After watching Lakey Peterson carve her way into the quarterfinals at Snapper last week, it’s clear she’s become a seasoned competitor. But despite having an approach that is mature beyond her years, Peterson readily admits she’s still learning—and probably always will be. As she prepares for the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach, we asked her to share what she’s learned in the years since she first qualified for the Tour at just 17 years old. —Ashtyn Douglas
You were a minor your first year on Tour. What has it been like growing up on Tour?
It’s crazy going from being a minor to an adult while being on Tour. I had to grow up fast. The past year of traveling without my family has been really good for me, maturity wise. I think that’s allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and figure things out on my own. I’ve become a lot better at just embracing the culture and people everywhere I go.
I know you do a lot of training out of the water. Is that tough to keep up when you’re on the road most of the year?
I’ve learned how self-motivated you have to be on Tour. For me, I have always loved working hard and training, but it’s easy to fall off your routine when you’re traveling. At this point, everyone is surfing so well that you have to train in a lot of ways to keep up—both mentally and physically. And obviously you need to surf more than anyone.
Have your boards changed much since you first started competing?
They’ve changed dramatically. Since I started working with Mike Parsons, I’ve become more aware of what I am riding and why things feel a certain way. Channel Islands take great care of me, and The Rookie is always my go-to board. Lately I’ve increased my overall volume, mostly focusing on the thickness and length of the board.
Speaking of Parsons, what’s it like having him in your corner?
It’s amazing working with someone like Mike. For me, everything has happened really fast. I didn’t really start surfing until I was 12 and wasn’t exposed to different types of waves and the overall culture of surfing until the past few years. That’s where Mike comes in. He obviously knows so much about the sport and culture of surfing. Having someone like him believe in me and be my full-time coach has been so helpful for my surfing and has been a good confidence booster as well.
Your profile movie Zero to 100 painted a rivalry between you and Sally Fitzgibbons. Do you still feel that you have rivals on Tour?
I think I’ve matured a lot in that area over the past few years. I wasn’t always able to have a relationship with someone I was competitive with. Now I respect everyone that I have close heats and battles with. Everyone handles it differently, but I’ve been happy with all my relationships with the girls lately. I think we all understand that we’re trying to smoke each other, but also know that what happens in the water, stays in the water…most of the time [laughs.]
You’ve always pushed yourself above the lip, but is it hard to bring that approach to competition when there’s a lot on the line?
That’s something I’ve really struggled with. It’s hard to know when to take the risk of doing an air or just staying on the face to make sure you get a 7.5. I’m realizing it just comes down to being confident and consistent in my air game. I love trying new things and putting on a show, so this year I really want to bring more of that to the table.