Paige Hareb, win­ning gold

Adventure - - #209 -

It was the first week in May and the Founders Cup (the equiv­a­lent of the World Cup) of surf­ing was be­ing held in a man-made wave pool in the mid­dle of the Cal­i­for­nia desert. This was a first-time event, both in the lo­ca­tion and the for­mat, pit­ting five na­tion-based teams against one an­other at the WSL Surf Ranch.

To make it even more in­ter­est­ing, Taranaki lo­cal, Paige Hareb was rep­re­sent­ing New Zealand in the World Team, up against teams from Aus­tralia, USA, Brazil and Europe. This was the best of the best, three men and two women in each team with the team cap­tains able to pick the very best from their re­gions.

So, I woke early to check the up­date on the NZ Her­ald on­line page and de­spite search­ing through ev­ery page I was un­able to find a men­tion of it. So, I tuned back into the on­line WSL site to see what was hap­pen­ing first hand. I tuned in just in time to see the World Team knock out one of the favourites, Team Aus­tralia, in a nail bit­ing end to the first rounds, and against all odds, the World Team made it through to the fi­nal three. More im­pres­sive was the fact that Paige Hareb had been a star per­former and the com­men­ta­tors did not let us for­get it, con­stantly re­fer­ring to her im­pres­sive per­for­mance. So, I went back to see what the NZ news had writ­ten about it, yet I could find noth­ing. Not a thing. Tak­ing the time dif­fer­ence into ac­count I waited and con­tin­ued to check through­out the day to see what would be made of our lo­cal girl’s con­tri­bu­tion to such an up­set, yet no mat­ter how many times I looked I could not find any­thing. The next day the fi­nals emerged, The World Team up against the pow­er­house Team USA and Brazil. Both teams boast­ing nu­mer­ous World Ti­tles be­tween them, the World Team were def­i­nitely the un­der­dogs. So, you can imag­ine the ex­cite­ment when against all odds, the World Team went on to take out the event, knock­ing out 11 x World Cham­pion, Kelly Slater and his team mates in­clud­ing 3 x World Cham­pion, Carissa Moore and cur­rent World Cham­pion, John John Florence, and our very own Kiwi lo­cal was one of the stand­outs.

De­spite Paige’s im­pres­sive per­for­mance, cov­er­age in New Zealand was poor to say the least. How­ever, this is just one of the many chal­lenges faced by ath­letes of “mi­nor” sports and par­tic­u­larly fe­male ath­letes of those mi­nor sports.

Lucky for us we have known Paige since she was a wee grom so we thought we’d get the goss straight from the horse’s mouth while she was home re­cently be­tween events.

What was the vibe like at the Founders Cup? It was the best event I’ve been to. Ob­vi­ously, all the surfers were su­per happy to be surf­ing there but Kelly Slater has the whole surf ranch set up pretty well in­clud­ing huge buf­fet meals three times a day like you’re at a flash, healthy wed­ding. I think ev­ery­one was less se­ri­ous and hav­ing a lot more fun than any other con­test be­cause it didn’t re­ally count for any­thing. No real ti­tle or prize money, just there hav­ing fun.

Tell us how the wave worked and how did it dif­fer from nor­mal waves? Kelly and his team have worked out that it’s per­fect to make a wave break ev­ery four min­utes to let the wa­ter set­tle af­ter each wave. You can ride a wave for about 50 sec­onds com­pared to a ’nor­mal’ wave would be at least half that amount of time, so your legs can get pretty jelly like.

For some­one who is not a surfer can you ex­plain the chal­lenges? It’s a pretty per­fect set up for a surfer so I guess the main frus­tra­tions say are you want to try new things but if you fall off at the start, wait­ing 4 min­utes feels like for­ever. There’s also a good bar­rel at the end of each wave so you al­most would rather go straight the whole wave just to make sure you get to the bar­rel sec­tion to get tubed (in­side the hol­low part of the wave). Train­ing there, surf­ing a wave for 50 sec­onds ev­ery four min­utes can get su­per drain­ing and your legs fa­tigue quickly, also be­ing in the mid­dle of nowhere in desert-like heat, you get de­hy­drated very quick with­out re­ally notic­ing too.

Can you ex­plain how the com­pe­ti­tion was or­gan­ised and took place? WSL (World Surf League) hadn’t re­ally done a con­test like this be­fore. The team for­mat was new to ev­ery­one. Five teams con­sist­ing of five peo­ple, three men and two fe­males. Ev­ery surfer gets one left han­der and one right han­der (a wave go­ing each way). They were scored on this, the we all got two more goes to try and im­prove our score to go to­wards our fi­nal team score.

