The Reinvention of Sage Erickson

Sage Erickson (USA), 23, has become one of the most recognizable surfers of her generation. Rising to the highest level of professional surfing, she logged two years on the Women's ASP World Championship Tour (WCT), but a rough season in 2013 saw the Ventura, CA native fall just shy of requalification for the global circuit.

Erickson has returned in 2014 with renewed focus, turning heads at Qualification Series (QS) events, and boosting her profile across social media with a combination of stunning athletic and fashion photos. ASP caught up with her to chat about a rocky 2013, reinventing her competitive career, and her booming success as a model.

Sage Erickson (USA), 22, came into the final event of the season needing a solid result to qualify for next years elite ASP Womens World Championship Tour and the young Californian put in a banner day, posting emphatic wins in Round 2 and 3 to advance directly through to the Quarterfinals. Erickson's Semifinals finish in Portugal left her one heat shy of requalification for the 2014 ASP Top 17 roster. - WSL / Damien Poullenot

We've seen surfers fall off tour and come back stronger. Have last season's struggles made you more determined to achieve your goals? What are you working on specifically to improve your game?
That's the moment that either makes or breaks your surfing career. I know for me, falling off tour opened my eyes to what I really want out of all of this. 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!

It seems like last year was a tough season for you on the CT. Having lost your major sponsor in 2013, did that affect your confidence going into competition on Tour?
Losing my major apparel sponsor was one of the biggest hits to my confidence I've ever taken. I was with a brand for nearly 10 years, they were my support and backing financially, so without that I felt really lost throughout the year. A lot of new pressures came along with that change in my own head. The beauty is that it made me find my own two feet and ask myself what I wanted out of my career and who I really was.

It pushed me to share my lifestyle through social media and with people in a whole new way. I feel when we are in our hardest times in life and are most vulnerable to ourselves we grow the most. I wanted people to ride that emotional ride with me. Things are looking bright for me this year, so I'm going to be persistent in everything I'm doing and have that same perspective that anything we put our mind to we can achieve. Whether people believe in you or don't!

Sage Erickson (USA) surfing Round 4 Heat 1 where she placed 2nd to progress through to the final 12 surfers in the Hunter Ports Women's Classic at Newcastle Surfest in Australia.Burton Toyota Pro Men's and Hunter Ports Women's Classic Women's are ASP 6 Star Qualifying Series Rated with many of the World's best surfers competing for vital points on the Association of Surfing Professionals 2014  Qualifying Series Tour. Erickson kicked off 2014 with back-to-back Semifinals finishes in Australia. - WSL / Steve Robertson

You've had a consistent start on the QS with two Semifinals finishes and are in a solid ranking in fifth. What are your thoughts on your season so far and your performances?
Its feels really good to already have two Semifinals under my belt. We still have three events left and nothing's final until that last event. I'm just not thinking about points really and enjoying traveling to familiar places and having that competitive fire again! In 2012 I won two ASP 6-Star events and I'm craving to be back up on that podium more than ever! One event at a time, one heat at a time.

Congratulations on being on Maxim's Hot 100. How did that come about, and what is it like being featured in mainstream media?
Thanks, yeah it was such a surprise and honor! My manager got the email that I made the Top 100 and we were freaking out. Being the only surfer featured was a crazy feeling. I'm still trying to process it all. It was really cool to spend a night in Hollywood at the magazine launch party and share the same seating area with Drake, Blake Griffin, and Candice Swanepoel who's literally one of my favorite models.

We've seen female surfers both praised and criticized for choosing to incorporate modeling into their careers. How do you balance both, and what are your thoughts on being an athlete/model?
I feel there's always going to be negative criticism in everything anyone does. As humans we all have our own opinions and ideas of what something should look like, or how it's supposed to be. I think we each have our own right to pursue the things that appeal to us and make us feel alive. I love surfing and modeling. I admire beauty on a fashion side so I try and balance that into my surfing lifestyle. I have certain morals that I try to abide by also, so Maxim is as far as I go with any men's interest mag. Sorry Playboy!