With her biggest career results in beach breaks, Australia's opening events might be just what Sage Erickson needs for a flying start to the year.
"For me personally it feels like an advantage," she said.
"I think traditionally starting the year off in point style waves I kind of start slow early in the year and then I rev up towards the end when we move to beach breaks, so this is so exciting for me.
"I've spent so much time on the Central Coast so I'm really familiar with Newcastle and that coast. There's a lot of family that comes and watches as well so I kind of feel at home there in a lot of ways," sage told the WSL.
In 2019, Sage won a Qualifying Series event on the Central Coast, the Sisstrevolution Central Coast Pro, and backed it up with her second U.S. Open win later in the year. Her other QS strong results have been an event win and finals appearance in the Spanish beach break of Pantin -- a track record that can lend confidence to Sage's Australian campaign.
Sage sounded calm on the phone when we chatted, fresh out of hotel quarantine. I asked her about how spending that time indoors in the lead up to an event might affect her mindset and she explained the perspective she's gained over the last year and how it meant she just felt excited to compete:
"I come from California where it gets inconsistent so we'll have long flat spells. So, for me not surfing doesn't really affect my mind, which is great. I catch up quick here because I can surf more in Australia in a day that I would in a week sometimes in California, as far as how many waves I'm catching."
"I think I finally respect my talent and I respect the time I've put in. I think I've always battled with ‘do I deserve to win?' My self-confidence as far as my talent has always been a struggle for me. I think that now I actually believe that I have put in enough time to somewhat know something and to trust it and to trust it under pressure," she said.
Sage has also had some strong results in bigger, more challenging conditions, including a semi-final finish in Margaret River in 2017. With this event just around the corner, it seems that the new calendar could be set to showcase Sage's strengths.
"I love Margaret's in WA because it pushes my comfort zones where normally I maybe wouldn't push myself as hard.
"It's really raw open ocean over there so besides the wonderful wine and that coastline and the community, the wave is challenging. Normally when I'm challenged it brings out the best in me and so I'll be really looking forward to that opportunity," she said.
With the opening of the Australian leg a comfort and a strong recent record at Margaret River, turning to the brand new event in Rottnest Island also seems like something Sage is mentally prepared for.
"I just like to have an open mind and a position of learning and listening. I've always done really well when I've sort of taken that position." Sage said when I asked how she's approaching the new event.
"Also, just to explore. I love to connect with the land and the people and kind of just establish a sense of, not home because I'm only in places so quick, but to get familiar with the area and put the time in.
"I'm super excited and I feel really confident and I'm thankful Australia has let me in the country," said Sage.