Keely Andrew grew up as a competitive-natured, Sunshine Coast kid with her sights set on being a professional athlete. Ultimately, deciding which of her favorite sports to pursue was one of her toughest decisions, as she was accomplished in several. But surfing won out and Andrew, who is now a rookie on the Championship Tour, is steadily gaining traction. Slowly but surely, she's making the leap from surviving on tour to thriving on it. Her big win over Carissa Moore on Thursday at the Vans US Open of Surfing is proof, as she advanced to the Quarterfinals for the first time in her young CT career. She's also coming hot off a big QS6000 win in El Salvador.
Heading into the halfway point of the season, we caught up with Andrew to see how she's handling double tour duty, finding balance, and to ask her about the life she's found as a professional surfer.
WSL: You had an array of sports to choose from. How did surfing get the final bid for your career path?
KA: I always knew that I wanted to be a professional athlete, I just didn't know what sport specifically. I competed in pretty much every sport imaginable before I narrowed the list down to tennis and surfing. When I was 16 I finished second in the Australian Junior Surfing Titles and I think at that moment I realized I could take this somewhere.
WSL: Now you're competing on the dream tour. What are some things you're learning as a rookie who's still competing on the QS?
KA: This being my first year doing double duty, I'm still learning every single day what works best for me and what doesn't. I haven't found the best balance but I'm getting close. Having a routine is something that I have definitely been working on. I've realized the importance of having your mind in a good place -- especially for a heat.
WSL: You had Fox as a major sponsor up until this year. How did you get through that dilemma?
KA: My family has always supported me so to have them during a major sponsorship loss was all I needed. Fox was incredibly supportive of me during my time on the team and even to this day they continue to send me messages of support, which I'm stoked about. Representing a company, you want to do well and impress them so there are expectations and with that comes pressure. It's less stressful for me now but I still have my own expectations.
WSL: Nearly every great athlete has a solid support team backing them. Who are your biggest fans and what does it mean to have them behind you?
KA: I'm so incredibly lucky and grateful to have such amazing support at home while I'm away. My entire family and all of my friends always send me messages after every heat. My Sunshine Coast community gets behind me too which is pretty cool. My brothers and dad often send me a lot of feedback on every single heat which I'm stoked about even if it's critical.
My mother and I are really close and to have her there with me through all of the highs and lows is the best thing ever. It always helps to have her with me especially on long trips away from home.
WSL: Last year was your breakthrough on the QS that led to your first qualification for the CT. What was the major turning point for you?
I've envisioned myself winning a world title... as long as I keep growing and gaining more experience it'll all fall into place.
KA: My year didn't start the way I wanted it to so it pretty much felt like it was going to be a throwaway year until my first win in New Zealand for the QS6000. My attitude leading up to the event was that I had nothing to lose. Suddenly I started making heats and eventually won the event. Turns out it wasn't a throwaway year. I'm able to go back and reflect on the events where I've done well and know what it was like to surf through and win the final.
WSL: You're 21, so you still have a lot to look forward to. What are some of your aspirations, both long term and short term?
KA: I've envisioned myself winning a world title. It's not going to happen overnight but as long as I keep growing and gaining more experience it'll all fall into place. This year I want to finish in the top 10 on the CT but if it comes down to the QS I want to be top 6.
WSL: What's something you want to work on, both as a surfer and in everyday life?
KA: I want to continue to develop my surfing in different waves and to enjoy everything. I want to take it all in and have fun because I would rather be surfing than working in an office.