COOLANGATTA, QLD/Australia (Thursday, January 9, 2014) â€“ After six years of battling on the ASP Qualifying Series, last year Dion Atkinson's (Seaford, SA/AUS) dream came true, he officially qualified for the elite ASP World Championship Tour. Dion has been close to qualification in the past and narrowly missed out, but this time he made it, securing spot 31 out of 32.
Atkinson is renowned for his hard, powerful and fast approach and he's hoping that these characteristics will help him be successful on this year's WCT, especially in waves of consequence at Fiji, Teahupo'o and Pipe. ASP caught up with Dion while he was at home in South Australia, a few days after he found out his qualification spot was official.
Tell us about the moment you found out you'd qualified for the 2014 ASP WCT? It felt like a two week process, I got the 4th place at Haliewa and I felt like that should've been enough to qualify, but after the event I ran into Al Hunt (ASP QS Tour Manager) and he mentioned I was still on the bubble. It was a long wait till Sunset was over and then I returned home before the Pipe event started. I don't think I've been more nervous watching anything in my life than the first few heats. It was hard to watch, so after that I tried to not watch it anymore. When Round 3 came up and I knew that if Pat Gudauskas and Dusty Payne went down in their heats I would be safe. I woke up in the morning and saw that Patty fell to Julian (Wilson), I started breathing a little easier and then Dusty had Parko (Joel Parkinson). It took a day or two for it to really hit me, I was in shock, I was shaking and at times trying to fight back some tears. It really felt like an emotional roller coaster that I just wanted to be over. I was just really overwhelmed with joy!
When in the year did you think you were starting to get close? I knew after my first three events I had a really good shot at it, I had a 5th in Saquarema Prime, 9th Margaret River Prime and a 5th at Newcastle Surfest 6-Star. It put me in a really commanding position and I knew I just needed a few more solid results or one big one! I had been in similar position before and fallen short at the end of the year, so I knew not to get ahead of myself.
Tell us more about watching the Pipe event and doing all the math in your head. Yeah it was one of the worst weeks of my life! I was on edge for the whole 10 days! The fact that it was totally out of my control was the hardest part to accept. I hate to celebrate someone losing, but I have worked at this for six years now and I just didn't want it to slip away and I really feet like I deserve my spot on tour next year.
What was different about last year for you compared to others when you've been close? There was less events and that worked out good for me. I find I get a bit lost when you just go from event to event all around the world. We had a few longer breaks in between and it really let me reset my mind and train for the next one. I told myself this year I would cut a lot of the distractions out of it and give it a really good crack. If I was to go down, I would do it swinging and on my own terms.
A big turning point for me was last year seeing Micro (Glenn Hall) qualify. I had always admired his surfing and dedication over the years and to see him qualify comfortably really made me want to go out and get it this year. It just felt different from watching Gabriel Medina go out there and do acrobatics and flog us all on the QS. Micro looked so polished all year and didn't falter to many guys. I knew that if I tried to fine tune my surfing and really believe I'm good enough it should all fall into place.
What is it going to take to succeed on the WCT? I'm just really going for it! I want to take it to these guys and give it a really good crack. I believe I am good enough to be on the WCT and I really want to not put any pressure on myself and surf smart heats and rip, and hopefully get really barrelled in the process.
What are you most excited for on the 2014 WCT? I'm really excited to get into some of the more serious waves like Fiji, Teahupo'o and Pipe. I've never been to Fiji or Teahupo'o so to see them live and surf in those events will be unreal, I have been dreaming about since I was a kid. I'm most excited to put a rashie on at Snapper and get the year underway. I have been dreaming of having a shot on Tour since I was about 16, so I really can't wait to see how I will go. The waves on the WCT are all world-class, so I would be lying if I said I wasn't excited to get to every event!
What are you most nervous about? I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little nervous about seeing a code red swell hitting for Teahupo'o for day one of the comp. Plus other things like Filipe Toledo doing giant alley-oops in my heat, but all of that is out of my control and I'm going to make myself ready for those situations. A lot of the things that make me nervous quickly turn into excitement as I can't wait for all the new challenges the WCT will bring.
How has the news been received at home in South Oz? It has been crazy down here. I seriously never knew so many people followed me or even surfing for that matter! The support has been huge for me. It has been a long time since Jarrad Howse was on tour and all the South Aussies had someone to really get behind and cheer on. I am proud to be from down here and fly the SA flag and stoked there is such a following at the moment. The surfing industry and vibe has really boomed down here in the past few years and everyone I have come across has been so unbelievably stoked for me.
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