THE GRIND

New Zealand Surfing - - Behind The Cover -

We­take a look into the hearts and minds of our latest World Qual­i­fy­ing Series(WQS) Kiwi cam­paign­ers life on the road liv­ing out of a suit­case, chas­ing the dream to one-day chal­lenge for a spot on the il­lus­tri­ous Pro Dream Tour.

For ev­ery surfer with an as­pi­ra­tion to make a liv­ing from the sport, there are cer­tain path­ways that must be taken to ob­tain not only the skills, but the ex­pe­ri­ence and pro­file that is nec­es­sary to achieve this goal, usu­ally by way of the com­pet­i­tive scene. Com­pe­ti­tion breeds suc­cess, in­no­va­tion and drives per­for­mance and the bound­aries that any sport cur­rently sits. Sure, there are some ex­cep­tion to those rules with overly tal­ented X-fac­tor per­form­ers be­ing able to make a liv­ing from sim­ply be­ing what we have la­belled free-surfers, not con­strained by the rules of com­pe­ti­tion, yet ev­ery sin­gle one of those said ath­letes, started their ca­reers by way of com­pe­ti­tion. Here in NZ most young com­pet­i­tive surfers start out in friendlies at their lo­cal board rid­ers or school events, move into the grom series of com­pe­ti­tions, step up into the ju­nior ranks, and then into the Open field. The cream al­ways rises to the top and those who dis­play tal­ent, whether that be raw or re­fined are usu­ally se­lected as part of de­vel­op­ment squads, and set their sights on com­pet­ing against the best groms from across the ditch and other parts of the world in the Aus­tralian Grom comps, and then grad­u­ate into the most il­lus­tri­ous ju­nior com­pe­ti­tion in the world the Aus­tralasian Pro-Ju­nior Series, which over the last 30 years has been the fac­tory which has pumped out many of the world’s great­est surfers. With an eye on the ul­ti­mate prize ‘The Dream Tour’ the only way to qual­ify for that is by way of the World Qual­i­fy­ing Series where six women and 10 men qual­ify for the fol­low­ing years ‘Tour’. It is a cut-throat world, where weak­nesses will be ex­ploited and hearts bro­ken. Not only is the com­pe­ti­tion el­e­ment super in­tense but be­ing on the road away from the com­forts of home and get­ting by on the smell of an oily rag, at­tempt­ing to lift one­self from the pits of dis­ap­point­ment and build on the highs of suc­cess are some of the rea­sons those that par­take in the WQS have for years la­belled it ‘The Grind’.

"It is a cut-throat world, where weak­nesses will be ex­ploited and hearts bro­ken."

Ella Wil­liams Age 21 - 4 sea­sons WQS You’ve stepped into the glad­i­a­tor pit of the WQS tour look­ing to one day put a run of re­sults to­gether to qual­ify for the Dream Tour, how much of a step up from the Ju­nior series was the WQS?

Yeah, the step-up num­bers wise is huge. The lev­els are ris­ing so much. Now there are a good 400 girls try­ing to qual­ify. So, the goal of be­ing in the top 6 is a tough one to crack. But noth­ing worth hav­ing comes easy, right?! I'm go­ing to con­tinue to knock on that door!

Cur­rently there are only 6 highly rated 6000 events on the WQS, a few 3000 mid­dle range events and many lowly rated con­tests which don’t al­low the nec­es­sary points to gain a good seed­ing or have a shot at qual­i­fy­ing. While you now have a high enough seed to gain en­try into the 6000 con­tests, what process did you have to take to achieve this seed­ing?

I had to start at the bot­tom and work my way up. That's the only way when you're start­ing out. I had no points I had noth­ing when I started. So, I did WHAT­EVER comps I could pos­si­bly get into. Even­tu­ally, I got my first break into one and I was away.

You’ve had a few epic re­sults win­ning 1000-point events, but the re­al­ity of these wins at these events is they won’t go to­ward your points in an ef­fort to qual­ify. Why do you tar­get the lowly rated events as well?

Thank you. Yeah to­tally. Well, the best train­ing for a real comp is ac­tu­ally do­ing them! So if you're some­where in the world and there's other con­tests you can enter, take it, go for the op­por­tu­nity. It can be a great warm-up for the next big comp you have com­ing up for sure.

