Lift Off!!!

I’m taking off to South Africa…Tomorrow!

Whaaaaat??? Did you say Africa??!!!

Beyond my wildest dreams – ummm Yep! , it’s definitely one of those pinch me moments…

So, how did this happen?

Well it started with my snow buddy and pro-surfer friend Tanika Hoffman putting the idea in my head of coming over to do some surf contests.  Then I discovered that my coach Clayton Neinebar (and family and little bro Yani) would be going over around the same time and then Billabong said; ‘yep – go for it’!  Finally, a lovely girl I met in the surf at Snapper, Sophie Bell, said – yeah, come over – we can do all the competitions together!

It’s made me reflect on just how lucky I have been and how grateful I am to everyone and everything that’s helped bring me to this amazing surfing life – to my sponsors; Billabong, Go Pro, Von Zipper, Shapers and Amazonia company. And big thanks also to my muscle master Peter from Source Condition Gym and meticulous surf coaching from Clayton – I can’t thank him and his family enough for all their support. To my Boardriders club Snapperocks and the Surfing excellence program at my highschool (PBC) for all the motivation. Thanks to the many wonderful surf photographers always sharing their images and to all the surf buddies sharing the waves. Thanks to my family for unconditional support, honesty and love and finally thank you to the Ocean for not only giving us waves, but the very air we breathe!

Africa – it’s Africa!!!

My main priority will be competing in the 6 WQS and Pro junior competitions – at the South Africa Open of Surfing in Durban, the Jordy Smith Capetown Pro and the Billabong Ballito (you can follow these via the World Surf League web page: http://www.worldsurfleague.com). Hopefully getting a ranking will help me get into more contests next year.

And did I mention IT’S AFRICA?!!

Land of wild things and inspiring peoples – I am so excited to learn and experience and share the story in this amazing country! I’ll keep doing the video logs and posting Instagram stories – so please feel welcome to follow along!

The countdown is on!

Thanks to the support from friends, family and super sponsors, I’ve been able to reach my fundraising goal to get to ISA World Junior Surf Titles in Portugal! I can’t believe the generosity of so many amazing people, helping me live my dream; it’s very surreal that in less than 5 weeks I’ll be traveling with Australia’s best surfers and coaches to the middle of the Atlantic! I didn’t know that the Azores islands even existed! 899km off the coast of Portugal, in-between America and Europe, I’m so excited to not only travel and compete there, but take you all with me through the power of social media! I’ll be snapchating all throughout, plus vlogs and blogs!

 

It all got a bit more real last week when I joined the Surfing Australia’s HPC preparation camp for those who qualified. We met our team manager and coaches as well as bonding with one another with a hilarious trust exercise (Thanks Botts!). We surfed out stormy Duranbah, imagining how unpredictable and ever-changing the Atlantic could get… And then I sprained my ankle! Emotional roller coaster! I was so sad that I missed out on the second day of the camp; it was just so much fun! But thanks to the people at the HPC, I met with my first physio, Tim Brown at Summit Physiotherapy and Shoulder Centre. He’s helped Mick Fanning, John John Florence, and Courtney Conlouge who have all had an ankle injuries recently. After some inspection he reassured me that it wasn’t a bad one –  I just needed 3 days of staying very still before starting the rehabilitation and strengthening. A couple of weeks out of the water for me, mind surfing and mental preparation, lots of core workouts and some homework. I’ve also made a short video of my training with Clayton Nienaber, who is the only coach on the Gold Coast that uses waterproof radio helmets so he can communicate with us while we are in the water! Here’s the link (https://youtu.be/AhPlfTKGtdw)

I’m so excited to see what the future has in store, but I’m even more excited to share this journey with you all!

Including, a fun night with some live music at the Dust Temple in Currumbin! On Thursday the 25th of August from 6-8pm, come along as a thank you for helping me achieve my dream!

PS. Thanks to Juan Medina for the awesome night photo!

