Making it to the Top 17 of the Samsung Galaxy Championship Tour (CT) takes just about everything a pro surfer has physically and mentally, but staying there requires even more. None learned that lesson harder than Chelsea Tuach, Barbados' first-ever Championship Tour representative, in 2016. But that's not keeping the 21-year-old from heading into a fresh season with a bright outlook.
The WSL sat down with Tuach before heading into the first women's Qualifying Series (QS) event of the season as she prepped for a stacked 2017.
WSL: Looking back at a tough CT debut, what did you take from that to build upon as you look to requalify?
Chelsea Tuach: The biggest thing I learned is how prepared I had to be for a contest and how certain I had to be in myself. Last year I think I put too much pressure on myself and surfing with the big girls I got really uncertain in myself, my equipment, even my fins and my game plan overall. So that's what I'm going to bring into this year is not second guessing myself at all. It feels so simple and I knew that, but once you get put up against the big girls it's intimidating.
WSL: How difficult was it to fight that mental drawback of surfing against the world's best?
Everyone was always saying "you have to bring your best game and surf better than you've ever surfed before" and that's not really true. You can't overthink and move away from your comfort zone, that's where the uncertainty lies. You have to know that you surf well, and can push it hard of course, but just tell yourself you can surf well, you're on good boards, and that you can do this. I never had time between events to cope with the loss and get my confidence back. With that, there's so much built up inside of trying to get a good result and good waves, it's almost like a cramp inside with all that pressure.
You can't get out of your comfort zone, that's where uncertainty lies. Last year there were a lot of low points where you start asking yourself, am I cut out for this...But, then you go home and remember...you're inspiring other people.
WSL: How important did you realize spending time at home was after experiencing those heavy moments?
Last year there were a lot of low points where you start asking yourself, am I cut out for this, am I good enough for this. But, then you go home and surf, and remember not only how well you surf, but also remember that you're inspiring other people. Even if you don't get good results you still sit back and think I am good enough and I'm happy.
Even if it's a bad day at Soup Bowl where it's all washy, just dropping into a sketchier wave is great considering I don't get it too often there. It renews your love of surfing. The girls had smaller waves this year and that can be a bit repetitive, so just going home, having big waves and just switching to bigger boards is so nice. It's such a change and so much more exciting.
WSL: You also were able to put in some time with those people who you're hoping to inspire while at home.
Last year we got to take disabled kids surfing, many of them didn't have their arms or legs, and they were just so excited - it was the best. A bunch of the surfers got together over the holidays when we're all home and we just took them out to this little wave you can walk to so there's no danger element. Those days really help get you re-inspired for the year to come.
There was a girl who had a big operation and had her hip joint removed. She just wanted to go surfing and she couldn't even walk a few years ago but she told me "I can walk now, take me surfing." It's fun days like that where I don't think of competitiveness and just think about the love of the sport and sharing that.
WSL: Throughout your time on tour was there any passions you were able to find time for amidst the hectic schedule?
I'm studying Nutrition and going into more of the psychology part of that and it's really cool. I want surfing to be one part of my life and have something else to go to as well. I'm so inspired by Sally [Fitzgibbons] with her business and surfing, it's like results don't define her, she's doing more with her life. I feel like my mind opened a lot more to life last year to the way I can grow myself, not just as a surfer, but as a way to impact people. I was looking at that a lot and psychology really caught my eye.
It's been a big thing for me to stay positive and I've had a lot of positive people around me so I felt like I took a lot of blows, but they didn't go very deep because I had that support. So I want to study that a lot more and find out how all of those things can affect your health, and also the nutrition aspect of staying mentally healthy and happy.