FROM THE INSIDE OUT ON TOUR WITH PAIGE HAREB
After a bit of time at home enjoying family, friends and my re-found love for golf I was straight back into a new year of competing with the first event kicking off in January, there wasn’t much time for rest. A new 6000 event in Florida, I went with a goal of wanting to carry on my momentum from last year and start 2018 strong. With my first heat being super nerve-wracking and to the point where everyone had given up on me (even myself almost) with five seconds remaining I had last priority and for some reason the girl coming second didn’t stop me from going. I went on to do two whacks to get a 7 and get through the heat! Don’t EVER give up! I then went on to win a few more heats and end up with a keeper result of a 5th place finish first up. I’ll take that thanks! Florida you think of nice balmy weather and water where a lot of people head to for retirement. However, we unfortunately struck a bad cold snap. I was down at the beach with five layers on, unprepared and shocked that it was three degrees! I semi got the job done that I went there to do and we also luckily timed it right to see a rocket launch at NASA.
Back to my second home on the Gold Coast for more training, technically in the water and at the gym. May I just slip in that I was pretty proud to get up to squatting 100kg! Working with my Mt Woodgee surfboard shaper Wayne McKewen on new boards for the World Championship tour but also different boards for the qualifying series as the waves are slightly different haha. My next comp was the annual 6000 rated event in Newcastle (highest rated events on the Women’s World qualifying series). With past good results here including a 2nd place last year, I was coming into it pretty confident. The tables turned from Florida and unfortunately getting knocked out in the last minute in my first heat was not my plan. Those first round losses really suck and it took me a good couple of days to really let it go and focus on trying more new boards for the next comp the week after in Manly. Most boards are made out of a ‘normal’ foam which myself and most other surfers use day in day out and then there’s other boards made out of a material called epoxy. This material makes the surfboards super light and buoyant a bit like a cork. It’s known by surfers to be really good in really small waves which Manly was really small. I'd only had two surfs on this new epoxy board but it felt great right from the get go. Sometimes using a new board in a competition can be scary because you may not know exactly how it reacts in some turns or certain part of the waves so it can be a bit of a risk for falling off, stuffing up and not getting the scores you need. So, I bit the bullet and used the new epoxy board! It went amazing! I got a lot of people telling me how good it looks and it helped me surf all the way through to the semi-finals and finishing 3rd! I had never ever got a result in Manly. I just wouldn’t say it was ever my ideal conditions but out of all the years this year was probably my least favourite conditions. Almost flat! I even came up against Silvana Lima (Brazil) - the small wave queen in the quarter finals. She’s amazing in those conditions and somehow me and my new favourite board beat her. Don’t EVER give up!
Then back to the Gold Coast again for the ‘Dream tour’ to start. I’d known for a few months that I had re-qualified but I don’t think the true feelings and excitement really kicked in until my first heat started! It was so good being back in the water with the best in the World. Narrowly missing out on winning my first heat against Sally Fitzgibbons and Silvana Lima. I lost in round two to eventual event winner Lakey Peterson. I felt really good within myself and my surfing and my boards felt amazing. I didn't hear but my friends told me that the commentators kept saying I was the 'new and improved' Paige back on tour. Obviously like any competitive person, I was pretty bummed about losing so early on, but a lot of positives came out of it and I was super excited to head back to Bells!
It has a place in my heart as I first came here over a decade ago for the International grom final which was run alongside the CT here, so I got to see all my heroes in real life for the first time ever then eventually went on to qualify and surf against a lot of them. This year the famous Bells beach contest was Mick Fanning’s last CT event before he retires while for me it’s my 50th CT event of my career, making it extra special. Where has the time gone?
Still feeling super young and fit but I’d like to think with a wiser head on my shoulders, I went into Bells with a fair bit of confidence. First heat against World Champ Tyler Wright and Malia Manuel at Winkipop - a shorter wave than the famous Bells bowl but fast with a nice shape, more of a high performance wave. Again, feeling like I got a good couple of waves and surfing well but unfortunately only getting a couple of five point rides. Not only in that heat but as the contest went on for the Men and Women, it became pretty obvious how harsh the judges were judging and how hard it was for us surfers to get a score over a six. We actually discussed it at a surfers meeting with one of the guys saying “it’s easy to get a 4.5 but then sooo hard to get a 5.5”. I think with the best of the best in the World surfing the best waves and there was only something ridiculous like three rides over eight points. There was talk of even having a meeting between the surfers and the judges before the next event Margaret River starts.
Anyway round two against six times World Champ Stephanie Gilmore, I knew I had my work cut out for me and had to be on my game. I worked with a local guy who knew the breaks well, he gave me the best tips which made me feel so comfortable out there. Everything went to plan minus her eight-point ride. I even nearly got a seven, unimaginable after the firstround scores haha. So pretty happy with my performance and how I managed the heat but still wasn’t enough to beat the champ. The positive I take into Margaret River with me now is two events from two, both winners had to beat me to win overall. Third times a charm? Who knows? I can’t let it get me down because win or lose, yes, I do bloody want to win every single heat but at the same time, yes, I’m living the dream!
Paige back on the Dream Tour and flying our flag at some of the most iconic surf locales on the planet, Bells Beach, Rip Curl Pro.