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Road Tripping – Billabong Oz Grom Cup

Last week we loaded up our trusty van, Bruce, to take a 4 hour trip down south to beautiful Coffs Harbour for the Billabong Oz Grom Cup surfing comp. It’s a bit like a family reunion, meeting people from all over Australia with a love of surfing and a drive for winning!

Everyone’s checking out each other’s equipment and seeing how much they’ve improved their surfing since the last comp. This one is held over 6 days, with the conditions in the surf changing hour by hour! My first heat was held in 1-3ft waves and light winds – so much fun and I won by posting one of the higher heat scores of my division. It was so much fun staying around the competition site with my friends – playing and running around. 
I want to thank the Joesphsons, Bow and the Walters for letting me bunk with them during the comp… It’s been awesome seeing my friends that have a goal of being a pro surfer (I definitely do too) and watch them try and try to achieve it. That pushes me to try new things out in the water in order to move my way to the top. 
Three days later and the quarter finals were held in small, choppy waves with a strong northerly wind! It was no point waiting for a good wave – you just had to take any chance you could get and hope you could make something of it…it didn’t work for me. I lost in the quarter finals.
It was such a shock and disappointment.
I had done everything I could do in preparation for this – working hard and training, staying near the competition so I could stay in the ‘zone’, not staying up late with friends, but getting up early for surfs…None of it stopped the heat from going pear-shaped for me. Was I over confident? Wrong time of day? Blame the girl who was hassling me? Blame the waves? The wind? Myself? I feel like I let people down. I feel like I let my sponsors down. I felt like I let Mum down who had taken time off and driven all this way. I feel like I let myself down…
How do you ‘shake it off’ and bounce back? 
Mum took me to the place she had been staying – a community near the ocean where her friend lived in a self-sufficient, solar powered cabin in the middle of a national park. It felt like home – away from the noise and buzz of the city and competition zone, to the green peace of the rainforest. It felt like my soul was expanding again – connecting with all the other life forms that are there if we only stop to notice…
We all squeezed into the tent- top and tailing it – then woke up at dawn to walk 10 mins through the rainforest teeming with life, to reach the most beautiful, empty lineup I had ever seen. Despite the leeches, cold showers and no flushing toilet, I found out that the more simpler it gets, the more you stop and appreciate the things around you – which gave me a perfect transition into the next step from falling down… Getting back up. 
Now it’s training everyday, 4-5 hours in the water building on my strengths and working on my weaknesses, finding new competition strategies, gym sessions for muscle building to boost my power in my turns and remembering to appreciate the simple things…😊 
  

        

  

     

Winning The Wahu

Last year was my first year of competitive surfing. It started with the Gold Coast Wahu Surfer Grom Comp, where I didn’t make the final – so I really wanted to show how much I’d work through the year to do well to get a win under my belt in the wahu of 2015.

My nerves were on edge. The comp was being held at the North side of the Spit in Surfers Paradise because, even though it’s on the Gold Coast, I’d never surfed there before and the new surfboard hadn’t arrived yet – so I had to stick with my dinged up dingo! I calmed down as I went for a surf and realized my practice on the lefts had developed and I felt comfortable. It wasn’t so comfortable in the blazing heat of the day – with little shelter available on the white sand.

I had two big goals – to post good scores and to win my heat. I was happy with a healthy 7.5 and 5 and won the first round – my confidence was boosted!

Straight after the heat we dashed to Burleigh Heads to help out with the Billabong Bikini Truck and watch the Billabong Burleigh Single Fin Classic, meeting up with the legendary Dave ‘Rasta’ Rastovich and Lauren Hill. There were really fun vibes there – a really good atmosphere! Even with a SWARM of jellyfish closing in on the competitors, everyone had a good time J

On the second day it was overcast and rainy, the complete opposite to the previous day and we all huddled up under our friends the Campbell family’s tent (thank-you!) to watch the competition. There were even more stinging ocean creatures today and I was quite freaked out because I’d never been stung by a bluebottle before…

Anyway, I was sitting out in the line up for a warm up surf and felt a really sticky stinging sensation and found a bluebottle lightly touching my thigh. I quickly grabbed it and threw it away and caught the next wave in. To be honest at that moment it hurt but it disappeared fast. That wasn’t so bad!

