Keeping with my theme of highlighting under represented countries I had the pleasure of interviewing Paige Hareb from New Zealand before the start of the 2016 season. Paige had been a fixture on the WCT for 6 years and her absence last season didn’t go unnoticed by this writer. She has the distinction of being the first Kiwi to earn a spot on the WCT women’s tour and the only one so far to reach that level. I first met her at the US Open of Surfing in Huntington Beach in 2014 where she had a ninth place finish. I finally caught up with her to ask what she’s doing to get back on the WCT, her thoughts on the proliferation of wave pools and what she does when she isn’t shredding waves at the best breaks around the world; this is what she had to say.
ME: Kelly Slater has been working on the wave pool idea for quite some time now and in December the world got its first look at what is probably the best man made wave on the planet. How do you feel about the proliferation of wave pools around the world and bringing surfing to the land locked parts of the world?
PH: There’s maybe just as many people who don’t want or like the idea of wave pools as there are that do. I was lucky enough to try the wave pool in Spain and loved it. It is a pretty different and surreal experience being in the middle of hills and trees. I think wave pools are only going to make the sport of surfing bigger and better. The kids in Spain were already surfing there everyday and probably catching more waves and trying more moves than most of it. There’s so many aspects of it to be a positive thing, it could help get surfing into the Olympics, it will give people a chance to surf who might not ever get to the ocean and of course it will encourage people to swim, surf and stay fit which is never a bad thing.
ME: So, there has been much rumour and speculation about surfing coming to the Olympics and with the introduction of wave pools it seems much less farfetched. Do you think this is a good idea; having people who potentially have never seen an ocean suddenly competing for Olympic gold in surfing?
PH: Ha yeah my answer is pretty much the same as above! I guess my point of view is it’s still the same equipment, still floating and turning on water, so I call that surfing, no matter where you are. It’s a bit like the Jamaican bobsledders going to the winter Olympics.
ME: Thank you, that’s a pretty good analogy.
You’ve been a fixture on the WCT for a long time and I was surprised when you weren’t on the tour this year, what happened?
PH: Yeah I spent six years in a row on the World Tour, unfortunately I had a bad year and got knocked off end of 2014 which was pretty disappointing.
2015 was a very up and down year for me, getting a 2nd place in China at the start of the year but also having a few first round losses in a row and my boards not turning up for a whole contest. Only missing out on re-qualifying by needing one more result so I was pretty gutted to say the least but the positive is that it has fired me up to work and train harder for this year and I’m ready.
ME: Will you be making any changes on the road to returning to the championship tour?
PH: Yes I’ve already made a lot of changes, I’m already fitter and have been surfing way more. The last few years I have also travelled with a few of the there girls that do the competitions which is hard because they are your friends but you also have to compete against them. It’s been super fun but maybe too fun sometimes so I’m going back to basics and traveling with my parents for the first few events because that’s what I was doing when I got my best result on the World Tour, third at Snapper.
ME: Women’s surfing has come a long way since the days Pam Burridge, and Frieda Zamba or Layne Beachley and Lisa Anderson. How do you see women’s surfing progressing and where do we go from here? Will we ever see a women’s tour equal in numbers as the men’s tour?
PH: Yeah it has come a long way just like the Mens has come a long way too. All those past ladies are amazing surfers and I respect them a lot. It frustrates me when people talk about how the girls have charged at Fiji the last two years but they seem to have forgotten that the likes of all those ladies, Lisa, Layne, Rochelle Ballard, Megan Abubo, Chelsea Hedges, Sofia Mulanovich were charging Fiji and Teahupoo all those years ago, pulling into huge barrels and going hard, if not better than what some of the ladies on tour are doing now. I think there’s still so much room for Women’s surfing to improve and I’m a big believer that we will eventually get to the same number as men, I’m hoping the same amount of prize money too since we are risking our lives is waves like Cloudbreak just as much as the men are.
ME: You’ve been in this sport a long time and I suspect you will continue to be for years to come; do you have any plans for what you’ll do when you hang up the jersey?
PH: Yes I’m definitely going to do it for as long as I can at this stage. Who knows what I’ll be doing afterwards, every year I always come up with a new idea or a new interest so this year I’ve actually made a conscious decision to not think about the aftermath, to dedicate my entire mind and body to the sport and competition I love.
ME: I’ve noticed you seem to like boxing and skateboarding, what other activities do you enjoy when you’re not surfing?
PH: Boxing and skating are just a few sports of the many that I love and do. I’ve grown up being such a sporty kid that you never really lose the skill or love for it which I thank my parents for getting me into everything, it’s made my life that much better. I was in academies for ski racing and soccer and represented my region in basketball too, won my age group division in tennis when I was younger I even love table tennis and squash too, give me any sport and I’ll at least try it! All those other sports were more my ‘serious’ sports growing up and surfing was my ‘hobby’ but its switched around now although don’t get me wrong, I still very much love surfing!
ME: You’ve done countless interviews in your storied career so far, but is there anything you would like to say to the fans? Perhaps something which hasn’t already been asked a million times?
PH: Hmm something that hasn’t been asked or said is a hard one haha but I appreciate my fans and all the support I’ve had over the years, people come and go but you do remember the loyal ones so thank you! If you want to get into surfing for reception or competitively just make sure you’re still having fun, that’s the main thing at the end of the day 🙂
ME: For those young girls dreaming of one day making surfing their career what should they know about which could help them along the way?
PH: It’s an amazing opportunity and lifestyle if you can make it, I’ve been surfing coming up to 20years and I’m still not where I want to be so as long as you’re having fun, stick at it and hard work I’m sure you will get to where you want to be in the end but the end is the end, the destination, so enjoy the journey, the ride!
ME: Thank you Paige for taking time out from your training schedule to speak with me. To find out more about Paige and what’s going on in her world check out her website or on social media.