Faces of 2015 is a series on this year's new and returning Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT) athletes. Since arriving on Tour this season, Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW) has been flying up the rankings. In just three events she is No. 6 in the world, and will next compete in the Quarterfinals at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro.
World Surf League: What was the moment like when you found out that you made the Championship Tour?
Tatiana Weston-Webb: The first thing that came to my mind was that my dream came true. At 18 years of age, my dream came true, and I'm going to be surfing on the Tour with the best girls in the world. It was really surreal and I couldn't believe it at first. But looking back on my year and how hard I worked, I felt like I deserved it. I am so excited to start.
WSL: How old were you when you thought, "I want to be a CT surfer"?
TWW: I was never really 100 percent, "I'm going to be on Tour." I always aspired to be one of the best and for me that was just surfing great in general, not necessarily being on Tour. When I was 14 years old I won my second or third national title and I watched Carissa [Moore] win her first World Title. At that stage, I realized Carissa won Nationals like four times, maybe I could be up there someday with the elite.
I was 15 when I surfed against Stephanie. That made me determined to beat someone like her.
From then on I knew that I needed to transition from surfing amateur events to Juniors and Qualifying Series (QS) events. I think I was 15 when I surfed my first QS at Margaret's and I surfed against Stephanie [Gilmore]. That made me so determined to beat someone like her.
When I was 17 I finished runner-up my first full year on the QS. I realized that this [the CT] was achievable for me. So there was no doubt in my mind that I had to try for this. There was no way I could not.
WSL: What was the heat with Stephanie like?
TWW: There was a moment when I was deeper than her and I went left and she was trying to go right. I got the wave and I remember that felt so cool. (laughs) Bianca [Buitendag] was in the heat as well and that was the year she qualified [for the Tour]. I was starstruck to compete against them. I remember watching Bianca [a fellow goofyfooter] surf in Western Oz and she was punting and throwing airs. I was like, "She's my idol!"
WSL: You've been competing for a while already. What has your experience been like with the industry's marketing of women?
TWW: It's definitely something I've discussed with my sponsors. It's actually been a really good conversation, people believe that I have sexy body, but they've always asked how I would like to portray myself. My response is that I want to portray myself as a beautiful, athletic woman. There's been other questions about portraying myself as nice or sexy, but I think that beautiful is the strongest word to portray a woman.
Women can be whatever they want, but it needs to be their choice.
I want to be modest, but I want to be beautiful. Women can be whatever they want, but it needs to be their choice. There are two different ways, I could say nothing and do my thing and let them run whatever ads they want to run of me. Body Glove is asking me whether or not I want to run ads and if I feel that I'm being portrayed in the way that I want to be portrayed. It works a lot better for me because they respect my choice instead of bypassing me and running the ad.
WSL: What do you think makes you different from the other women on Tour?
TWW: I think what differentiates me is more so my personality. I'm free-spirited. I try to approach surfing differently than other girls. Instead of thinking I have to train and I have to surf, I really think about how I have to appreciate everything because so many people dream to be in this position. I am so fortunate to have everything that I do, this beautiful ocean. I appreciate everything. I think if you give good vibes, you get good vibes back.
WSL: What are you nervous about, with respect to your first year on Tour?
TWW: The thing I'm most nervous about is that I have a whole island backing me and to maybe lose in the second round in the first contest would be a let down to those people. I'm not too worried for myself, I know eventually I'll get results and work my way up there. I would feel bummed for the people that have so much faith in me. Then again they think I'm such a great surfer, and that gives me confidence. I've been looking forward to day one of the Roxy Pro since I qualified!
WSL: What are your goals for 2015?
TWW: I think my goals are to stay involved in school and try to become a better person. I want to start preparing for the future. To save up, to be well backed when I finish surfing, which I hope won't be anytime soon, but my main goal is to [develop] a backup plan.
My dream came true. But looking back on my year and how hard I worked, I felt like I deserved it.
Establishing something else that I can fall back on, whether it's school or surfing lessons, I'm trying to figure that out for the next few years. I only have one class left and then I'm graduated from high school. I was supposed to graduate in May, but I've been on the road so much it's been really hard. I'm trying to buckle down on my school and get that done. Then maybe start taking some online college classes.
