DAVEY CATHELS –
I’ve surfed a wave of emotions these past 12 months.
In doing so, I’ve learned so much about myself.
I was really looking forward to using the Hawaiian leg of the 2017 QS Tour as a launchpad for my bid onto next year’s World Tour roster – unfortunately, despite strong prep and lead-in work, the results just haven’t come my way.
It’s been really disappointing. I had high hopes coming over here to Pipe especially when the expectation is that you’ll always enjoy some pretty good surf in Hawaii.
Frustratingly, we’ve come on at peak season, yet we’ve had a lot of small surf, especially throughout the competition, which hasn’t aided performance.
When the waves did finally start to pick up, it was just super windy onshore and non-stop rain – conditions unusual for Hawaii for this time of year.
To bow out early is pretty deflating.
Right now, it’s just myself and a mate staying in the same house on the coast of Pipe, who also had endured a difficult tournament.
Both of us have just been letting it all sink in, sharing in our disappointment.
As hard as it is to shift focus, it really is all about making the most of Sunset this week with an eye towards re-qualifying throughout 2018.
It has been a tough year on the road, working myself back to the top, but it’s part and parcel of the sport.
Everyone is doing their best to elevate themselves; the competition amongst all the surfers in the QS is fierce.
Since my 2016 rookie year on the World Tour, I’ve gained a great appreciation for surfing, and in many ways feel like I am a more complete competitor.
My pro maiden season in the water was filled with so many experiences and challenges – just to earn a place on tour was a lifelong dream, and at the time validated to me that I did belong competing alongside some of the sport’s best from around the world.
To be honest though, my last ten years in the water has been a whirlwind – to think back to when I was a 16 year old junior looking to crack the world stage, to now treating surfing as my professional business.
It’s definitely had it’s ups and downs, and it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
But I think that’s why getting back on tour will be that much sweeter for me.
The injuries, the losses, being dropped by a major sponsor than having to find another commercial partner – it’s all added to my experiences in the sport and I wouldn’t really change any of it.
It’s made me the surfer I am today.
It’s made me hungry… When I reclaim my place on tour, I don’t plan on ever dropping out.
I feel like if I can get back on there I just know a lot more and know what to expect and I feel like I could give it a really good crack.
At the time of my rookie season, it was a completely new environment for me, coming up against the world’s best every month. It’s not an easy task for any rookie.
There were so many things I wasn’t prepared for.
When starting out on tour, I was kind of taken aback by how serious everyone was; no one was really helping each other out or that being friendly in the locker rooms, like how it is in the QS. That was a pretty big learning curve – you get there and you’re surfing against your heroes that you looked up to your whole life and you get in heats with them.
But instead of idolising them you have to go out there and really switch into a mindset of “how am I going to beat this guy” – which is a hard to do when you’re coming up against the likes of Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater.
You’ve really got to convince yourself of your self-worth before you paddle out.
It’s funny though, because as a junior, pressure was never something that heavily fazed me.
When you’re at that age, you don’t really think about the grand scheme of your tournament situation – you just want to go out and surf.
As you get old, you naturally become more aware of your surroundings – I’m now at a stage in my life and career when I constantly evaluate my performance, in a bid to quickly identify areas of improvement which I can begin to change if required.
Of course, much of that only comes with experience – something I hadn’t been in a position to build when I first came onto the scene.
Now, I feel like I’m surfing better than I ever have before. I’ve been training a lot harder as well – having spent a year on the road with those top guys I know exactly the level required to compete, and the hours of dedication you have to put in behind the scenes to maintain on your spot on tour.
All those little things as well like what places to stay or what kind of boards to bring, has really helped me lay down a strong foundation going forward.
It all comes down to building confidence through in yourself, and setting goals to give yourself every chance of tasting success.
That’s been one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn – because like any professional athlete will share with you, once you start losing and you’re on that slide, it really knocks around with your confidence and self-belief.
And it’s no different in surfing; every time you lose you and have to come up against a really high seed, it can feel like you’re marching up hill.
Nowadays it’s those showdowns that excite me most, a huge change in my mental approach.
I definitely don’t want to be a “one and done” guy – I want to get back on the pro circuit and surf against the world’s best, because I know I can and truly do believe I belong in the sport.