Editor's Note: Today marks what would be the Opening Ceremonies of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, surfing's Olympic debut has been postponed. The Tokyo Games are now scheduled to hopefully return in 2021.
When Chelsea Tuach set out for her year as a Qualifying Series warrior, the surfer from Barbados had no idea her world was about to be turned upside down. To be fair, nobody did pre-coronavirus, but having missioned from her home in the Caribbean to the Land Down Under, seemingly overnight she found herself stranded in a foreign land. But like any good surfer, she settled in and let the ocean continue to guide her. The WSL caught up with Tuach this week to hear her story:
You're from Barbados, but currently stuck in Australia, is that right?
Yeah, I came over for the QS events in February and March, and I was about to fly to New Zealand for our next Challenger Series event. That's when things came to a stand still and the WSL announced no events in March. At the time, I thought we may be on stand-by for a month or two, so I decided to stay put. My partner, Thomas, lives in Torquay and my coach is close by as well, so it seemed like a good option. I also didn't want to get stuck in quarantine in the U.S. or not be able to get all the way home. It's usually a 32-hours journey with three or four flights to get home.
What do you miss most about being back home in Barbados?
Oh, there's a lot. The warm water, the food and family. There's nothing like Bajan home cooking with your family on a Sunday. But I can't complain too much, I've been pretty spoiled here. Thomas is partially Italian and his mum is an incredible cook. Our extravagant dinners have kept our spirits up during iso.
Just as the QS season was starting to ramp up things went pretty haywire with COVID, what were your plans were before the pandemic?
It was certainly ramping up to be an action packed 2020 with the Olympics this summer. For me, I had come really close to re qualifying at the end of last year, so I had some fire going into this season and was ready to tackle the QS and Olympic qualification. Now a lot is still unknown, so I've had to change my rhythm. I am definitely trying to keep Olympic qualification at the front of my mind, I want to take this as a positive opportunity to be even more ready when the qualification event comes.
What have you been doing lately to stay in the water and stay focused and fit?
Luckily, around Torquay there are a few girls in this same situation. Lakey [Peterson] is spending time here with her husband, and India Robinson is a friend and a strong QS competitor. There's also a few younger girls that keep us in line. It has been great to have Lakey and these girls around to surf with and run mock heats on occasion. I think we have been keeping each other motivated. Mentally, it's been great to have chats and voice our feelings about cancelled competitions and everything else. Lakey is also an inspirational superstar in the gym. She and her husband have a little gym at the house and we've training together a few times. At the start of iso I was doing a lot of solo home workouts, so it's been a 100 times better to train with a partner.
Do you have any reactions to any of the WSL announcements that came down last week? Anything stand out to you?
Wow, lots of big announcements. I think in a lot of ways change is good, but initially it hits you hard. I don't think we like to let go of things we know and love. For me, because I'm not on Tour, the changes aren't as drastic, but I would like to see how it unfolds. I hope it brings about good for the athletes and the sport. Right now is a big moment for surfing with the Olympics around the corner, so I hope we keep growing and getting better.
What's it going to mean to you to be able to pull on the jersey again at some point and compete?
I miss having that competitive fire and the challenge that these events bring. But I think everyone needed a bit of a breather. We usually don't get too much of an offseason, and it showed for me in the first few weeks of iso. I had to slow down and adjust my routine, and I am grateful for this time. I am improving myself in a lot of ways and I think that every competitive surfer is going to be so fired up when this period ends that we'll see total fireworks. I'm excited.
If you could go on any surf trip with anybody right now, where would it be and who's getting the invite?
If I had to pick what would fill my heart the most it would be going home with all of my friends who I've been trying to drag to Barbados for the last five years. Showing off our warm, blue waters, swimming with some turtles, sampling Chefette and driving east to find perfect Soupbowl tubes. Ending the day with an orange sunset and a glass of my dad's famous rum punch!