If a young surfer is serious about a competition career, the only way forward is through the World Qualifying Series – a series of multi-rated events. Elliot Paerata-Reid describes “The Grind” in his own words.
Sometimes I look down at my wide, smelly, Māori feet and think ‘wow, you two have taken me around the world!’
At the age of 18, I spent my first year on the QS. I was travelling with my mates to Bali, Europe etc…
I don’t know if it was the new places, travelling with my friends at a young age, or the European girls in G-strings hanging around the comps asking if we ‘knew Julian’, but some of the stuff that went on probably wouldn’t be allowed to be published.
I had a whole lot of fun and don’t regret a thing. But I got to 19 and realised I hadn’t qualified yet. I never seemed to see [Kelly] Slater partying, and that’s when it hit me. Why wasn’t I seeing any of the top guys in the club? It was because the music was always shit. So I became a DJ!
A year later, I realised it was actually because they were in the gym or doing yoga.
Is the winning formula really alcohol and house music, and not sit ups and spinach?
There were a few exceptions, where some of the boys would party and pretty much do whatever they wanted, and would still be getting really good results. I think that’s what f***** with my head a little bit.
All this time I had been told to be a pro surfer you had to train, train, train, surf, surf, surf and that was it. Yet I found myself at 3am standing deep inside some underground club with the winner of one of the events, and thinking ‘this guy hasn’t slept for like three days.’ Has my life been a lie? Is the winning formula really alcohol and house music, and not sit ups and spinach?
There’s a lot of different characters doing the circuit and they all have their own methods and routines that work for them. As much as I wish mine was ripping into every new town with the boys, it’s not.
Surfing is a lifestyle, a hobby, and basically just the bomb. But on the QS it’s a full-time job.
What I’m saying is, the QS takes a few years to figure out. I have been in Australia for a couple years now, training and surfing with the best. I think to qualify is 25 percent skill, 25 percent the work you put in behind the scenes, and 50 percent mental strength.
To stay mentally positive when you travel for two days, spend all this money, get to the beach and it’s 1ft waves with cross shore (undesirable wind conditions) is actually a lot harder than one may think.
Surfing is a lifestyle, a hobby, and basically just the bomb. But on the QS it’s a full-time job. I often go home and, I swear, people just think I travel around getting barrelled all year but that’s so far from the truth. I realise how fortunate I am to be living this lifestyle, but I have spent months without surfing waves over 2ft.
In saying that, the QS has taken me to some amazing places that I never thought I would go. Like the Philippines. If you have turned the news on recently you probably think the Philippines is super sketchy and unsafe. But Siargao Island, where the contest is held, truly is paradise; white sand beaches under palm trees with baby blue water and some of the best waves I’ve surfed.
The QS is a love-hate relationship, but I will continue on this path.
The people are also super friendly and the locals rip. After the contest, the government holds a big festival party. It’s pretty much the Coachella of the island.
So obviously we all went to have a look one night. We pulled up to this big indoor stadium and, to our surprise, the place was fully popping off. Everyone got super excited and ended up smashed on the jungle juice. There were a lot of girls there all frothing on the surfer boys – so they took advantage.
I was with my girlfriend at the time and we were looking around at the boys all hooking into these local chicks. My girlfriend said, “she’s got bigger hands than you, Elliot.”
We both laughed and brushed it off. After a while I started noticing these girls had quite defined jaw lines. Then the lights all turned on. These chicks had more facial stubble than me! I kept my mouth shut. There’s a lot of highs and a lot of lows in surfing. I guess that was a low for some of the boys – but who knows, it could have been a high.
The QS is a love-hate relationship, but I will continue on this path. I have my own goals and I now know what it takes to accomplish them.
* This article was first published in NZ Surfing Magazine. For more stories like this, visit www.nzsurfmag.co.nz