It's been a busy year for Chelsea Tuach (BRB), who competed in two top-tier Championship Tour (CT) events while working on getting her ranking up on the Qualifying Series (QS). And it paid off: She finished the season ranked No. 4 on the QS, and is the first Barbadian to qualify for the CT.
Tuach's ascent to pro surfing's upper ranks has been steady and stunning. In the past three years she's won five Junior Tour events and two North America Junior titles. This season she finished in the Quarterfinals or better in four QS events, including a win at the Pantin Classic Galicia Pro in September. At the CT events in which she surfed in 2015 -- the Vans US Open of Surfing and the Roxy Pro France -- she surfed against this year's two World Title contenders, Carissa Moore (HAW) and Courtney Conlogue (USA).
While she was competing in her 18th event of 2015, the Sprite Soup Bowl Pro Junior, Tuach chatted about her upcoming rookie season, what got her there, and what she'll need to stay there.
Name: Chelsea Tuach
Hometown: St. Michael, Barbados
Shaper: Michael Baron
WSL: You've had a busy year, competing in 18 events. Do you have a favorite?
Chelsea Tuach: This year I think Pantin was been my favorite. My mum and I got to Spain two weeks early and we spent the first five days in Oviedo Spain. My mum went to university there and we met up with her friends who took us around. Spain is such a beautiful country. I think I did so well in Pantin because I was able to really relax before the event. Exploring Oviedo took my mind off of surfing for a bit and helped me get over the jet lag. Once I got to Pantin my mind was rested and I was ready to compete. My mum and I had great seafood meals everyday, and we were getting on great with the locals. It really felt more like a vacation than a surfing competition... up until I heard I was close to qualifying.
WSL: And when you did qualify, what was that moment like?
CT: I had just won the Pantin Classic QS 6,000. When I came out of the water, one of the officials came up to interview me, he told me I was now fourth on the QS rankings, which means I'd qualified. I was so overcome with emotion. Hearing those words was a dream come true.
WSL: Do you remember your first surf session, who you were with and how you felt?
CT: I had my first surf lesson with my sister. I still remember the first wave I ever caught, getting to my feet and riding the wave all the way to the shore, with my mum on the beach cheering. I was grinning from ear to ear on the paddle back out. It was so exhilarating. I couldn't wait to catch my next wave.
WSL: What was it like competing against the CT women as a wildcard this year? What did you learn?
CT: I learned a lot this year competing as a wildcard. It's a different ball game. I changed my normal gameplan up and I knew I couldn't hold anything back. I learned that I have to be confident in myself and my surfing, and not worry about who is in my heat.
WSL: Who inspires you?
CT: My family inspires me to be the best version of myself. God inspires me. I know that whatever happens is meant to happen. And the girls on Tour. I met Carissa [Moore] and Sally [Fitzgibbons] when I was younger. I thought they were amazing, I loved their surfing and the way they carried themselves. They inspired me to push my surfing and to one day make the Tour and surf with them.
WSL: Who is your support team? Who do you travel with? Do you have a coach/trainer?
CT: I hope to travel with my mum and coach Jim Hogan next year. I have a trainer at home, George Griffith, who's whipping my butt into shape for next year.
WSL: What are your goals for 2016?
CT: It's a whole new chapter in my life. I just want to take it all in, and do my absolute best surfing.
WSL: What are you nervous about for your first year on Tour?
CT: The transition from QS events to CT events. I want to stay confident, and not overthink my heats.
WSL: You'll be the only woman representing Barbados. What does that mean to you?
CT: I'm so excited to be able to represent Barbados. I've always had great support from my island and I can't wait to make them proud next year.
Catch Tuach and the rest of the Top 17 women on the Championship Tour when the 2016 season kicks off on the Gold Coast March 10.