Chelsea Tuach: Barbados Junior Female Athlete of the Year
For most of 2011, top Bajan female surfer Chelsea Tuach has been impressive, grabbing a podium position in nearly every surf contest she took part in and winning most of them. But the bubbly 15-year old, student of Queen’s College didn’t only catch the attention of the surf community because her epic performance also earned her the award for Best Junior Female Athlete of the Year from the Barbados Olympic Association.
Without warning, Chelsea dropped in on Adrenaline Sun and we discussed her surfing and the next wave of her career.
How long have you been surfing?
I’ve been surfing for 8 years
Being Junior Female Athlete of the Year is a great achievement, especially as a surfer.
Yes, it feels really great. It’s an amazing accomplishment thinking about all the other female juniors in Barbados and it pushes me a lot harder not to disappoint in 2012.
Can you tell us about the road to this point?
At the beginning of 2011, I was really nervous because the year before wasn’t my best. But I started strong by winning the first two competitions and that gave me more confidence. Then I went to Peru for the ISAs and came 9th in the world and that is my greatest accomplishment so far. During the summer I travelled all along the East Coast of the United States where I came first in the Rip Curl Grom Search, did the NKF and was first in that as well. In November, I went to Guadeloupe and came fifth in the Pan Am Games and came back to Barbados and came third in our November Pro and won the Juniors.
I surf everyday. Two hours from Monday to Friday and three hours on the weekends.
What are your favourite tricks and manoeuvres?
I like the blowtail lips and the tailslides and right now I am trying reverses.
Can you tell me your three favourite surfspots in Barbados?
They would have to be Soup Bowl (Bathsheba, Barbados), Brandons (Drill Hall, Barbados) and North Point (Barbados).
And your favourite spot in the world?
It would still have to be Soup Bowl because it’s a really amazing spot. It has a great right point wave and the water’s warm all year round.
The first one was in Jamaica in 2008 and I surfed really well in the final against fellow Barbadian surfer, Chelsea Roett. I was so nervous because earlier that day, I put my surfboard down in the house and somehow motorcycle oil spilled all over my grip pad. No idea how it got there. Everything was going wrong but I was so determined because I really wanted to win. I just went out and forgot about all the obstacles and just did my best and I just exploded. I had two great waves and I could just hear my brother cheering on the beach when I was paddling out because I was doing so well and I went on to win.
The next one was the NKF last year, I went with the intention to surf in the Junior Division but Uncle Alan came up to me and said “Chel, you have the potential to go in the Women’s Pro, you can win money and you can surf against a lot better competition and if you win it that would be a lot more amazing that just winning the under 17”.
So we’re at the registration table and I was having a lot of doubts because I didn’t think that I was good enough and he was like “You can do it, you can do it” pushing me to do it and my stomach was churning. I didn’t actually say that I wanted to do it, I was still thinking about it when someone pulled out and the woman behind the desk said “I put down your name, don’t worry about it” and I was like “Ok, cool”. I was very nervous but I won my first heat and I came second in my second heat. When I got to the semifinals Uncle Alan said this was all he wanted because I was in fifth position and that’s a great achievement. I went on to win my semi-final and I was like “Wow I actually did this, this is insane!” In the final, the waves were so small but I had a good wave in the beginning and in the last five minutes I had another good wave. I could see Uncle Alan and Uncle Lewis on the beach going crazy and I was thinking could I have actually won this and when they called my name in first place I couldn’t believe it.
And the last most memorable moment was when I got ninth at the ISA World Junior in Peru in 2011 competing against the best juniors in the world. The heats were really hard but I was thankful to get as far as I did and making it through eight rounds was really great.
In the beginning of January a couple of the parents brought Daniel Sacchi from North Carolina, and it was a new thing that we were trying out. He trained with us for a week and we surfed in the morning and the evening. What he was basically trying to do was get us out of our comfort zone because a lot of people stereotype girls’ surfing as just the same thing… going to the lip and making little turn but girls’ surfing is now going in the direction of big explosive manoeuvres.
About those big explosive manoeuvres, how are you with the airs?
The airs are coming along , still trying them hopefully by this summer I will be landing them consistently.
Tell me about your sponsors.
I had Roxy from 2008. The guy noticed me when I was 25th in the world and that was my first big achievement and he asked if I was sponsored because I was wearing a Roxy wetsuit and I said no. He said that I was good enough and that summer my manager emailed me and said “Welcome to the Team”. Then Dragon came along and 69 Slam and I am also an opinion leader for Red Bull who sent me to a few camps, I went to Peru with Sally Fitzgibbons and she’s my role model now and I went with Sophia Malonovich and she’s like a queen in Peru. I worked with three coaches so far, Shane Beschen and he’s more with strategy and technique, Daniel Ross who is actually Sally’s personal coach and Andy Walsh who deals with the technology side of surfing like how you can tweek this and that with the computer. Working with the three of them was like an amazing experience, it was a real eye opener and I knew I couldn’t be satisfied with where I am and I must get to their level and just hearing their input was really amazing.
Peter Hill is a Bajan surfer who knows Soup Bowl like the back of his hand. He saw me surfing up there and started giving me boards since he is a distributor of Eric Arakawa Boards. I get 4 boards every year and they are amazing. Eric custom makes them for me and they enhance my performance so much. He carves them to handle more technical aspects and they surf beautifully.
You say that you get nervous a lot before a competition, how do you settle the butterflies?
I pray and ask God to give me strength and always approach it with a positive attitude and the belief that I can win. I also listen to music.
What competitions do you have in your schedule for the coming months?
Right now I am doing my CXCs (Caribbean Examination Council) and it’s really hectic. For the first half of the year I am doing the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships in Panama. In May, I will be in Trinidad at their Women’s Pro event and in July, I will be in Jamaica for the Makka Women’s Pro and Pro Junior events.
What are your future plans?
I want to get on the Junior Tour so I can surf and make a name for myself. Ideally I would like to get on the world tour and win a world championship but right now I am just trying to better my surfing and keep winning competitions because that is the only way to get to the next level.
Photos by Mark Harris