Four rookies joined the ASP Women’s World Tour in 2009. Four more have joined each consecutive year since. In just four short years the women’s side of the sport has seen a virtual overhaul in talent. Going into 2013, it seems that the boom in women’s surfing—which saw Carissa Moore, Coco Ho, Laura Enever, and crew burst onto the scene—is finally reaching a lull. Just one rookie will join the Women’s Tour in 2013: 19-year-old Bianca Buitendag. The talented South African first made her first international mark in 2011, when she was crowned the Billabong ASP World Junior Champ. In 2012, she embarked on her first year competing full-time on the WQS. She wasn’t messing around. She quickly collected two 6-star event wins and ultimately finished second on the ASP World Rankings, earning a World Tour slot for 2013. We caught up with the Victoria Bay goofyfooter to get the backstory on her quick road to the Big Leagues.
Did you expect to make it on Tour this year?
This year was my first year doing it full-time. I just finished school in 2011. It was my goal [to make the 2013 Tour] in the beginning, but after quite a rough start in Australia, the vision faded a little. It was only when I won my first QS in Peru that I realized that I could give it a good go.
Being that you’re the only rookie this year, so you think your first year on Tour will be particularly challenging?
Obviously the rest of the girls have gained a lot of experience, and although I have missed out on that, I don’t think it is a big deal. Fortunately, I learn quickly. I won’t take this opportunity for granted.
How is pursuing a surf career different for someone coming from South Africa?
I would say that it is less popular in South Africa so there is still a lot of confusion. It’s all about the differences in culture. Our culture focuses on the development of sports such as rugby and soccer, and thus doesn’t give surfing the same recognition. We have a much smaller surf industry. For that reason we have to travel to Australia (a beach-cultured country) to gain contest experience and get involved in the surf industry. Although the support from South Africa is great, I would also say that South Africans (like Brazilians) go through a more challenging road to get to the top.
In your opinion, do you have to be pretty to make it as a professional female surfer?
Yes, of course it’s easier. To travel you need sponsors, and sponsors need athletes who promote their brand. You are much more marketable if you have the whole package. But then again everyone has a different opinion of the “whole package.” There are a lot of different kinds of beauty.
If someone gave you an unlimited budget to plan a surf trip, where would you go and whom would you take?
Unlimited? I would take everyone that I know well on a boat trip to Mentawais for at least a year.
What makes you stand out from the other ladies on Tour?
You will have to judge for yourselves. The only rookie, the only South African, one of only two goofyfooters, and probably the tallest.
What don’t most people know about you?
I have a teddy duck that travels with me.