The road to the World Tour is littered with crushed dreams and hangovers. Aptly dubbed “The Grind,” the WQS has chewed many a hopeful pro into a sulking mass with a well-worn passport. We called on the Qualifying Tour’s alabaster prince, Nat Young, who currently looks strong to qualify for the Big Leagues, to find out what it takes to successfully navigate one of pro surfing’s greatest crucibles.
Travel With A Veteran. When I first started the ’QS, I was riding for O’Neill. Kieran Horn, who was the team manager and one of my mentors, really helped me understand how the whole thing works. He’s had a lot of experience and that first year he traveled with me to some of the comps, teaching me the ins and outs, and that made everything a lot easier for me. He didn’t really talk about how much of a grind it was at first, but with his help and wisdom, I could make the transition a lot easier.
You Will Struggle. My lowest point was pretty much the entire first half of last year. I’ve never lost so early in so many contests in a row. Losing that much just deflates you. It’s easy to lose your confidence and it can be really tough to get out of that slump. It was a complete shocker. But then toward the end of the year, I finished with a bunch of big results in some really difficult events. I think that helped me to realize that I could compete with the best guys and it just motivated me this year to get serious and put all my effort toward making the cut. So the struggle is a part of it for everybody.
Know Why You’re Here. I think every surfer on the ’QS does it for one reason: to qualify for the World Tour. Although I haven’t qualified yet, that must be the best feeling you can get from doing the ’QS. Even though it’s hard at times, it can all pay off in the end. When you lose your first-round heat, it’s one of the worst feelings ever, but when you win a comp, it’s one of the best feelings ever. I guess you just have to take the good with the bad. I train hard in my downtime, and when all that training and dedication pay off and you are on the podium holding a trophy and a big check, that makes it all worth it. That’s why you’re here—to win. To move onto the World Tour. I’ve never questioned if this whole thing is worth it because this is what I’ve dreamed about since I was a little kid and the ‘QS is the road I have to take to make my dreams a reality.
Take Time To Recharge. It’s different for everyone, but going home to recharge is so important to me. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the whole system for a bit and stop thinking about points and ratings and heat totals. When I’m home, I can take my mind off that and hang out and surf with my friends and family. I think it really helps and you come back to the ‘QS stronger.
There Really Are No Secrets. In the end, I’m not sure if anyone knows the secrets to succeeding right away on the ‘QS. If I did, I’d already be on the World Tour. But here’s something I do know: You need to take this tour seriously to do well. There are guys that go to every event and party and probably don’t take it quite as seriously as I do. But that’s just not worth it for me. I have had some great experiences and a lot of fun, but I realize that I’m here to work.