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Searching for an endless summer

Daisy Thomas

As well as being an international surfer, Daisy Thomas coaches surfing at Pacific Safari in New Brighton.
“I take lessons, and well get school groups, travellers – anyone, any age. We give them a board and a wetsuit and give them a two-hour lesson. Safety, being aware of the ocean, and then we get into it – standing up and riding the wave.

“A lot of the time I get inspired by learners – seeing their faces when they stand up is awesome – it’s so cool.”

Rio and barrels are her favourite moves.

Daisy Thomas is living a surfing dream – touring both New Zealand and internationally doing what she loves - and avoiding winter at the same time.

Thomas, 19, has risen through the surfing ranks to be one of Canterbury’s most successful female surfers. She won the Under 18 NZ Scholastic champs in 2005, and the Under 18 New Zealand champs in 2006 before joining the Australian-based Junior Pro tour. In 2008 she won the Hyundai Pro long board tour and in November she placed second in a pro surfing event in England, the Animal Newquay Open.

She has also just returned from Portugal, representing New Zealand at the World Games. It was a “cool experience”.

They sort of set it out like the Olympics. They have all the teams marching in together and mixing the sand – so there’s this big glass box with all these different sands all mixed in together.

The New Zealand team of nine was one of 32 countries competing. The team got tenth overall, with Daisy placing 25th in her event. Surfers were judged on style, moves on the wave and variety as well as critical moves.

You’ve got a 20-minute heat, with four of you in it, and you get judged on your best two waves. You can catch up to 10 waves, but you only get judged on two.

Surfers and board riders at that level were close in technical competence so what often decided events was what you did with the waves you got. Daisy said the key to success was “the competition head” as well as technical skills.

Being mentally tough under pressure - you need to have the whole lot.

Portugal was rugged, but beautiful, she says, with great waves. Unfortunately the swell dropped off during the contest.

North Beach was where it all began

WalkingNorth Beach was her first training ground, when she was about 10. Her brother and her mother surf and although she enjoyed surf-lifesaving through her teen years, surfing was something “new and exciting” she says.

Once you start, you don’t stop.

Surf-lifesaving did help with two key aspects of successful surfing though – fitness and ocean awareness.

I was a swimmer when I was at school, I’ve always been in the water. I guess I had the upper body strength which is a lot of it – especially for girls.

Getting out in the water is the best training.

It's a totally natural training ground, the beach and the ocean. If I'm not surfing for training I am doing Yoga or going for a jog.

Christchurch residents are lucky to have such great beaches and surf so close, she says, adding that Canterbury beaches were a good training ground for her.

“Definitely coming from North Beach – Christchurch is not well-known for its surf – getting over there and competing definitely improves your surfing – just being able to compete and push yourself. Here you have to take what you can get in the surf – which was good preparation for the competitions – you can’t wait for the perfect conditions, you have to make the most of the waves that are there.”

Tour a tough career choice

LongboardDaisy isn’t sure if she’ll try for the top level or make the more lifestyle career of a free surfer. Either way the prospects look good, she says.

There is alot of untouched coastline out there and to explore and witness it would be fantastic.

"I’ve definitely got a competitive side to me, but I also love travelling and getting the culture side of things as well as the surf. I’ve still got to get my options clear. [The competitive] tour takes money and training and possibly a change of location … or there’s going for the free surfing. It’s hard to know.

At the moment her goal is to complete the New Zealand summer series and keep improving before possibly heading off overseas to keep improving her skills. She’s figuring out her back-up plan, but says competitive surfing is a huge commitment – “it’s all or nothing”.

This summer Daisy will be touring the country in a Spaceship, compete at the nationals in Piha and seven other competitions to chase an open national title. A win would give her the confidence to move further afield, she said.
Daisy competes in both short board and long board.

Short board is faster, and snappier. Tricky. A long board – I like to cruise on it because they’re so big. My one is a nine one (2.77m) which is the smallest you can have for competition. They’re good fun.

December 2008