Who doesn’t love a little fanfare every once in a while? Theatricality builds excitement. And there’s nothing more exciting than a grand entrance. In one of those rare, wonderful circumstances where life imitates art, that’s exactly what we got on this year’s ASP North American Pro Junior Series. Barbados up-and-comer Chelsea Tuach started out her first ASP season as a low seed, then rose to eventually be crowned regional champion. And now she’s popping up as a major threat on worldwide radars, having seemingly just appeared out of thin air.
But those of us on the East Coast who’ve been following Chelsea for years know better. Raised on Barbados’s world-class waves and possessed with a potent blend of talent, competitive smarts, and determination, Chelsea has always been a threat. The rest of the world just didn’t know it yet. And now that she has officially arrived on the scene and stolen the show, fans both old and new will be eagerly tuned in, anticipating her next big performance as she prepares for the ASP Women’s Junior World Championships and her first run at the World Qualifying Series in 2014. As the plot continues to thicken, we chatted with Chelsea to get some perspective on how she got to where she is now and what her mindset's like moving forward. Read what she had to say below…
ESM: So, not a bad first season for you on the ASP North American Pro Junior Series, right? What were your expectations for yourself going into it?
Chelsea Tuach: Well, last year, I was pretty much focusing on my school and trying to get that done, then, this year, I just started doing the Junior Pros. I wanted to qualify for the Women’s Junior World Championship in Brazil, but I didn’t think I would qualify at the top of the rankings for the ASP North American region, so that was really cool for me. It was a great accomplishment. It definitely gives me a lot of confidence going into the event in Brazil. I wasn’t expecting it at all.
ESM: What were some of the key moments this year that helped get you to where you are now?
CT: I think my most important contest was the Ron Jon Roxy Pro in Cocoa Beach. When I heard there was going to be a Junior Pro there this year, I was so excited, because I really like Cocoa Beach. A lot of other people would just say, “Oh, you have to go surf Cocoa Beach? It’s going to be flat.” But I love Cocoa Beach when my equipment suits it. I have really good grovelers under my feet, and it just gave me a lot of confidence knowing that my board was feeling good. I was getting speed, and I was hitting really good sections. Plus, I've been traveling up there a lot to do contests since I first started surfing, so I was confident on the waves. I actually really like going out to Cocoa Beach. I have so many good memories there.
That event actually ended up being really important, because winning it was what helped me win the overall North American Pro Junior Series. Plus it gave me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the year. I also did a couple of WQS events this summer, and that kind of opened my eyes and made me push my surfing so that I’ll be ready to compete with those girls next year. And I think my best moment this year was winning an ISA medal in Nicaragua for my country. It’s really nice not just surfing for yourself. I’d go on Facebook every night and see everyone from Barbados saying that they were proud of me and cheering me on. That really gives you a lot of determination to do well, so that was a really nice part of my year. It’s just nice to know that people are proud of me and are following me. It gives me an extra push when I’m out surfing, for sure.
ESM: Now, the beginning of the waiting period for the Women’s Junior World Championship is coming up on October 29th, so what are you doing to prepare yourself?
CT: I know that all the girls are surfing really well, so I’m training as hard as I can and just pushing my surfing so that I know I’m ready. I really want to get a good result. I’m just going to take it heat by heat, but I’d really like to make the semis, the finals, or even win the event. I’m going to get there early and train and see what the waves are like. I know Brazil has really good waves, so I can’t wait. I think it’s going to be a really good event, and it’s going to push my surfing for sure.
ESM: With how high the level of women’s surfing is these days, what do you think it takes to keep up with the sport’s elite, and what are your strategies for doing that?
CT: Well, you can see the determination and how focused all the girls are at every contest. You really have to want it, and you have to train as hard as you can. You have to not only be a good surfer, but be a good contest surfer as well. You can’t just go out in your heat and not prepare beforehand. I get focused before all my contests, and I think it’s really important to get an early wave. That’s my biggest strategy, is to get a wave in the first five minutes, because it kind of sets the tone for the heat. And then you just try to build and build, making each of your waves better than the last, and keeping position so that you’re the one getting the set waves instead of the other girls. You have to stay focused.
ESM: What’s next for you after the Women’s Junior World Championship?
CT: For the rest of the year, Brazil is my last main event, so after that, I’ll just be at home, training and trying to get my surfing as progressive and powerful as possible. Next year, I’ll be focusing on the QS and really just trying to qualify for the World Tour somehow, so I’ll be doing as many events as I can. In the meantime, I’ll be getting my surfing up to that level. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve been trying to get my equipment dialed in and see what works best in every condition. I’ve also been working on my leg strength, trying to get my maneuvers bigger and more powerful. And I’ve been watching a lot of the girls’ contests to see what they’re doing. I’m also definitely working on my wave selection in heats and freesurfs. I’m just going to be pushing my surfing and focusing on QS events.
ESM: Overall, are you glad you did the Junior Pro circuit for a year before jumping straight into the QS trenches?
CT: Yeah, I figured I would take this year to do Junior Pro contests and hopefully get a good result. It gave me a lot of confidence. It was nice to surf against girls my age and my level. It was a really good learning experience for me, and I think it has prepared me for next year’s QS events. I’ve definitely learned a lot about competition surfing, and I’ve traveled a lot this year, so I know more about the breaks I’ll be surfing and the girls I’ll be surfing with. I’ve just been really getting ready and learning as much as I can, kind of soaking everything up. We’ll see how next year goes. I’m excited. This year, winning the North American Junior Series was a step in the right direction. I’m doing it in stages, so we’ll see how I compete next year on a higher level. I’m just really excited heading into the World Junior Championships in Brazil. I’m hoping to get a good result to end my year well, and we’ll see what 2014 brings.