The hunt for the Challenger Series can be achieved through many different routes and backgrounds. Whether a young prodigy making their surge atop the regional rankings, or a love for competing that drives surfers to draw their very best and clinch when it matters most. For Havanna Cabrero, the latter ensued and a Semifinal finish at the Barbados Surf Pro earned her a spot into the Challenger Series.
Now, the Puerto Rican looks to continue that momentum and start the fresh Qualifying Series season strong at the Jack's Surfboards Pro beginning April 28 - May 1. WSL caught up with the 22-year-old ahead of the competition and on a surfing career that could've never taken shape.
WSL: Looking back on the end of last season, you wanted to see for yourself that you had qualified for the Challenger Series after being in disbelief. Walk us through your head space that week and finally realizing you had done it?
Cabrero: It was a really tough week in Barbados knowing I had to make the Semifinals or I'm not in. It's a mental battle when you're in that spot to compete for a place on the Challenger. I couldn't believe it and I think I asked Brian Robbins multiple times to confirm it (laughs). There's so much effort that goes into the Qualifying Series and I'm just so happy I got it.
It's not only a big step for me, but also opens the door for Puerto Ricans and generations to come. I'm just really stoked that I can be representing for them.
You're father is one of Puerto Rico surfing's greats, did you always see yourself trying to find success of your own in surfing?
So I know a lot of people in the sport don't physically go to school in person whether it's online or something like that, but I actually went to school my whole life. I would surf after I got out of class in high school and I didn't have a lot of time to focus on competing or even surfing as a primary focus because I was studying a lot, and also played volleyball.
My dad actually pushed me more to play volleyball than to surf - it was probably a reverse psychology or something (laughs). I started surfing pretty young because of him and he's one of the pioneers here in Puerto Rico, and I've always been in the water with all my uncles and it was just very fun for me. But, I could've gone to college with volleyball and I had to choose between the two and I'm pretty stoked to be traveling the world with surfing. And, not many people know this but I actually graduated with a degree in Molecular Biology.
That's incredible, congratulations on your graduation. Now that you've accomplished that, are you putting your focus back into surfing?
Thanks, I want to put that degree toward pre-med as I want to go to medical school. This was the first year I had no distractions, no books, and just focused on surfing. I'm stoked to achieve that goal of graduating since I'm young and had that opportunity, but now I want to put everything back into surfing.
My mindset is on the Olympics in 2024. I know there's different ways to qualify for that and now that I'm in the Challenger Series, the goal is to be in that Top 6 for Championship Tour qualification. It would be amazing, not only for me but also for Puerto Rico. Whenever I think about surfing I don't think about myself, I think about Puerto Rico. We just have so many good waves here and I wish we could have even more representation on the WSL. I still can't believe this is all happening.
Watch Cabrero and more of North America's top men and women LIVE for the Jack's Surfboards Pro beginning April 28 - May 1.