As the women of the Championship Tour head to Honolua Bay this weekend for the Maui Women's Pro, the top-ranked surfers on the Jeep Leaderboard will be fighting with every ounce of their beings to win the 2017 World Title. But at the other end of the rankings, it's not a Title that's on the line, but simply requalification. Dubious job security is unnerving no matter who you are -- even if you're one of the world's best surfers.
For Keely Andrew, however, learning to roll with the punches is just part of the job. The Australian is wrapping her second year as a member of the elite Championship Tour (CT), and starting to get the hang of things. Sitting just shy of the cutoff on both Tours -- at No. 10 on the CT, and No. 6 on the Qualifying Series (QS) -- she's still in a precarious spot heading into Maui. But according to her, she's right on track. Not only did she make her first Final in a CT event last summer, but she's also poised to requalify with her CT rank -- versus relying on her second-tier QS rank to make the cut.
Before she headed to Maui, Andrew opened up about the CT learning curve, her four-year plan, and how Silvana Lima goaded her into their big battle at Trestles.
As you head toward the end of year two, how do you feel about your season?
I'm feeling good. The year that I qualified, I wrote my four-year plan. My first year on Tour it was to requalify, it didn't matter how. Now, in my second year, my goal is to requalify through the Top 10. At this stage that's still the plan, and I've put myself in position to, with the last event in Maui, to tick that box. I've [never] been in this position, but with this double position with the QS it gives me a lot of confidence and a little freedom.
How did you go about setting your goals?
I sat down with my trainer at home. We sat down at the gym and had a look at my progress over the six years prior. We highlighted my strengths and how fast I'd progressed, where I was likely to end up and what I wanted to achieve, and how we would go about that. I'm not walking around saying I'm going to win a CT event on my second year on Tour, or my third year. It's about little steps for me at the moment. I'm gaining knowledge, soaking it all in. Hopefully one day it's a World Title but for now it's just baby steps. I'm not really a goal-setting person, but once you sit down and put some time into it, it helps.
Over the summer, you had some great results on the QS -- a third in Mexico, a fifth in Oceanside and another fifth in Pantin -- before making the Final at Trestles. Does your success on the QS play into your confidence back on the CT -- and maybe vice versa?
I think it plays into my thinking, for sure. Because I'm still pretty new to the Tour, it's kind of scary when your job can be taken away from you really easily. So to have the assurance that I do likely have a spot next year it definitely helps surf better heats. You feel a lot more comfortable and loose.
But I got to Trestles a few days before it started, I went a few days after the US Open to put some time in at Trestles with a local guy, and I think that showed when the event came around and we got good waves. And also, the waves we had in Pantin were similar to the first round at Trestles, so I think that translated across the competitions. I put in some extra time at Trestles.
Silvana told me that she looked at you during that comp and said something like, "I'm going to see you in the Final." What actually happened?
It might have been after Round Four, or maybe the Quarterfinals. We looked each other in the eye and said we'd see each other in the Final. I actually surfed against her in Pantin, where she knocked me out in the Quarters. We have a lot of heats together on the QS. So to be in a Final together on the CT was pretty special.
What kind of work are you doing? What does your life look like outside of heats?
We've got 10 events on Tour, and they're all completely different waves, so it's just surfing every possible condition at every break that you can. I'm also in the gym every single day. Even when I'm on the road, I've got a program and it's mostly about staying mobile. I do a lot of body weight exercises to keep up general strength. Push-ups, lunges and squats -- all those things. Also keeping up fast reflexes. I do a speed ladder and juggling -- a whole lot of everything. Soccer players use speed ladders a lot -- they run in and out of a ladder on the ground. It gets your hand-eye coordination and reflexes going. You want to have your mind in the right place and to be able to compete under pressure, it's good to have those fast reflexes, it pays off.
What is it like traveling with your parents? Do they come with you to all of the Tour stops?
My mum does. My dad picks and chooses, but I love it. My mom knows exactly what I need when I need it. Being on the road for a couple of months at a time, you definitely need to bring a piece of home with you to make you feel comfortable. It's always fun having my mom, we have the best time. My dad is very much a surf spectator, but it's great having him here.
What's your routine with them? How do you all relax and have fun together?
Dad's right into the history of everything, so he'll point a few things out to us, we'll go sightseeing and he'll give us the rundown on everything. It's something different and takes your mind off of what's going on with the competition. We'll cruise around and check out places together. I got a new camera, and want to take as many photos as possible.
I got an Olympus mirror-less one. It's really only in the past 12 months, I realized I'm flying to all these places and I'm not taking it all in. So when you have a camera, it makes you take it in and helps you appreciate it more.
What do you with your photos? Are they for your own private consumption?
I'm getting a lot of stuff printed and putting them on the walls at home in the house. Which I'm excited about -- it's really cool when people come over and you get to tell them all the stories about the photos. My favorite is a black and white shot of the Golden Gate Bridge from when I went up to Santa Cruz to see one of my sponsors. I had to check it out!