Few people know that when I’m not running all around the world working or following the WSL World Championship Tour I live in Tableview, South Africa. While surfing down around Muizenberg I realized just how under represented South Africa is on the surfing world stage; other countries known for having good surf like Australia, Brazil, USA, and technically part of the USA but listed separately, Hawaii are all well represented on the surf scene. Then there’s South Africa and for the men there is Jordy Smith and on the women’s side there is Bianca Buitendag who was featured in the fall/spring 2015 issue of WSSM. Two people whom I respect but a far cry from the twelve men and six women on the same tour from Australia alone.
Fortunately amongst the Qualifying Series there are more South Africans competing and representing around the world. I had the privilege of interviewing Tanika Hoffman after she returned from China and here’s what she had to say about surfing around the world, representing sponsors, the differences in sanctioning bodies and the future of surfing in general.
ME: So what is it like to be sort of the South African ambassador of surfing?
TANIKA: It is great, my aim is to get more girls in the water, surfing and growing the sport in our country. Surfing is such a healthy lifestyle and I love encouraging people to surf, whether it competitively or just free surfing.
ME: Women’s professional surfing is exploding worldwide with greater prize money and more stops on the tour, how do you see the sport progressing? Will women’s surfing ever be equal to men’s surfing in sponsorship support and tour stops?
TANIKA: Surfing in general is growing worldwide, the men’s and women’s events are getting consistently bigger and better. I think the only reason that men’s surfing appears bigger would be due to the number of men who surf competitively, the girls abilities are definitely up there and getting better and more progressive on a daily basis. As we get more women involved competitively we will definitely see a huge jump in women’s surfing in general.
ME: What about surfing as an Olympic sport? With the proliferation of wave pools around the world is this something we may be seeing in the future?
TANIKA: It would obviously be an honour for surfing to be part of the Olympic Games, we do however have the ISA World Games which is seen as the “Olympic games” of surfing. The ocean and its unpredictability plays such a large role in surfing, especially competitive surfing. In my opinion surfing consists of the full skill package, surfing, your mind set, selecting the correct waves, reading the ocean…therefore contest is a wave pool could bring on a completely different twist to what we are accustomed to seeing in the competitive scene. I personally would prefer competing in the ocean as appose to wave pool, as I love the challenge that the ocean provides.
ME: What advice would you give to new surfers trying to get in to this sport and the young surfers striving to reach the professional ranks?
TANIKA: Once surfing becomes part of your lifestyle, it becomes part of your DNA, all you have to do is work hard, use every opportunity you get and never give up. The best training for surfing, would always be to surf, so lots of time in the water will definitely help.
ME: For someone looking to take their game to the next level, as a member of the ISA and ASP (ASP is now known as the WSL, World Surfing League), what are the differences between the two organizations from a competitive perspective?
TANIKA: To compete at the ISA events you have to be selected by your country, therefore you are representing your country and it is seen as a team event. When competing on the WSL and doing the WQS (World Qualifying Series) events you are entering as an individual with the goal of qualifying for the WCT (World Champions Tour).
It is always an honour representing your country at the ISA World Games. The WSL, WQS take you all around the world competing against strong, hungry competitors who all have the same goal of qualifying at the end of the year. So both are challenging and great experiences.
ME: Any tips for getting recognition and attracting sponsorships?
TANIKA: The best thing is to do as many contests as possible, the events are always sponsored by brands who are keeping an eye out for young new talent. Contests are also usually swarming with photographers, so surf as much as you can and you should end up with some cool pictures…potentially in magazines. Also remember that these days’ social media plays a huge role, so stay active and get your best pictures out there. But most importantly be dedicated to your sport, stay humble, train hard and never give up…hard work always pays off
ME: How do you maintain being true to yourself and grounded while at the same time being the international spokesperson and public figure necessary to promote your sponsors?
TANIKA: I think it is important to never forget who you are and what your goals are…stay true to yourself. I am always just myself, whether it is in interviews, magazines, or any kind of social media.
ME: You’ve done well this past year and you’re still quite young, will we see you on the WCT in a year or two?
TANIKA: This year I am hoping to do all the WQS events with the goal of qualifying in the next two years, so hopefully things go well
ME: Many years from now when you decide not to surf professionally anymore what’s next?
TANIKA: I think surfing will always be part of me, even if it isn’t competitively, I will always surf. I often get asked, ‘where do I see myself years from now’, but to be honest, I am so focused on fulfilling my current competitive surfing goals that I haven’t looked much further. I can’t picture myself doing a 9 – 5, behind a desk kind of job, I would prefer to be out there, working and interacting with people My surfing take me all around the world, and travelling has definitely become something that I enjoy…so who knows, a job in travelling maybe.
ME: Is there anything you would like to add which hasn’t been covered repeatedly already, something you would like to share with the fans?
TANIKA: Maybe just to say thank you for all the support that I get J Fan, family, friends, sponsors, I really appreciate it.