I had another great heat – winning two out of two which put in the red rashy (seeded first ) in the final. I wanted this so badly, I hadn’t won a proper comp all last year, so this would really kick things off. I even wrote a little note to myself to help me focus! We shared it around all our friends who were competing that day and they say it helped them a little too!

It was time. The next 20 minutes would be the decider, now I just had to make sure that I produced the winning scores.

I had a steady lead but there is always a chance to better your scores so I made sure no one was catching up.

As the 30 second mark was approaching I glanced back at shore and saw all my friends cheering on the beach. My friend Jaggar was in the U14 boys final after me and gave me a thumbs up.

3…2…1… BEEP!!

I had done it. I had won! I actually felt like it was just a heat win and it wasn’t that big but I was still really happy. I caught a wave in and did 3 big turns that many people said was the best wave I had caught all competition – after the buzzer!!

As soon as I saw all the other girls in the final I gave them a big hug J

I am really appreciative for all the support from my family, friends and sponsors.

Thank you!!

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Sunny Sunny Coast

Unfortunately, for most of the time it wasn’t sunny in the Sunshine Coast, it was quite gray, but the experience that we as a family went through was quite extreme and definitely memorable.

We left the goldy with enthusiam buzzing under the surface but as we were on the road about 30km out of Coolum (where the Wahu Surfer Grom Comp was being held) smoke suddenly started rising up out of our car and the engine got really hot really quickly, so we had to pull over and my mum franticly called RSCQ and arranged a tow tuck while I texted all my friends that I knew who were going to the comp and could pick me up so I could make it on time for my heat. Luckily, Kate Leeuwendal asked Jacqui O’Sullivan to drive to where we were and pick me up in time for my heat. I was really stressed out because I didn’t know what would happen to mum (who had to be towed to a mechanic in Coolum) and if it would be expensive to fix- this was not really good for my mind set for the heat. I also didn’t go for a free surf before and I was not focused- which led to my horrible decisions out in the water and ended up with a 3rd in my first heat. This meant I had no chance in to get to the final- which was my goal. But before I knew how I went, Surfing Australia did an interview with me and I thought that only the people who win get an interview so I was really excited (you can watch it here: http://www.mysurf.tv/categories/loungeroom/satv/463-wahu-surfer-groms-comp-sunshine-coast-december-2014?page=4 ) until I saw that I got 3rd and my smile dropped. I calmed myself down and thought to myself, “I have to show them I can surf! I might not get into the final but this is my time to shine.”

That was my goal, not only to win my heat, but post big scores.

Our plan was to sleep in our car but since it was parked at a mechanic 20 Kim’s away we had to find another option. Luckily Kate graciously invited us to stay with her in her apartment with Shaye. It was so nice of them!

The next day I awoke with fire I my belly, I wanted this. I went out for a 45 min free surf and got my head in the right space. Mum helped me stay completely focused- conserving energy for my heat (which worked!). By the time I got my rashy, I was ready. I warmed up and paddled out with all the other girls in my heat, completely focused. Once the hooter blew, I got my game face on and waited for the first wave.

As the heat finished, I paddled in with a good feeling in my gut. When mum congratulated me, joy over came all emotions, I was so happy and grateful as everyone congratulated me as I walked up the stairs. I got a quick look at my scores and was so happy with my 7.83 and 6.0.

But I had not done enough to make the final, so I just cheered on my friends who made it and wasn’t so upset with myself because of my self-redemption in the last heat. Chairing up my friends was the highlight! I was sharing their joy and that made me feel so stoked.

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Surfing as a way of life – The Byron Bay Surf Festival

It’s good to remind myself sometimes that surfing isn’t just about competition and most people who surf do it just for the love of it – the Byron Bay Surf Festival is a celebration of the soul-surfing way of life.

We took a road trip an hour south to Byron to take a look at this event that has become even bigger and better than last years!

