New Zealand Surfing - - News -

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!

Photo: WSL/Ces­tari

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.

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