Paige Hareb: How she became NZ’s greatest female surfer ever

Could there be a better job really than getting paid to surf? She is our first ever Kiwi female surfer to qualify for the championship tour. Competition, mindset resilience… we’re going to dig into it all right now with Paige Hareb. 

DB: There’s a lot of research and positive stories about the benefits of cold water, something you are very experienced in! Do you agree with the research on how it can help your physical and mental health?

PH: I completely agree. I remember years ago I read somewhere how the ions that come from like the white water – from a wave breaking – also somehow give you energy, which I agree with. Even when you can get bowled over by the whitewater, you still come up pretty happy about it!

DB: What’s the difference when you’re surfing for the love of it, compared to in a competition? Does it change as far as your mindset goes?

PH: No, not really. Whether you get a really good wave in a heat, compared to in a free surf, you still get that same thrill and the same feeling. Being in a competition makes it that much sweeter as I’m a competitive person, so obviously I like to win as well. That would be the only difference!

DB: You’re the first Kiwi female surfer to qualify for the championship tour and that is a very competitive place to be. How do you get your head into the right place? 

PH: It’s probably been my biggest challenge over my career and I’ve been doing it for probably 15 years now. That’s a long time really, when I first got on tour I was only 17 years old. I like to think that my mindset has changed a lot from then, as I’m nearly 32. When I first got on tour, I was more like happy-go-lucky and just didn’t even really think of the pressure or the results or anything like that. But it definitely has been a bit of a roller coaster over the years. For me the biggest secret is that it still comes back to just having fun. That’s when I know I do my best when I’m not really thinking about anything else, I’m in the flow and in the moment.

DB: Was there a point where you were like, ‘I don’t know if I can do this? I don’t know if this is this the path that I’m supposed to be on?’ 

PH: I can remember, after two or three years being on the top tour, you just kind start to feel a little bit like Groundhog Day, the same old thing every day and it is easy to forget sometimes it is one of the best jobs in the world. So without feeling unappreciative of it, it definitely got to me after two or three years. It can be lonely travelling around the world by yourself and you see the same people everywhere and they are your friends but they’re your competitors as well. So, it’s not like you’re really getting close to anyone and that can definitely take a toll on things.

DB: A battle with technology and how much we have to use our cellphones is big for almost every career – and that definitely includes athletes. Have you seen that impact in the industry over the last few years? 

PH: It’s crazy especially in the surfing world with sponsors and social media. There was a big movement for a while there, it depended on how many likes you got for a post whether you would get picked up by certain sponsors. I can definitely say it can cause anxiety for a lot of people and yeah, it’s just not that healthy at all. It’s good to see that it’s slowly changing, especially in the surfing industry.  Back in the day, you were only going to be sponsored if you wore a bikini when you’re 13 or looked a certain way. We’ve come a long way.

BD: A lot of Kiwis look up to you, they’re very proud to see you out there on the tour. I’m interested to know what that experience is like. You’ve got all these surfers from all over the world, what kind of environment is that? How much does it operate like a family and how much is everyone kind of looking out for each other to a degree because you’re also competing against them as well?

PH: It’s definitely a bit of a blurred line sometimes, because everyone gets along really well and you are literally travelling the world to at least 10 events a year, seeing each other more than your family and friends pretty much so they do become your second family. You definitely find people that you connect with better than others. Just finding the right people for you. it’s like a big, big travelling school, so yeah I definitely have close friends, they are definitely the people that look out for me the most. 

DB: When you started out, who were the guys or girls that inspired you? And what kind of advice or guidance did you get from them? 

PH: Kelly Slater was still the main man around that I was looking up to. And then it was Layne Beachley as the women’s world champion. I saw them at all the comps the very first year that I qualified, in Hawaii. I remember I had to get through one more heat to qualify and I clearly remember that Layne Beachley was one of the only girls that came up to me and asked me about it and then said ‘no pressure’, which almost gave me more pressure!

DB: How has the surfing world changed over the years?

PH: It’s changed a lot, it’s definitely got more professional, which is awesome to see in the sport. Women are getting better and better, if not better than some of the men now, which is pretty cool as a female surfer to see. So for anyone interested – boys or girls – I would say you have to be persistent, keep trying. Like every day after school, I would go to the beach and surf and sometimes at lunch times, much to my teacher’s disgust. Do it for yourself as well and only if you’re having fun. I’ve seen a lot of helicopter and pushy parents over the years, it’s not good for the kid. It’s got to first and foremost be about having fun.

DB: What advice would you give, not just to surfers, but to everyone?

PH: You just really have to look within yourself and be completely self-aware. I think it’s almost something that you learn over the years but as long as you try and be aware of it and kind of block out everyone else’s opinion and views, whether in person or on social media, you’re the one controlling your life and actions. Just look within really. 

DB: What are the things that you are grateful for this morning?

PH: I’m always grateful for a coffee in the morning. But no, I’m very grateful to be coming up to my 15th year of being a pro surfer. If someone had told me that 15 years ago, I never would have believed that. So yeah, I’m very happy to still be here and doing it.

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