When solid surfers gain momentum on the Qualifying Series (QS), it's a dangerous combo to the field around them no matter the event rating. For Cam Richards, the momentum gained from a fourth-place finish at the Volcom Pipe Pro QS 3,000 looked to be what he needed for a push toward making his mark on 2018.
But, fate had other plans and the South Carolina native underwent major knee surgery immediately following Pipeline. Less than five months later, Richards made his return at the Vans US Open of Surfing Men's QS 10,000 and nearly secured a place into the Quarterfinals -- not bad for a first surf back. Despite only surfing three events, Richards finds himself at No. 35 on the QS rankings -- within striking distance of a Top 10 finish if things continue to go his way.
The WSL caught up with Richards before he prepares for the upcoming Vans Pro QS 3,000 August 21 - 26 in Virginia Beach. The goofyfooter will return to his former stomping grounds as a wildcard - due to the injury that preciously kept him out of contention.
The World Surf League: So what happened on the North Shore that took you out for all this time?
Cam Richards: I had a complete ACL replacement, and I got 60 percent of my meniscus removed. My knee locked up the day after the Volcom Pipe Pro and I wasn't able to walk or move my leg. I went back to California and got the surgery a month later. So, it's only been 5 months since surgery which is very soon, but with all the physical therapy and resting I felt like I could do it.
You had a great run at the US Open. Walk us through your mindset competing in Huntington Beach.
I surfed about three days before my first heat to see if there was any pain. But, I felt okay so I just kinda said let's see what happens.
It definitely felt weird but no pain thankfully and the fact that I haven't surfed in 6 months, I wasn't expecting much. I was very happy with my result. Each heat I made I just would kind of giggle to myself because I wasn't expecting anything. Definitely wish I was 100 percent because maybe I could have done better but who knows, everything happens for a reason.
On the subject of everything happening for a reason, what's something you discovered in your time away from the water?
I found out that there's a lot more to life than surfing to be honest. Surfing is great and I'm so thankful I'm able to do it for a living, but I enjoyed having the time to hang out with friends. I was able to plan things a month in advance, like a concert or something -- because when your a surfer planning is never an option. I learned how lucky I am to have amazing sponsors that support through thick and thin.
Did you pick up any new hobbies?
I'll be honest I played a lot of video games. The new game Fortnite is amazing (laughs). But, I got to play with a lot of my friends so that was another way I was able to keep in touch with people and it's a lot of fun. I also got into painting and even more into photography, as well as played some music. It was actually really eye opening and refreshing. I mean anyone that gets a break from their job loves it! So I took advantage of it and it was pretty awesome.
You also had to go through some PT correct?
Physical therapy was amazing. I've never been one to work out or anything like that but going three times a week for five months, you really begin to enjoy the feeling of being in shape so that was fun also. Now I see myself taking my body more serious than before because it will catch up to you.
You're currently ranked No. 35 headed into Virginia Beach, what are your goals for the rest of this year?
I talked to Travis Logie and WSL and they told me I have a seed for the remainder of the year because of my injury. That was super nice but I was still bummed because of how good my beginning started. At the end of the day you want to do the best you can do at every event and if things go your way then you will see yourself at the top. So that's my goal for the rest of the year. I'm not putting a lot of pressure on myself because of the injury but of course we are all on the QS for one reason and that's to be on the CT. So I'll just see where it takes me.
Look for Cam Richards competing at the Vans Pro QS 3,000 August 21 - 26 in Virginia Beach, VA.