I'm sure you’ve heard it be­fore “you’re so lucky that you get to travel the world and surf?” What is the re­al­ity on the WQS Vs what you thought it would be like be­fore you started your cam­paign?

Yes, I do get that a lot ha­haha. Well, the re­al­ity is that it is your job while you're away. Some peo­ple have visions of us sit­ting on the beach get­ting tanned cruis­ing and some­times peo­ple paint a pic­ture of it to be like that on so­cial me­dia. But the re­al­ity is, you're there to do a job and that in­volves a lot of hard work, ded­i­ca­tion and com­mit­ment. A lot that peo­ple don't see.

It must be fi­nan­cially strain­ing for your fam­ily and your­self to put in these cam­paign year af­ter year, how do you get by?

Yes to­tally. Ev­ery­one has dif­fer­ent paths of how they ap­proach the WQS. But I would say get your lo­gis­tics right. Plan be­fore you head away. I'm lucky enough that I do have an air­line spon­sor, Air Tahiti Nui that spon­sors me. The big chunks that it takes out will be travel, food, ex­tra board charges, ac­com­mo­da­tion. But if you plan well enough you'll be pre­pared for what­ever un­ex­pected charges come up.

Ob­vi­ously the tour is the dream goal, but you also ded­i­cate your time to keep­ing in­volved in the NZ con­test scene and have won back to back NZ ti­tles, does the Na­tional Ti­tle still mean a lot to you?

Yes! To­tally!! That NZ Na­tion Ti­tle is HUGE to me! It's al­ways been a dream of mine to win a NZ Na­tional ti­tle, it ac­tu­ally took me a lot of years to get it too! It's not an easy feat. So many amaz­ing tal­ented NZ Women have achieved that. So, to be along­side by all of those names and to be a part of it is so spe­cial to me :)

So, af­ter sev­eral years do­ing these con­tests, you’ve no doubt seen and ex­pe­ri­enced and also learnt a lot, what does it take to get a roll on and get the nec­es­sary points to qual­ify with so lit­tle events to do so in?

I have. For me, I say it's like go­ing back to school. Why do I say that?... Be­cause ev­ery comp I have gone in for sure I have learnt some­thing new. Go into it with an open mind, will­ing to take from it and learn from it. Peo­ple of­ten say to me "so when are you go­ing to get on the tour?' I say when I'm ready the time will be right. It's not a race. I think you can't put a time limit on these sorts of things. I know I'm not. I know that I have so much more to learn. So much more room to grow. That when the time is right I will be ready for the world tour.

"It is def­i­nitely one of the hun­gri­est line­ups espe­cially when its pump­ing ev­ery­one wants that bomb."

Korbin Hutch­ings You were one of NZ’s top ju­niors, win­ning the U16 Na­tional Ti­tle in 2013, as well as a host of other ju­nior comps and rep­re­sent­ing NZ at the ISA World Ju­nior Champs, at age 13 you moved to Australia to live with your mum, while you came back to NZ for the Na­tion­als each year, what level of surf­ing were you in­volved in based in the Gold Coast?

It was a lit­tle daunt­ing mov­ing over at first but mum was amaz­ing with help­ing me find my feet and en­rolled me in Palm Beach Cur­rumbin State High School (PBC) which I was super stoked on, the few peo­ple I knew from com­pet­ing and trav­el­ling that lived on the Goldy went to PBC. It’s the don of all schools over here and has an aca­demic and sport­ing ex­cel­lence pro­gram that’s where I tri­alled for a spot in the Surf­ing Ex­cel­lence Pro­gram and ended up get­ting ac­cepted. So, my whole high school­ing in­volved surf­ing as a sub­ject, the class was four days a week and we had our two main coaches/teach­ers and num­ber of dif­fer­ent coaches who would of­ten come and shed a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive on things. This is the same school that Mick, Joel, Mitch, Jack and heaps more went to, so I felt ex­tremely priv­i­leged to be a part of it my­self, this is where I felt took me up a level. I was sur­rounded by the best kids on the Gold Coast and a cou­ple in­ter­na­tion­als who would do ex­changes. Then there’s just liv­ing here in gen­eral, like you pretty much see a Pro or ex Pro ev­ery time you go surf­ing. When I was a grom­met I would trip out and be los­ing it but it just be­comes so stan­dard that now you're hun­gry to be amongst it rather than sit­ting there in awe. To just be out there and see­ing so much good surf­ing around you, you’re non­stop tak­ing all that in, and it mo­ti­vates you so much, espe­cially surf­ing with my mates! If they are rip­ping all you want to do is be match­ing them or go­ing big­ger. The crowd fac­tor plays a big part too, like if you’re out there surf­ing good, peo­ple see that and know not to drop in or if your pad­dling you kind of get right of way, vice versa to if you’re hav­ing bit of a shocker you’ll be get­ting faded.

