With rapid success on the World Junior stage and ASP Qualification Series, Bianca Buitendag's emergence among the ASP Top 17 came as no surprise. The athletic South African proved she needed no adjustment period on WCT, immediately logging a fifth place finish at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast, asserting herself as a serious threat among the world's best surfers.
Bianca's success at Snapper would act as a building block for the 2013 season, with the goofy-footer finishing the year comfortably at No. 8 on the rankings.
With the women's 2013 season culminating in the fall of last year, Buitendag has had ample time to work on her game for 2014 and is hungry to launch her sophomore assault among the world's best.
You were the only true rookie on the 2013 WCT, but you seemed to find your feet quickly and finished No. 8 overall. What was your experience like competing as a rookie?
Competing in my rookie year was intense. I had a lot to figure out and there were many challenges that I had to face for the first time. At the same time, if you are on tour, you are one of the most privileged people in the world. Not many people have the amount of opportunities that you do. And above that, finishing in the top 10, you can't get the smile off my face.
Now that you've had a successful season, what kind of pressure are you feeling coming back on tour for your second year?
Pressure comes from having some sort of fear of the future. I have given up on that. Sure, you will always be nervous, sure you will want to perform and push yourself, but putting pressure on yourself doesn't benefit anyone. It is all already decided.
Following a Top 10 finish, how important is it to cement yourself as a Top 10 surfer and World Title threat this year?
It is very important to keep the ball rolling. I have set goals, and goals always get higher. So I am there to give it my all, and I will be happy with wherever that takes me.
What were the highs and lows of 2013?
The thing I learned the most doesn't really have much to do with surfing. I learned that you have to know who you are. You can't see yourself from a performance point of view. Your results can't define your identity. I think I got sucked into that quite a bit, and that's where the lows started to follow. We are loved no matter what happens, no matter what we achieve or don't.
The Roxy Pro Gold Coast is just around the corner, how much more prepared are you in 2014 than last season?
I feel a lot more excited, and then the usual, good boards, good support, etc, all modified to be more effective. I also have a little more belief in myself.
What are your goals and expectations for 2014?
My goals are high and not safe. I am ready for the year to start. This journey is an opportunity of a lifetime and I can't begin to tell you how grateful I am for all of it.
Watch Buitendag compete at the Roxy Pro Gold Coast from March 1 - 12.