A few days ago, I watched live from the channel as Cloudbreak went XXL. From the vantage point of a Yamaha VX100, I saw every takeoff, wipeout, and occasional tube ride that occurred between the hours of 9 and 5. A decent day at work, some might say.
Towards the end of my shift, Stu Johnson (a local photographer and my personal jetski driver for the day) and I picked up a passenger. Fit, tan, and a little bit freckly, Courtney Conlogue hopped aboard our boatercycle without hesitation. As we bobbed between sets, almost frighteningly close to the impact zone, Courtney and I discussed topics like Cloudbreak, breath-holding, and that elusive world title. I recorded it, because why not? It's not everyday you're sharing a saddle with numero dos on the Jeep Leaderboard.
SURFING: Did you hear about Aaron Gold this morning?
Courtney: Yeah, I was in the restaurant (on Tavarua) when I saw everyone running, but I didn’t want to go over and see because I could tell it was pretty bad.
Does his accident freak you out with the start of the competition just days away?
That’s just part of surfing. It’s always risk for reward. You’ve gotta be calculated with your decisions but also prepared to face the consequences.
Have you done training for heavy water situations?
I have actually, and it’s a really good thing because when I started I was only at 30 seconds (of breath holding), but now I can do 2:30.
Wow, 30 seconds. That wouldn’t have been good.
Yeah, I know (laughs). The thing is, it’s all about training the mind to be calm and accept the situation. If you put me in a position where I have the ability to come up for air, I’ll come up for air, because that’s the smart thing to do. But when I’m forced to go to the deep end, I just accept it and can stay down for a while. You need to shut of your mind and go blank.
Do waves like these (XXL) interest you?
Yeah. I would love to be out there if I wasn't going for a world title. This is so sick.Photo: Jimmicane
So after 4 events, you're number 2 in the world. How are you feeling about this season?
Yeah I’m feeling really good, just happy to be in Fiji. This event is really special to me because it’s always been one of my dream waves, so just to be here, watching these men, it’s just a really good start up to this event and I’m really looking forward to see how this season plays out.
Coming into this event, who do you think are some of the girls to watch out for?
I think a lot of them are charging now… Courtney is sidetracked by someone riding a huge wave. Whaaat look at this thing! Person gets smashed. (Big gasp) F***… That wasn’t good… That hit right on his leg. Gnarly.
…So yeah aside from that who do you think are the biggest threats out here?
(Laughs) Sorry… ummm probably Johanne, Malia, Sally… Tyler does really well out here, Steph, Sage, there’s a lot of women charging now. There’s probably a few that’s I missed, but to be honest with you, every heat on tour nowadays it’s stacked. You never take your competition lightly because if you do that you’ve already beaten yourself.
The forecast for the start of the event looks fairly solid, are you excited to get out here and pull into something big?
For sure. I was really fortunate to surf after the final last year when it started breaking at the ledge, and it was really fun. I was able to get into a couple barrels, so it was nice to be able to travel in few of them, especially since I was only really surfing in my heats last year (because she was injured).
Last year you were painfully close to winning your first title, is that your only focus for this year– taking home the title?
Yeah. To win the world title has been my dream since I was a kid.
It’s pretty cool that the WSL put a wave like this on the women’s tour.
I’m so glad we have this spot on our tour. A couple years ago they asked all of us to name a few of our dream locations, and this was one of mine.