You’ve dab­bled in the WQS events in Australia, which events have you tar­geted and why? And what does 2018 have in store?

Yeah, I have dab­bled in it, the events I have tar­geted are ones that are close and easy to get to. It's a pretty tricky one to navigate, I have ba­si­cally just done the events as set up work, the Aus leg is ridicu­lous, peo­ple chase it from all over the joint, ev­ery comp’s around 124 at least and the main rounds are filled with Pro guys. The re­serve list is just as big as the comp! Peo­ple are try­ing to break into the bracket but be­cause of no prior points and seed­ings they can’t even get a start which is super hec­tic be­cause where do you start? I’ve

Age 20 - 2 sea­sons WQS

been pon­der­ing on what I want to do in 2018 and am still a lit­tle un­de­cided, I’m go­ing to do the Aus leg and re­assess the sit­u­a­tion af­ter. Comp surf­ing is a whole dif­fer­ent ket­tle of fish espe­cially in the big­ger leagues, I’m us­ing the back end of this year to get my surf­ing to a point where I’m con­tent and con­fi­dent, that's when I have found the most suc­cess.

WQS events are renowned for be­ing held in some pretty average con­di­tions, while Australia has some epic surf have you ever scored smok­ing waves for a comp?

Ha­haha damn straight, I still don’t get why though but that's just how the cookie crum­bles, same for ev­ery­one! The best waves I have scored in a comp would prob­a­bly be a Snap­per Surfrid­ers Open Club Champs, she was on the pump!

Liv­ing on the Gold Coast you’ve been lucky to wit­ness and rub shoul­ders with some of the best surfers in the world in some of the hun­gri­est line­ups, does this prep you well for com­pe­ti­tion in the big league?

Yeah most def­i­nitely! Like I said be­fore, you’re con­stantly sur­rounded by Pros, ex Pros and just straight up shred­ders, ob­vi­ously heaps of kooks too but it’s a surf­ing Mecca. I’ve been for­tu­nate enough to meet a lot of the best and even be­come friends. It is def­i­nitely one of the hun­gri­est line­ups espe­cially when its pump­ing ev­ery­one wants that bomb, and it’s got so much cov­er­age too, filmers and pho­tog­ra­phers all over it, to be sur­rounded by that for sure drives you to be surf­ing at your best.

Be­com­ing a pro-surfer is ev­ery grom surfers dream but it comes with huge fi­nan­cial cost and life sac­ri­fices must be made, on the flip side you just did a trip to G-Land scoring pump­ing waves, would you rather surf com­pet­i­tively or free surf. Con­sid­er­ing you could buy 10 trips to G-land a year for what it costs to do part of the WQS.

G-Land was epic! The last time I was there I was 12 and wasn’t re­ally able to take it in for what it is, so I was pumped to get back there and score waves. This is a ques­tion that gets thrown around a lot and I find I’m ask­ing my­self that a lot as well, it’s tough los­ing and even tougher los­ing when it’s mis­er­able surf, scoring pump­ing waves is the pin­na­cle of surf­ing. Ev­ery­one wants to be get­ting pump­ing waves, but the trav­el­ling as­pect of it all is what I love, go­ing some­where you haven’t been and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing things you have never ex­pe­ri­enced and a lot of the time you’re do­ing that on the QS too, I'm still un­sure of the path I would rather, but at the moment I’m just find­ing my way and tak­ing things as they come! Win­ning is a pretty spe­cial feel­ing though.

Daniel Farr You've been steadily chip­ping away at the ProJu­nior Series, this year you turned your fo­cus to­ward some WQS events, tell us more.

