In 2008 aged 19 a young surfer from a relatively unheard of place called Oakura on the world surfing scene, busted down the doors of the Womens World Tour and cemented her place on the illustrious Dream Tour one of the youngest female surfers to ever achieve the honour. For the next six consecutive years that young girl took on the worlds best, lived out of a suit case and flew the flag for NZ on the greatest stage in the world. During that time, she learnt a heck of a lot, felt great elation and experienced massive heartbreak, and everything in between. No one ever expected a six year streak to occur, yet Paige Hareb did! She believed in herself, and fought hard for what she wanted with massive sacrifice and commitment. She grew into a women and was considered a senior stalwart of the Tour.Then in 2014 The world that Paige had spent so much time immersed in, given her every waking moment to, had spilt blood sweat and tears over, all came crashing down when she failed to re-qualify.It would be easy to crawl into a hole and feel sorry for yourself, yet Paige knew if she wanted to gain her place back where she belonged she had to climb back on that horse! Yet womens surfing over those years had gone from strength to strength with young girls throughout the world all inspired by Women like Paige, had lifted the bar and they to wanted a piece. It wasn’t going to be easy and over the next couple of years Paige had to face the fact that she’d have to re-invent herself, strip back her habits that had served her so well over those six long years on tour and lift her own game. For the next two years she came oh so close sitting on the bubble, yet missed out! There was heart break and massive disappointment, she was also simply surviving on the smell of an oily rag, and many other athletes who have been in the exact same position have thrown in the towel and called time! Yet Paige doesn’t have that in her makeup, remember this was the same women that fought a charity boxing match and for the entire fight threw punch after punch, took punches square on and kept coming back for more, that bout really kinda sums up the qualities she possesses. This year after a ripper start to the year, we all sat on the edge of our seats, poised patiently, waiting for the announcement after the last event of the year, waiting for confirmation that Paige had done enough to climb back on that horse for 2018 and when it came we knew tears would be flowing down Paige’s cheeks. We pumped our chests and stood proud, Aotearoa had a surfer back on the World Tour!Firstly Paige, WOW a massive congratulations on claiming your spot back on tour! Nine years ago you qualified for your first season on the Dream Tour, now your back, hows that feel?THANK YOU! Wow nine years? When you say it like that, it seems so long but it’s gone so quick! Trying to re-qualify also felt like forever but now that I’ve done it, it also seems like it’s gone quick and I’m completely over the moon!Describe these last three years and let us in on the emotional rollercoaster of trying to re-qualify. Upon dropping off the tour what did you have to do over these last three years to make sure you had the best possible shot?
As soon as I knew I had dropped off tour I didn’t have a doubt in my mind that I was going to get back there the very next year! Then I missed out by one spot, as much as it hurt it gave me confidence to know that I was so close and had some bad luck in heats so again went into the second year wanting it more than ever, I think I actually trained too hard and too much on land, sounds silly but in hindsight I think I was trying too hard, or at least trying too hard in the wrong areas and once again came so close but failed. At this point I was running out of money and struggling to find sponsors that believed in my ability so with a combination of self talk along the lines of ‘third time lucky’ and ‘stuff it, don’t Ry too hard, this could be your last year so enjoy it, enjoy your friends and the places you go because you might not be back here’ and lastly before and around every heat when my competitive side kicked in, in my head was something like ‘stuff everyone else’
Obviously you’re a completely different person and surfer to the young girl that walked into the spotlight in 2008, give us an insight into some of the things you’ve learnt the hard way and had to learn in a hurry when on tour.
Yes looking back I was a very young 17yr old on my first year on the World Tour. I had traveled but always under the guidance of my parents or some guardian. While all my friends were heading to University and partying every weekend, I was being told what to do and what to eat and where to go. My friends were becoming adults and in a way I still felt like I wanted to be with them doing that even though being a Pro surfer is the best thing in the world so I think being that young I was just more into having fun and experiences the world and cultures and probably didn’t focus on competing and doing well as much as what I should of. So nine years later, I feel like I’ve got a lot of that out of my system, I’m a woman, I’m more mature with everything in general and I think my competitive streak will live with me forever, I’m probably more determined than ever now!
