South Africa is a budding surf nation that already has stars in both Jordy Smith and Bianca Buitendag. With Jordy and Bianca paving the way, there is a bumper crop of young surfers ready to pave their own path. With incredible breaks, and beautiful backdrops, South Africa is on the way to becoming a force in the surfing world.
One such surfer is Durban resident Nicole Pallet. Nicole is coming off impressive contest wins; RVCA in J-Bay, the USSA contest (a contest against universities from around the country), the Billabong in J-Bay and the South African Championships in Richards Bay. Nicole is no stranger to international competition as she has represented her country in the ISA World Championships on two occasions in both Panama, and Nicaragua, and even went toe to toe with current CT star Tatiana Weston-Webb, ultimately coming out with the heat win.
Nicole is currently working on her BA in Corporate Communication from Varsity College, and is looking at making a QS run in the coming year or two. As with every aspiring pro, sponsorship and funding is key. Often times many sacrifices are made in the hopes that you can earn a spot on the CT or sustain yourself on the QS. Most sponsorships aren’t as lucrative as many people would think, often only providing equipment and apparel, but not helping with the cost of travel, lodging or things like food and training.
I had a chance to get to know Nicole, and can tell you she is one very driven and ambitious young lady. Along with being a great surfer with a bit of an edge, she has a very creative and witty punch to her. Along with her brother Matt, they have made some great action packed and entertaining surf videos. I had the chance to get some insight from Nicole herself, on training, surfing, and everything in between.
You are having a great year competing in your region, what are you goals moving forward? Are you looking at making a run in WSL QS (qualifying series) in the near future?
My goal at the moment is to firstly do well (make finals) at the next Billabong Junior series in September which will help me to secure a place on the WSL Africa team to go to Morocco for the WJC. If I could get a chance at the WSL QS in the future I would love to, I would hate to have not given it a try, and live my life not knowing what would have happened. At the moment I don’t have that kind of money and neither do my sponsors which makes it a lot harder to make that dream a possibility.
How would you describe your style as a surfer? What moves do you enjoy and do well at and are there any you are working on that we should be on the lookout for?
I really do look up to my brother’s surfing and I take all the advice I can get from him. He’s always teaching me something new and pushing me to be a better surfer, so I would like to say that I aim towards his style of surfing which is free flowing with an aggressive and powerful edge to it that grabs your attention. I enjoy doing big carves but at the moment I’m working on doing those crazy upside down reverses, I’ve come close at it but just not riding it out.
Who are some of your influences and are there any surfers you look up to or draw inspiration from?
My brother definitely influences me to push my level of surfing as well as my coach (Quintin Jones), he is always trying to get me to have that competitive mind-set that helps in contests. I also get a lot of inspiration from Carissa Moore because she is always pushing the boundaries of women surfing as well as the power she puts into every turn, but I also love Coco Ho and Malia Manuel’s style.
South Africa is still viewed as a growing nation when it comes to surfing, what do you think will help with the growth and rise of surfing in your region?
One thing that would really help is to get more surf contests in South Africa, practice makes perfect and I feel as though South African surfers can’t get that contest practice that we so desperately need, especially for the girl surfers. There are only about four major contests for junior girl surfers in a year in South Africa. The next division up would be open and for open women surfers there are only two major contests. There is just not enough money being spent on contests around the country.
Another thing that I think could help with the growth of surfing in South Africa would be for the government and private companies to recognize the sport of surfing and invest in institutions such as high performance academies. Although we do have coaches and personal trainers etc., it’s all very separated and it would be great to try get all of them together under one roof. Lastly the sponsors that invest in their surfers here are not as involved with their surfers as those overseas. To me it seems like more time, money and effort goes into the sponsorships that surfers overseas are getting than to the surfers here.
What are some of the obstacles that young surfers like yourself face as far as competing, getting sponsors, and traveling?
Because the Rand is so low compared to the US dollar or Australian Dollar it takes a lot more effort to find the money to spend on things like the WQS. Traveling costs for South Africans are also such a hassle because all the QS events are overseas somewhere and although in the end everyone trying out the QS still has to travel, it won’t be as much as they have a couple QS events in their backyards. Another obstacle that South African surfers face would be that we don’t have that experience that international surfers have and this is due to the lack of funding, training facilities, having to pay more money to travel and to buy more visas.
There is also a lot of talented surfers overseas and each of them push each other to be a better surfer, there are a lot more girl surfers to compete against in other regions and so the competitive drive is forced into people’s core culture. In South Africa, there are less surfers so it is easier to do well or place higher in a contest and so less girls are feeling the need to improve as they may feel that their result was satisfactory for them. Less girls in South Africa are feeling that pain of losing, that pain that forces you to want to free surf for that extra hour, go to gym for an extra day or to keep you away from that junk food that you so desperately want. From experience I have learned that losing isn’t all that bad and if you can get through the loss and come out the other side as a stronger surfer then you will eventually receive that result you want. Losing drives that need to be a better surfer and South Africa doesn’t have that surfing culture of knowing that second just isn’t good enough.
Nicole hopes to have an opportunity to compete for a spot on the CT as well are raise the level of competitiveness in her region. She has all the tools to be one of the new faces of surfing in South Africa. Even though she has excelled in many contest, sponsorship has been hard to come by, and like many surfers looking for an opportunity to showcase their talents on a bigger stage, Nicole has had a hard time getting to contest that will put her in front of larger crowds and potential sponsors. With each win, Nicole and her family hope that some eyes will turn towards South Africa and take notice. In the meantime she is hopeful that she will be able to find here way to contest in Australia, Hawaii or Southern California where most of the major sponsors are based.
Everyone here at The Surf Channel hope to see you at one of the famous breaks in California very soon!