Billabong team rider Nicola Atherton is on the rise. After finishing second at the world junior championships at Narrabeen last year, the Sydney slayer has been embarking on her maiden WQS campaign and sits a credible 15th with only one 6-star rated event remaining in Hawaii.
A solid result could see her qualify for the 2007 World Championship Tour, joining fellow Billabong CT surfer Keala Kennelly, Rebecca Woods and Silvana Lima.
Billabong caught up with Nic while enjoying a rest at home before heading to Bells Beach Victoria for the Pro-Teen Final.
So, Nicola, second on the ASP junior ratings, same position as last year. Heading into the Bell’s Pro-Teen Final you are going to have a bit of a battle on your hands retaining that spot?
Airini has already wrapped it up so it is definitely just the fight for second heading into Bells. I’m just really looking forward to surfing my last junior event and whatever happens happens. I’m just hoping that we get some good surf and if it’s at Bells I’ll be happy.
I’ve surfed a lot at bells and it’s one of the places were I feel confident. This year I’ve placed a little too much importance on winning the juniors. I’ve shifted my focus to the WQS because where I really want to head is the WCT. The juniors are a fantastic step towards that for practise.
I didn’t do as well as I wanted to on the juniors this year and as a result it messed with my confidence a little and upset me a bit. I’m going into this event to have a little more fun with it. On the other hand though, I go into every event wanting to win so hopefully I can come away from the Pro-Teen with my first junior win of the year.
It’s been a big year for you on the WQS this year, especially sitting 15th at the moment. How has your experience been travelling around and having a solid crack at the WQS this year?
The QS is challenging because there really is a lot of girls. I have noticed, especially this year that the level is a lot higher. It has jumped a lot in one year. Every heat is hard, you don’t have many easy heats.
I was really happy to do well in Brazil and it’s given me a chance to improve on my position from last year. Going into Hawaii I still have a chance to qualify. It’s a bit out there, but still I’m really happy to be heading into Hawaii in 15th.
You have had a chance to watch some of the CT’s this year, has it given you the drive to know that’s where you want to be if not next year then in 2008?
Definitely, when Billabong gave me the wildcard for Tahiti, I just had so much fun there and it hit me even harder to realise just how bad I want this. It gave me the drive and the direction to know that the CT is what I want to do. It made it a little more attainable just being there and competing in one. It’s where I want to go.
What does it take to step up to that level from competing on the juniors compared to the WQS?
There are probably three really good surfers on the juniors, whereas on the QS everyone is at that level. Anyone can win, every surfer is capable of beating you and taking out the event.
Once you get through the first couple of heats it’s full on. You get all the CT girls in it, all the top QS girls and the quantity of good surfers is so much different. They all really want it and they are all experienced surfers.
It costs a lot of money to travel around the world to do the QS, so everyone who is there really understands the importance of doing well and getting to that next step. Everyone is a lot more driven to succeed and you really have to be on your game.
You have just returned from Brazil, how did you find that experience, competing in that country?
It was great. I’d never been to South America before and from what I had heard I didn’t have the best expectations of the place. I loved it though. Billabong did a fantastic job with the event there, the set up was amazing. We had some fun waves and I hope that it is an event that stays on the schedule. It is a pain in the arse to get there but once you are there it’s worth it.
Well, good luck at Bells and hopefully a win in Hawaii!