At the be­gin­ning of the year my pri­or­ity was the Aus­tralasian Pro-Ju­nior Series and I did a few QS events that dove tailed with those events as I was at the location al­ready. (EG Avoca). Af­ter the Pro-Ju­nior Series fin­ished I turned my at­ten­tion to the QS and gain­ing a good rank­ing to pre­pare for next year. South Africa had a good QS and Pro-Ju­nior leg and with fam­ily con­nec­tions and a strong ex­change rate it seemed to be a good call. SA was a great trip and I man­aged to get some good re­sults that en­abled me to qual­ify for the QS 3000 at Cloud 9, Siar­gao Is­land, Philip­pines.

You’ve com­peted against the best in the NZ Open events, the World ISA Champs and the top ju­nior series in the world, how much dif­fer­ent is the WQS in com­pet­i­tive­ness?

It's an­other world en­tirely, ev­ery­body rips and you are com­pet­ing against guys who have so much older and have a lot more ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge. It's just crazy be­ing sur­rounded by all these big names and guys from around the world I grew up hear­ing about and watch­ing.

You hear quite of­ten that it’s a learn­ing process do­ing your first few years on tour, what is there to learn?

Smart ways to travel and how to con­nect with peo­ple from around the world are just a few things but the big­gest thing I have learned is that you can­not pre­dict the out­come of the heat. You just have to choose the best waves and do your best surf­ing - the rest is out of your con­trol. Ev­ery sec­ond is one big learn­ing op­por­tu­nity just by watch­ing and talk­ing to guys who have been around for a long time I have al­ready learnt so much.

Rank­ing is key, how do you plan on get­ting enough points to gain en­try into the higher rated events such as the 6000 and 10,000’s?

Get good re­sults, that's the only plan that works! My cur­rent rank­ing will

Age 18 - 2 sea­sons WQS

get me into the QS 3000’s next year and I need to con­vert that seed­ing into re­sults to push me into the top 200 and en­try into the 6000’s – that is my goal for 2018. I'll do the 1000’s and 1500’s but the 3000’s is where you make the real jump up the rank­ings and make money to get to the next event.

Surfers around the world don't have the same in­dus­try sup­port of years gone by, with big money con­tracts, team man­agers and houses at ev­ery stop on tour, how do you get by fi­nan­cially?

I am grate­ful for the sup­port of my loyal spon­sors, (O’Neill, Sea­sons Surf­boards, Globe, Sticky John­son, Fu­ture Fins, Crea­tures of Leisure, Leus) I have a great team and I be­lieve they are do­ing their best to sup­port me in tough eco­nomic times and a small surf in­dus­try. My par­ents how­ever have been my ‘ma­jor spon­sors’ all my life and con­tinue to make sac­ri­fices to get me to where I need to be, I am also work­ing two part time jobs in be­tween my school­ing to con­trib­ute as much as I can. We try to re­duce costs by stay­ing with friends, not rent­ing a ve­hi­cle, trav­el­ling with other com­peti­tors and split­ting the costs helps. Also choos­ing a leg with back to back mul­ti­ple events re­duces costs so you only pay for one flight which is the bulk of the ex­pense. Each event costs roughly $2000 on average. Less for Australia but more for Europe. I have done 16 events in 2017 so you do the maths. Not to men­tion WSL In­sur­ance ($1500), WSL Mem­ber­ship ($1000) and event en­try fees ($200-$300 US)

There's a lot of sit­ting around at tour events wait­ing on standby and for heats, do you get to score any other surf­ing at qual­ity waves nearby dur­ing these events?

Not re­ally to be hon­est. The comps and free surf­ing have been pretty average al­most ev­ery­where I have trav­elled to this year, it's of­ten bet­ter back home. But no mat­ter what the con­di­tions, shar­ing waves and mak­ing mem­o­ries with good mates makes it worth­while.

"It's an­other world en­tirely, ev­ery­body rips and you are com­pet­ing against guys who have so much older and have a lot more ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge."

With a cou­ple of WQS wins and full time chas­ing the tour do­mes­tic comps back home still sit high on the agenda for the cur­rent Na­tional Cham­pion Ella Wil­liams. Photo: Cory

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