First of all, congratulations Sarah for the win at Santa Cruz! That must have felt great. You’ve been with the AWT for a few years now, and this is your first win. Tell us about the event, and your rise to the top. Have you been working hard?
I competed for the first time on the AWT at Ho’okipa in October 2012. Since that day I’ve spent every little bit of time, money and energy that I had into improving my wavesailing and making it to the events. It’s been so cool to travel along the west coast of the US to discover those legendary spots and make new friends on the tour and on the road.
4th place, 3rd place, 2nd place… many times I got so close to win an event but couldn’t capitalize in the final. It’s just so hard to learn how to deal with all the thoughts that goes through your head when you’ve done everything right in the previous rounds, but one loss at the end could make all your work meaningless.
This year, the wind forecast for the Santa Cruz Windsurf Festival wasn’t the most promising. We showed up at the beach at 9:30am and I started rigging my biggest sail and setting up my footstraps around 4:00pm thinking “I can at least prepare my gear for the following AWT event at Pistol River next week”.
An hour later, the competition was on for the women, the youths and the grandmasters in very light winds. With the current pushing us downwind and the logo high waves breaking, it was really tricky to make it out. As I caught my first wave, I realized that they will not be many chances to get back out in position to get another one in front of the judges. I had to get the best out of that wave. But as I was dropping into it, I felt that I couldn’t put my back foot in the footstrap, somehow I didn’t set this one right for the booties. So I left my foot between the front and the back strap, told myself “it’s like being on a surfboard or a SUP” and rode the wave that way, made some nice turns and even one on the closing section of the wave! I caught another wave before the end of the heat and made it to the final.
The wind during the final was even worse than during the first round. It’s not the first time that we had to run a contest in bad conditions, and I’ve always admire the pro like Josh Stone or Kevin Pritchard for being able to show that there is some fun to have, some sections to play with, even on the worse days, and I’ve always blamed myself for not being able to do that. I come from New Caledonia where the waves are big, smooth, peeling perfectly… nothing to do with the Waddell conditions.
When Sam Bittner announced the results, first I couldn’t believe that I won, and then I couldn’t accept that my very first victory was in such tricky conditions (sorry Sam for not smiling on the podium). It took me two beers and a couple hours to finally realize that this victory was all I thought I would never been able to do. It now feels great!
I worked hard during the off season, working out at the Deep Relief Training center on Maui, getting coached at Hookipa by Ferdinando. I also worked on my gear with my shaper Fabien Vollenweider who built me a smaller version of the Tabou DaCurve, and I get lots of rigging tips from the Simmer Style team when they all come for the photoshoots. I’m feeling good on the water and this win is a bonus on top of the fantastic sensations I have everyday! Also very grateful to have Dakine on my side too!
Now I can’t wait to head to Pistol River which is gonna be a totally different story. I’ve looked at the forecast and I think we’re gonna have some super strong winds and a really nice weather!
Thanks Sarah, and we look forward to seeing/hearing more from you. Good luck in Pistol.