Sage Erickson hasn't had the easiest ride on surfing's elite stage. But this year, she just might be switching from survival mode to consistent success.
This week at the women's Drug Aware Margaret River Pro in Western Australia, Erickson has made it to the Semifinals, where she will face reigning World Champion -- and defending event champion -- Tyler Wright. But if that sounds like a heavy matchup, it won't be the first giant that Erickson's faced at the event. In the Quarters, she took down perennial Championship Tour (CT) titan and fellow Californian Courtney Conlogue. It was a huge coup for Erickson, but an equally huge loss for Conlogue, who is no doubt gunning for another shot at the World Title.
For Erickson, though, every heat win is more fuel for her potential momentum. Since arriving on Tour as a rookie in 2012, she's been surfing for pure survival, punctuated by flashes of brilliance. Short on enough points from CT contests, she's relied on her Qualifying Series (QS) results to keep her spot on the CT every year except for 2013. That year, her backup plan went bust and she fell off the elite Tour roster.
But instead of walking away completely, she spent 2014 regrouping, regaining her focus, and making another run on the QS to requalify.
"Falling off Tour opened my eyes to what I really want out of all of this," Erickson said at the time, in an interview with the WSL. "Coming so close at the end of last year to requalifying in the last two World Tour events made me see this year in a whole new light. If I want to be back on Tour and stay there, I have to get better at surfing and learn to love the competitive atmosphere that each event brings. I want to prove it to myself that I deserve to give it another run."
That resilience may be paying off. After surfing her way back to the CT in 2015, Erickson has had strings of early defeats, with one Semifinal finish later in the year (in 2015 she finished third at October's Roxy Pro France; in 2016 her third-place finish came in September, at the Swatch Women's Pro). This season, however, she's already achieved her previous season-highs -- and it's only April.
It's possible that her success so far at Margaret River is just another bit of ephemera, hinting at her full potential. Or, just maybe, she's ready to realize all of that which she's capable, and move from Tour threat to a real contender, ready to take on -- and take down -- the titans.