Lakey Peterson is back...in Australia that is. After suffering her first major injury the Californian had to withdraw from the first few events of the season. But she was in Torquay visiting during the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. "I came out to bells because my boyfriend lives here," said Lakey. "I was supposed to see him on the Gold Coast and that obviously got postponed, so I came to see him and the contest was going on--it was good to check in and see everyone and not get too forgotten about."
For the first time in nearly five years Peterson has been forced to watch without taking part, which, she says, might actually be helping to increase her confidence as a competitor. We caught up with Lakey to talk about what she's learning.
WSL: It's your first major injury what's it been like being forced to take some time away from competition?
Lakey Peterson: I've been enjoying my life in different areas which I really haven't had the chance to do in the past five years with all the traveling I've done for the Tour. It's taught me a lot of patience, but it's definitely lit a fire in me. Watching Snapper online and watching Bells live it's hard. But it's also inspiring. I've learned a lot watching Courtney and Tyler win and even the men. How they compete. I've never stood back as a spectator and really dissected how to compete as much as I am right now. I believe in myself a lot more. It's super doable to win these events, everyone surfing incredibly well, but I feel inspired to get a lot better. I feel like I can come back and do really well.
WSL: How's the ankle feeling?
Lakey: The ankle is healing really well, just had an x-ray a few days ago and stuffs looking really good. Just a long process. I don't want to push it, when I do compete again, I want to feel 100% and not feel any hesitation in my mind. This is my first injury. [I didn't need] surgery which was awesome. You always hear "my foot feels stiff" when someone injures their ankle or knee, but you never really understand it until you get injured. I was only in a cast for six weeks, but already it's lost quite a bit of strength. I've been doing work on the Bosu balls and getting a lot of balance back. I'll tie a band around my foot and just get simple movements going.
WSL: Have you learned anything from the ordeal?
Lakey: I've learned to roll with the punches a little bit better. Life just keeps going even if you get an injury you can focus on the negative or you can focus on the positive. This was an easy thing to take as a negative straight away. It was heartbreaking right before Snapper. I put so much hard work in to what I do and immediately your mind goes to a negative place. Mentally I think I've grown a lot and I'm focusing on the things I can improve while I have this time off. I've been doing different stuff with my time. Journaling a lot. Hanging out with the people I don't get to see all the time.
WSL: Are you nervous to get back in the water?
Lakey: I was just talking about this the other day. I don't want to rush it. I don't want to get to a contest and not hit a closeout section because I'm worried about my ankle. I really want to mentally and physically feel as strong as possible. I feel like they'll clear me to surf and I'll be scared to surf. Just because I don't want to re-injure it. So much of it is mental when you're strong enough to do it. It'll be interesting. I haven't surfed yet, but I think I'm close to get on a longboard. I've been bodyboarding which is pretty funny. I think I'm close to at least a longboard and working my way up from there.
WSL: That being said, the question everyone wants to know, when can we expect to see you back in a jersey?
Lakey: I'm aiming for Fiji. If I can do Brazil, cool, but I don't think that I'll be 100% by then. You never know, I could feel amazing in a week and then I'll go, but aiming for Fiji. And if not Fiji, then the US Open for sure I'll be 100% by then. I really don't want to miss Fiji of all places, it's such a fun spot and I think it's a realistic goal. My physios and my doctors think that's realistic.
WSL: Okay, since you've been watching, who's impressed you so far this year?
Lakey: It's been fun to sit back and spectate and pick it apart. Obviously Tyler and Courtney won the first two events. I've been super impressed with Carissa. I'm surprised she didn't win one of the first two events just because it seems like her heats before the semis, she seemed like the girl to beat. Steph's flow looks SO good to me as well. But I've been impressed and surprised by Johanne Defay. The last year has worked really hard and on the Gold Coast she had that really good maneuver. She's been a surprise to me coming out of the gates looking really good. I love when someone works hard and that pays off. Wilko is obviously a great example of that as well.
WSL: What do you think of Bronte Macaulay getting your spot in the events you're missing?
Lakey: When I heard Bronte got my spot I was so happy. She's a good family friend of mine and she's the sweetest girl and surfs so well. She took out Sally on the Gold Coast and Sally surfs so good everywhere I think Bronte caught her by surprise. It'll be cool to watch her at Margaret River too because she's from there and local knowledge helps so much there. Knowing which ones to go on and which ones to pass up. I think at Margarets she'll hopefully be able to show more of her talent. I couldn't be happier for her getting my spot.
WSL: Anything you want your fans and supporters to know?
Lakey: I'm not just vacationing and doing everything I can do get this ankle strong and thanks to everyone for the support and I'm looking forward to the back half of the year and just to get back in the jersey again.