Theres absolutely no doubt now that you are NZ’s most successful surfer, the World dTour is considered the pinnacle of the sport, and you not only spent six years on tour but have now re-qualified, which no other kiwi surfer has done, do you feel you get the credit you deserve from the wider surfing audience?
That’s a hard question for me to answer, honestly I do this sport and the competition side of things because I love it. I’m proud to be from NZ and I guess to have accomplished those little feats but at the end of the day none of that stuff matters. If I’m happy, healthy and still love what I’m doing then I’m going to keep doing it. Of course I have big goals that I want to achieve but either way I don’t really care if it ends up in the paper or not. I mean it would be nice to see something in the news other than the All Blacks every now and then haha.
The general surf public probably don’t have an understanding of how qualifying events work, but it seems for the last few years the Womens Qualifying Series has seen less and less opportunities to qualify, with less highly rated events, therefore meaning you only have several chances to perform and get a result and if you don’t you’re resigned to going through it all again the following year.
About when I got knocked off tour they changed to less events and harder to qualify. You really do have to hype yourself up for the big events and try to do well because you don’t have many chances.
You have some loyal supporters that have stuck by you through thick and thin, yet you haven’t had a major financial sponsor for many years, everyone knows the Tour costs big coin, how much does this affect your performance and mindset, simply fighting to get from event to event.
Yeah I want to give a big shout out to my shaper Wayne Mckewen and MtWoodgee surfboards who have been the only sponsor that have hung around with me for the last decade! The sponsor thing is definitely a hard one and a lot of them do want results which I can understand so yeah the last three years have been tough and I honestly think this might of been my last year doing it if I hadn’t qualified again because the tour really does dig deep into your bank account. So hopefully now back on the world stage sponsors will be more keen to get their brand out there on this Paige Hareb walking/surfing billboard!
Womens surfing right now has some massive talents, inspirational women surfers that hands down shred, yet from an outside perspective a lot of the highest profile women surfers and the women that many sponsors are looking for and promoting are the ones taking the most clothes off or wearing the least amount as opposed to their surfing ability. Several high profile women surfers have recently been outspoken about this, what’s your take, obviously taking into account some of them may be your good friends! Was there ever a point when you though bugger this I need some coin, theres a comp in Santa Cruz and while I should be wearing a steamer, hood, booties, gloves, I’m gonna go out in a G-string and earn some moolah?
It’s a hard issue. There’s definitely a lot of girls that get product and money sponsorships for the way they look or how little they wear which each to their own but at the same time it’s annoying because they are under cutting girls that rip and actually deserve the money to try and help them achieve their goals. Then you have a marketers dream like Alana Blanchard who I was on tour with. I think most people think of her and her ass and have no idea that she actually rips too! In saying that, it’s kind of sad that most people only know her for her ass because she is an amazing surfer and sportswoman which she deserves credit for.
Kiwi surfers quite often state that they’d love to see and event on our shores, well that happened and you were a big part of that, where for a few years we had a World Tour and then World Qualifying events, you must have been massively proud to show your home region to the best women surfers in the world, and do you think it could ever happen again?
Yeah that was a huge effort by Craig Williamson and my Dad from Surfing Taranaki and many other volunteers to make that happen! One ear we had over 60 different sponsors to make it work which is a lot of hard work putting all of that together!
The 2018 WSL World Tour has had a recent revamp, which hasn’t washed that positively with everyone, but you will have 10 events and obviously the big news is you will get to compete in Kelly’s wave pool for the first time, what are you most looking forward to?
Yeah there’s some amazing new events on the tour, I’m so excited to surf Slaters pool and apparently I get to test it out before the event by myself! I’ve also always wanted to get to JBay so I can’t wait!
So between now and the first event the Roxy Pro in March at Snapper, what do you have planned to prepare for your best showing in 2018?
I’ve already started training and thinking about next year. I’ve teamed up with a new fitness trainer and coach on the Gold Coast so spending a bit of time here, I’ll be home for a month over Xmas then head to my first was event of the year on Jan 15th in Florida before a month on the Gold Coast, then another was in Newcastle and Manly before Snapper starts. It’s going to be a big year!
Well once again Paige we are all so proud of you, we wish you a Merry Xmas and hope you get some downtime over the New Year and festive period. And come the start of the 2018 Tour we’ll all be there supporting you, either on the sand or in spirit.