The smell of jet fuel filled my lungs as I boarded United Airlines on its way to El Salvador, Central America. With one checked bag and a thruster, I was on a quest to achieve my most dreamt of goal…competing in a world class professional surfing contest!
I arrived one day before the competition was to begin. The swell was an expected 6-8ft. reeling right hand point break and some of the biggest names in pro surfing were going to be there to partake. From the get-go I was the obvious odd ball. I showed up by myself representing my home country of Fiji (first and only person), and I must have made every rookie mistake in the book. I brought ONE surfboard in which was brand new and I had never surfed it before, I was staying at an extremely local hotel about a two mile walk to the venue, and I arrived with only one day to practice and learn the point break. None of this seemed to bother me whatsoever as I was completely focused on the fact that I was here to learn, experience, and begin the stages to making a name for my country and I in the fabulous world of competitive surfing.
24 hours later I found myself throwing on a blue jersey and running through some warm up stretches listening to “Xplosive” by Dr. Dre! This was it, this was the moment I had been anticipating for many years, representing my country in the most epic sport and it was about to be shown on live television. All I could think of was free surfing my favorite homebreak, Lighthouse, with all my best mates and kicking their butts! In my heat was a girl from Hawaii, one from Australia and a local wildcard from El Salvador. Two and a half minutes into my heat I caught my first wave. I landed one of the biggest floaters I think I’ve ever attempted but that was the only maneuver I was able to fit in. In that heat I caught five waves and unfortunately came out a bit short on scores for most of them. As my heat concluded, there were so many emotions flowing through me. I was relieved, excited, shy, fulfilled and most of all I was extremely proud of not only myself but proud of my family and my country for taking this chance on me. The first heat to my professional surfing career was accomplished and it left me with a full stomach and an enormous hunger for more!
This trip had opened my eyes from dreaming and set my perspective on a realistic course. I was competing with the best and more importantly, I was standing tall right there with them. None of this would have been made possible if it weren’t for some key factors that took place. Fiji Surfing Association, and the Fiji National Sports Commission obviously played a major role as they always have when it came to supporting my surfing ambitions and working towards progressive surfing in Fiji. My family and their unconditional support is the basis of my achievements and the core to my success. Not to mention the countless hours of dedication to improving my surfing in both good conditions and bad. What I realized the most during this experience is what it really takes to compete at such a level and where I stand amongst that. With that said, I am fully confident in pursuing professional surfing and I believe I’m on the right path towards it.
– Hannah Bennett Aug 2015