Pro Chat: Courtney Conlogue

Courtney ripping at the Swatch Pro

The Californian WCT Rookie and current leader on the ASP Women’s Star tour talks heroes, running til you puke and why she used to be a secret surfer

Words by Britta Burger, photography courtesy of Swatch

Who do you look up to?
Definitely Stephanie Gilmore, to get four world titles back to back is really impressive. She’s done a lot for the surf industry and for women. I’ve always looked up to Lisa Andersen, who pursued her dream no matter what came her way. And I actually wrote a letter to Billie Jean King two years ago, she’s done so much for women and sports, I was like “Hey, how can I improve women’s surfing?” I got a letter back with some advice, which was really cool, she’s so inspirational.

Is it mainly sports personalities that inspire you?
I definitely follow sports a lot but my sister and my brother inspire me too. My brother’s playing high school football, he’s a quarter back, and my sister is super-intelligent, I aspire to what she’s done, she’s going to be a senior in college, she’s out there saving the world and double majoring in mammalogy, the study of mammals.

Were there any challenges growing up as a female surfer?
Until I was in seventh grade no one knew that I surfed because I didn’t want anyone to judge me and think that I couldn’t keep up with my schoolwork and do extracurricular activities like track and field. Surfing didn’t have such a good rep. Then a newspaper came out with me on it and I started realising people respected surfing in a different way, especially after I’d talked about how much work and time goes in to it, it’s not just going out there and surfing. I think women’s surfing has gone to the next level.

How different is freesurfing from contest surfing?
Contest surfing has a lot of tactics, you have to play strategy games, you can be the world’s best freesurfer but when you’re put into a heat you might not be able to perform. There’s a lot of pressure, you have to be able to control that.

How do you prepare for a heat mentally?
I keep my mental preparation routine as consistent as possible. You’re playing that mental game where if you won a heat, you do that same routine, you want to copy that. You just try to inspire yourself to go out there and be perfect in an unpredictable environment. It’s definitely one thing about surfing that no other sport has, snowboarders don’t have to “catch their mountains”.

What’s your favourite wave?
I haven’t found it yet. I’ve never surfed Africa, I haven’t surfed a lot of spots in Indonesia, I want to go there. I’ve surfed some amazing waves, but I haven’t been on a surf trip in such a long time, I’ve had surf contests but I haven’t been able to just let it out. I want to find a wave with no crowd out, I have this picture perfect wave in my mind. I dream of good surf!

All American hero

Does everyone on the tour get along?
With 17 women being on tour, we’re all really close, we all get along. If you didn’t get along it wouldn’t be fun in such a small group. We’re all different but we have the same ideas and the same dreams, we understand and respect each other.

How do you approach the tour, do you basically just think “I want to win it”?
I think every single athlete on this tour probably wants to win the world title, it’s our dream to hold the cup and have the champagne shot at us. But in my rookie year I’m focusing on understanding how to win heats, being on tour and figuring out how it works. Next year I’m going to aim for the top five up, my surfing can definitely be up there to win the world title. It’s just a matter of showing it while I’m in the water. And catching the right wave…

You seem very conscious of this new wave in women’s surfing…
The whole new generation, especially the rookies who qualified for the tour really show where women’s surfing is going. At the first event this year there was a lot of talk afterwards, and it was the women they talked about. All of us rookies ended up being in the quarters.

What are your plans for the future?
I only really think one year ahead. I mean, I do have a five year plan B in case I get injured, you have to have something to fall back on. I’ve been writing my journal a lot, I would want to give back to surfing somehow and try to help women’s surfing and sport. And probably go to school if I get hurt really bad, you never know.

What would you study?
I tried business and took economics on my own and it was difficult. It takes so long to grasp and I’d need a teacher. I just graduated from high school last year, I’m used to having teachers there and going from 7.45 to 3.00 and then doing track and field until 6pm. Doing the tour full time is a big change, but I’m still taking a few units here and there, such as creative writing.

Do you like reading too?
I like reading inspirational stories about other athletes, The Training Camp is such a good book. I’m reading A Game Plan for Life at the moment by John Wooden, he was an amazing UCLA basketball coach. I liked the The Scarlet Letter because of how unusual it was.

What kind of track and field did you do?
Pole vaulting, shot putt, the 400, the 4×400 relay, the 4×100 relay, the 800, which I don’t like, I’m a medium sized person, I don’t have the leg for it. But my coach said I had the endurance so I had to do it, it’s basically like the 400, but twice, you just puke by the end of it.

What keeps you motivated when you have to run the 800 and you’re about to puke?
Not wanting to lose. When it’s going really tough that’s what keeps me motivated. But for surfing it’s knowing that I have a dream and that you’ll get what you want as long as you want it bad enough.

Courtney is sponsored by Billabong and Swatch

Britta spoke to Courtney at the Swatch Pro, and brought some amazing big neon Swatch watches back with her to give away to you lot! Fancy one? Simply like us on Facebook and tell us on which beach you had the time of your life!

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