How was the en­vi­ron­ment and how did it dif­fer­ent from other com­pe­ti­tions? To start with you have to drive four hours in­land to the mid­dle of nowhere. As a surfer I’ve never ever done that be­fore, so it was a sur­real feel­ing. Be­cause there’s only one wave ev­ery four min­utes, you’re the only surfer in the pool so ev­ery­one is watch­ing you. There’s noth­ing else go­ing on so there’s a whole lot more pres­sure on you to per­form or crack un­der pres­sure. Ev­ery day I was there I had a lit­tle gig­gle to my­self and thought, “where the hell am I surf­ing right now?!” You’re lit­er­ally in the mid­dle of a dessert but Kelly has made the surf ranch feel like home.

Do you think be­cause wave se­lec­tion was made for you, you per­formed bet­ter? I think it def­i­nitely takes that skill and/or luck out of it with wave se­lec­tion and just came down to pure tal­ent on the wave. I re­ally liked it be­cause yes, I don’t have the best wave se­lec­tion some­times haha.

Could this be the plat­form for the Surf­ing Olympics? Yes, it could be but it’s still up in the air. I know WSL and a lot of surfers would like to see a wave pool used in the Olympics just be­cause it is such a level play­ing field, but also ex­cit­ing. We just re­ally don’t want to rely on mother na­ture to com­pete for a gold medal be­cause it could be 1ft and on­shore and no one wants to watch that. 2020 is the first time we will see surf­ing in the Olympics, so we want to show the world how amaz­ing the sport re­ally is and to rely on mother na­ture, it seems a bit risky to me.

Were you aware of the lack of cov­er­age back in New Zealand? I did hear from a few peo­ple claim­ing that the cov­er­age of it was bad in NZ, which sucks be­cause there’s so many peo­ple in NZ that surf and are in­ter­ested in it. We only want it to get more pop­u­lar too and more cov­er­age

"I know WSL and a lot of surfers would like to see a wave p pool used in the Olympic­syp jjust be­cause it is such a level pplay­ing y g fiElD, But Also ex­cit­ing. "

will help that. I think some me­dia did even­tu­ally catch onto af­ter a few com­plaints but that’s not good enough, surf­ing de­serves cov­er­age.

Does the me­dia pres­ence or sup­port ef­fect your per­for­mance? To be hon­est I re­ally don’t care whether I’m in the me­dia or not but for the ac­tual sport, it is nice to see it get­ting cov­er­age and this was a surf­ing first, I was sur­prised the me­dia weren’t onto it in NZ. It’s ironic be­cause it was the first event that CBS (Amer­ica’s largest TV net­work) wanted to talk to WSL and broad­cast it be­cause you could say, “we are start­ing on Satur­day at 9am no mat­ter what” be­cause you don’t need to check the con­di­tions, you know that its per­fect waves and go­ing to be run­ning and you know what time. Just that in it­self is a bit of a game changer for surf­ing’s fu­ture.

You have spent your adult life as a pro­fes­sional surfer, and have rep­re­sented not just your­self but New Zealand as well – You have had some great suc­cesses would you see the win­ning of the in­au­gu­ral Founders Cup the pin­na­cle or is there an­other mo­ment that tops that? The surf ranch re­ally did blow my mind and I guess the more I think about and look back on that mo­ment, it def­i­nitely was a big and spe­cial mo­ment I will never for­get. I’d say it was def­i­nitely up there with one of my ca­reer high­lights. I’m com­pet­i­tive though so I still want more haha! I think win­ning a world qual­i­fy­ing con­test and qual­i­fy­ing for the first time will al­ways be a fond mem­ory, 3rd in my first ever World tour event just los­ing to Steph Gil­more and re-qual­i­fy­ing af­ter be­ing knocked off for three years is an un­for­get­table mo­ment too. All spe­cial and close to my heart for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

Im­ages by WSL/Ces­tari

ABOVE: Gold medals for Team World (l-r:Kanoa Igarashi (Ja­pan), Paige Hareb (NZ), Jordy Smith (South Africa), Bianca Bui­tendag (South Africa), Michel Bourez (Tahiti)

ABOVE: Hard to be­lieve this wave is miles from any ocean... Kelly Slater's wave pool pro­vided the per­fect plat­form for Paige Hareb to show­case her tal­ents

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