the first round. Meeting Tanika Hoffman on a Billabong shoot in Canada started me thinking about going to South Africa to do some WQS events in June. Thanks to incredible support from Sophie Bell and her family and coach Clayton Neinabar, I had one of the best experiences of my life travelling alone to a most beautiful country and, as a bonus, came away with 3 runner-up results in the Pro Junior events and a semi-final finish in a WQS 1000, the Ballito Pro. This gave me an international ranking, in turn opening up opportunities to enter more competitions. I ended up competing in two more WQS 1500 events (France), a WQS 3000 (Japan) and into my first, top ranked WQS 6000 in Port Stephens, Australia. I am now sitting on a WQS ranking of 113, which helps me get into more competitions in 2018.
Back on the Gold Coast I was stoked to win my age division (16 and under) Snapper (Rules!) Surfrider club rounds, especially having been overseas for 3 months of the year – with some of the best upcoming surfers in Australia, it’s a great burst of confidence on the competition scene.
I am very grateful to be supported by: Billabong as my major sponsor (who have taken me to some amazing places this year!), GoPro (story telling essentials and the equipment just gets better and better), Shapers (board hardware by local family legends), Firewire surfboards (a new relationship that started this year I’m super stoked about!), Clayton Neinabar (the best technique coach in the world! Hehehe!) and an ongoing collaboration with Amazonia (for ethical, organic, vegan acai and other health products). I’ve really tried to align with companies and causes that represent who I am – or who I want to be!
Environmental actions in 2017
- Supporting the SeaBin Project led to presenting the company at the Byron Bay Surf Festival with a talk and video
- Joining the FireWire Surfboards team, leading sustainable surfboard manufacturers, was a perfect fit. It feels so good to ride high performance boards that cause less harm to the planet – the way of the future!
- India – My Mother took my brother and I to this amazing country to visit environmental projects and we hung out with a bunch of groms from Mumu’s Surf School! They do beach clean ups in exchange for using the boards, a great way to take care of the heavily polluted beaches of the South East coast of India. We donated 5 pre-loved boards to the school and cleaned the beaches with the groms!
- Japan During the WQS 3000 in Kamogawa, Japan, I noticed the competition site was just 700m away from a SeaWorld, literally a few meters separating the tanks of marine animal to the Pacific Ocean. That really affected me. It was heartbreaking to see the animals struggle to find a way out! I thought it would be torture being be to hear the waves and salty breeze and not be free. I made a video to highlight that most people around the world have no idea that orcas shouldn’t be in small tanks. I look forward to going back to Japan and supporting the inspiring grassroots movements to live more gently on the Earth.
- Surfrider Foundation. My family and I joined some of the beach clean ups – including at beautiful south Stradbroke. I also take part in the Eco Surf Challenge every year, promoting ‘Alaia’ surfboards made from ecological sourced timbers. A great time for the family and the earth! Towards the end of the year I helped promote the new Smart Fin program (http://www.surfrider.org/programs/smartfin) where important information about the sea water quality is recorded and uploaded to a data base. And this is all happening while you surf! I think it’s very valuable to understand the ocean’s health as it ultimately reflects on our own health, so by learning, we can begin to take greater care of our seas, as it provides us with so much.
Travel and sharing stories/ Social media
I could never have imagined the way life has unfolded – I feel lucky to have been nagged by my mother to write blogs, make video logs and keep sharing my experiences through Instagram and Facebook. It’s not easy, takes a lot of time and energy, but hopefuly interesting and encouraging to others! There are currently 53K people following my Instagram account, which has evolved organically over the years. I really hope it empowers people, especially girls, as a platform to promote healthy and sustainable lifestyles and stand up for important causes. I feel like it helps me share stoke – not only about surfing, but about life in general – we have so much to be thankful for! Also to have the tools to be able to DIY it – filming, editing, directing, producing – learning so much as I go along.
Current social media platforms include:
Right now, my main focus is still on improving my surfing. This has meant daily coaching (thanks Clayton!) and physical training and thousands of hours in the surf! Mid-way through 2017, I made the choice to finish school and carry on with online studies so I could to travel more easily and focus on the opportunities that surfing is offering for me right now.
Empowering girls in the Surf!:
It’s so exciting to see so many more girls jump into the ocean and give surfing a try! There have even been days when I’ve been out in my local break and there are more girls than boys out there (sorry guys!). Last year Laura Enever invited me to be part of the ‘Sol street’ celebration – encouraging girls to feel confident in themselves and in the ocean, dancing, laughing and playing in the waves! We came up with the ‘Queen of the Groms’ idea to try and get some more exposure for women progressing their boundaries and pushing their surfing (info here: https://pachalina.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/queen-of-the-groms/). India Robinson and I started an Instagram account (@queenofthegroms) to showcase girls surfing and started generating some energy around this – hopefully we can move it forward in the year ahead.
Future plans 2018 and beyond:
In 2018 I plan to focus on my surfing, training very hard, doing as many Pro Juniors and WQS as I can – taking me to some incredible places all around the world. My aim is to move up the WQS rankings into the top 50 by the end of the year. There are so many variables, including timing and travel budgets – but I hope to be able to get in to the WQS3000 events and maybe even into some premium WQS6000 competitions this year. On the WQS competition bucket list are places like South Africa, Europe, the USA, Bali, the Philippines, Japan and the Caribbean.
We are also planning a trip home to Ecuador – reconnecting with our Latino family after 5 years! visiting our friends and our cloud forest reserve, surfing (maybe in the Galapagos ?!) and catching up with what’s been happening there. I look forward to raising awareness about the incredible biodiversity and culture in Ecuador and support important causes to protect the cloudforests especially. We are also planning to connect up with WQS surfer Dominic Barona and hopefully promote more surfing, especially for groms!
I’m so excited to compete, experience, learn and grow as well as having lots of fun and hopefully getting together some good results! One of the things I have learned the most over the past year is in ‘keeping things real’ – making choices that are true to who I am and what I believe in – in quite a confusing and crazy world. It is definitely a work in progress, but it seems to have led me in the right direction up to now!
Thank you again for all your support and looking forward to sharing this journey with you!