WSL: You seem pretty wise for 18.
TWW: My dad tells me everyday, how impressed he is that I'm as prepared and as motivated as I am at 18. He's proud of me and it makes me feel quite happy. I am a fan of partying and dancing, but when the time's appropriate. If it's New Years it's one thing, if it's Manly it's another.
I can be a total goofball with my brother and when I'm around my family. But when you're traveling and surfing professionally you have to be really well-rounded and you have to make a good impression for everyone in the surf industry.
WSL: What are your earliest memories of surfing?
TWW: I first got into surfing because my brother Troy. He and I would always play in the shorebreak and one day he told our dad that he wanted to surf. Eventually, I started surfing with my brother and it became competitive between me and him. I was so hooked on surfing, that If my dad didn't take me I would cry and stomp my feet and throw the biggest temper tantrums. It was just something I really loved.
I was 8 when I got my very own surfboard, but I was always on my dad's boards before that. I remember like it was yesterday, he had this big orange board that he would push me into waves on.
My mom was the one with the determination and contest knowledge.
WSL: What was your Mom's role in your competitive surfing?
TWW: My mom [Tanira Weston-Webb] was a professional bodyboarder and won a contest at Pipe in 1996, the year I was born. I think right after I was born she flew over [to Oahu] and won the contest, which is pretty amazing. To say my mom was a Pipe champ is awesome. It's usually the dad, but my mom was the one with the determination and contest knowledge. Which is pretty cool.
It wasn't just my mom who was competing, but her sister as well. So it was always my mom and my auntie on the beach whenever my brother and I competed. Having them in our corner really helped over time.
WSL: Do you have a coach or is your training mostly homegrown?
TWW: I have worked with Kahea Hart a bit, he's an amazing surfer and trainer based on the North Shore, but it hasn't been consistent because I don't live on the North Shore. Most of my training is surfing at home or getting advice from my mom.
WSL: Did your family travel with you to Australia?
TWW: Usually my mom and dad switch off, they both have businesses back home so they can't really be away for too long. My dad is with me in Australia and he could not be happier, he's like a grom, it's so funny. He's like, "I'm gonna go for a surf! I'll see you later!" And I don't see him for three hours. He's awesome. It helps a lot having support.
It's really different actually because my mom and dad are such opposites. When my dad's here, I have to buckle down on myself. My dad films me when I surf and of course tells me what he thinks is wrong and right, but my mom is completely different. She plans out my day more and tells me, "Okay you're going to bed now and waking up at 6 to surf, then you're coming back and doing this and that." (laughs)
WSL: Who has inspired you to get where you are today?
TWW: My inspiration when I was younger, was all Rochelle Ballard, Layne Beachley, Lisa Anderson and Sofia Mulanovich. Those four women really inspired me.
Since I was 14 it's always been the same girls: Steph, Carissa, Malia Manuel, Sally (Fitzgibbons) and Tyler (Wright). I think being so young and having known and watched them for four or five years already, it's almost like I know what I'm getting into in this level of surfing. Which is better than it ever has been. I can't believe I'm now part of that generation, it's amazing. I have to convince myself that I'm good sometimes.
WSL: How do you tackle tough moments and who do you rely on through them?
TWW: I definitely lean on my boyfriend and my whole family is amazing. They always have unconditional support and tons of nice things to say. They all text me and call me. And of course all my friends. Their words and their belief in me is indescribable. If you never waver in your thoughts, you're lying. There's always doubts and always belief. Belief has to overcome the doubt, because then you can do anything. Of course I have doubts, but there is a lot more belief.
Belief has to overcome the doubt, because then you can do anything.
Certain things work for certain people. I pray everyday, I believe in God. For me it's God and my family. I try to be the best person that I can be everyday. These work for me.
WSL: Is there anything that hasn't been revealed yet in this interview, that you'd like to discuss?
TWW: Most people look at me and are like wow you must train so often, you must work out because I've been naturally blessed with a muscular body. I don't train as often as everyone thinks. I really believe that surfing is the best training I can do for myself. I'm going to try and do it a little more.
Don't miss Tatiana Weston-Webb's rookie season kick-off at the 2015 Roxy Pro Gold Coast LIVE at worldsurfleague.com starting February 28.