This year, the Byron Surf Festival (@byronbaysurffestival) opened with a free outdoor screening of a surf movie about a group of empowering women featuring Ishita Malayvia (@surfishita), the first recognised female surfer in India and our friend Lauren Hill (@theseakin). We got there early to sit in the front row on our blankets with out squishy pillows and who did we see? It was Lauren and her partner Dave Rastovich with their cute, energetic dog Yogi, surrounded by kids who wanted a pat!

The movie was beautifully made and among many important points shows one reason why so few Indian women go to the ocean – they want to stay in doors so they can have fair skin and look after the household for their husbands. Ishita is so different – having so much fun surfing in the sun and waves. Just think, a population of a billion people and she is the first female surfer… absolutely awesome.

We went along the next day to a workshop aimed at exploring more of these issues, hoping to encourage more girls and women throughout the ‘developing’ world to start surfing. Meeting Ishita was so inspiring – I hope I can also help encourage more girls all around the world to learn about the joy of surfing!

Lauren Hill (@theseakin) was also part of the panel discussion and is so inspiring to me because she, like Dave Rastovich, is a sponsored free surfer and has dedicated her life to empowering women and all people live happy, ecological lives. I was lucky enough to stay with her and Dave Rastovich last year and because their lifestyle is like my lifestyle, we had the same kind of point of view. She is always so happy and enthusiastic and is a pleasure to be around.

This year, we could only go for one day but that day was full of meeting old friends and new friends. Another highlight was meeting Tom Carroll and nervously asking for his photo- such an amazing guy, charging massive waves at 50 years old. It was really funny when my friends from my old school all jumped into a canoe a man carved out of wood, and it tipped backwards and forwards until my brother stepped out and landed straight into dog poo. I couldn’t breath I was laughing so hard! Until he wiped it on my leg…Lets just say, Yani isn’t going to do that again. Hahaha!

Before we knew it, it was time to go home… But experiences like these will stay with me and whenever I struggle in competition surfing, I will remember, competition isn’t everything.

Beyond the Surface trailer and website :player.vimeo.com/video/59163560

http://www.beyondthesurfacefilm.com

Lauren’s Blog : http://seakin.wordpress.com/

Byron Bay Surf Fest info: http://www.byronbaysurffestival.com

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Whales, Sharks and Dolphins – our companions in the surf

Every time I go for a surf, there are creatures (other than humans!) I am sharing the water with. A pod of dolphins leaping and squeaking and playing in the waves, a turtle flapping on the edge of the rocks – I’ve even had my first experience with a shark recently when I was paddling over the Tweed River to surf on the other side. It wasn’t bothered with me, but I did paddle the fastest I have ever paddled to get back to shore!
Over the past weeks thousand of humpback whales gave been passing by for their annual migration. Even Migaloo, the great white whale, has graced our coastline. Usually we see them further out to see – a puff of water vapour near the horizon, or a waving flap of a flipper or sometimes the whole body launching out of the water – but sometimes these magnificent creatures are slowly passing just metres away (especially out at one of our favourite surf spots at Snapper Rocks).
One young whale came too close a few weeks ago and was stranded on the beach just a few kilometres from where we live. We could see a massive crowd of people on the beach and decided we couldn’t really help but would maybe stress the whale even more. There is a local Seaworld rescue team here with lots of staff and equipment, who took control of the operation and luckily, after many tries, the whale was eventually rescued.
The worst thing here on the Gold Coast is killing sharks because the government is scared they’ll attack humans. They do this by using baited drum lines or putting out nets to tangle them. The problem with this is that sometimes whales and dolphins get caught and die too.
A baby humpback died in shark nets just a couple of weeks ago (http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au/news/baby-humpback-whale-dies-in-shark-nets-off-bilinga/story-fnj94j0t-1226996463582) and another one was only just rescued a couple of days ago. It seems crazy. The only shark attacks here seem to be from the aggressive bull sharks that live in the river mouths – not in the ocean.
Every surfer knows there are risks – but they are so small compared to the joy of catching those waves! Even ‘soul surfer’ Bethany Hamilton, who lost her arm in a shark attack, overcame her fear to go back in the ocean and still thinks they are magnificent creatures.