Photo: WSL

From the Lanai: 7 Questions with Courtney Conlogue

A goal without a plan is just a wish, and it’s obvious that Courtney Conlogue knows this. It’s noon in mid December on the North Shore and her hazel eyes are glowing. She’s perched on a lanai overlooking Sunset Beach, the wind carries a faint noise from the announcers at the Pipe Masters and it is nearly impossible to differentiate the sky from the twinkling sea.

For Courtney, surfing is not just a sport of choice, a career, nor a lifestyle. It’s also a language. As the second place finisher on the 2016 Women’s WCT speaks about her goals – namely, to win the World Title – she keeps those excited eyes on the blue horizon and details her plan of how exactly she’s going to hoist the swanky hardware, all the while sounding like a student of surfing.

But the planning, the World Title hopes, the contest wins….all of this may be a desire today as she stares at the horizon, but it’s on next year’s agenda.

While the North Shore winter season signals the competitive apex for male competitors, Courtney and other members of the Women’s Tour have been using this time to objectively examine the year that was 2016. Oh, and relax.

For the California native who calls Hawaii home for a few weeks each winter, relaxing means tee times at Turtle Bay as well as arcing acrylic paint on a canvas.

With her tee time rapidly approaching on this warm December day, she reflects with us on her year, gives us a brief traveler’s perspective of our beloved 7-mile miracle, explains her secret for avoiding the crowds on the North Shore during the winter time, and discusses what it’s like to compete against Hawaii’s best on Tour. – Cash Lambert 

On her 2016 year…

“At this time, you obviously reflect on how the season went from event to event. You look at your throw away results and see how you can improve those every year. Overall, my season was a really strong season, I think Tyler [Wright] just had a stronger season. She had some great wins. I feel like I really improved my surfing overall, just the flow, the power, really connecting everything seamlessly together. I laid it on the line in Portugal, I tried to keep the Title race going as far as I could. I also had one of the best starts ever, winning Bells, and placing second at Margaret River and Snapper.”

On progressive surfing on the Women’s Tour…

“Progressive surfing, I think, is about laying down that rail in the water and for me, I love displacing as much water as possible. My goal is to be tight in the pocket. I love doing airs, and trying to get as deep as you can in the barrel. Where I see surfing progressing is with women like Paige Alms giving Peahi a swing, what she’s doing is incredible. Average wave scores have increased, and we’re being recognized by brands for what we do and what we’re good at. There’s a lot of empowerment going on, and I think it’s inspiring and it pushes us. There’s 17 women on Tour, and we’re all constantly challenging each other. Even on our last stop [at the Maui Women’s Pro] the waves weren’t the best, but we were doing high performance.”

On what North Shore breaks have taught her…

“I love surfing Sunset, just because it’s a big right hand canvas. It always keeps you on your toes. Inside the point, it’s like Russian roulette, because when you see guys out the back flooring it you’re just scraping. That spot taught me a lot about positioning. It’s not an outer reef, but by being out in the open, you have currents, the West bowl… all these variables. I’ve learned to love Rockies. It can be frustrating with the crowd, but you learn your spots where you can get your waves. V-land is always fun, it’s like a skatepark. And Haleiwa, the Toilet Bowl…that break has taught me about rips and having your back to the wave but knowing where to go. It challenges your surfing, and it’s a high performance wave. Backyards is especially fun, and Pipe is sick, I just can’t stand the crowds. Sometimes I’ll wait for a super windy and onshore day, because sometimes it rains and glasses it off. I’ll sneak out there for like 5 waves and then come in.”

On competing against Hawaii’s crop of female talent…

“I have a deep history surfing against Carissa [Moore]. We’d meet up as mini groms… I love competing against her, because it’s always blow for blow and it makes for a fun heat. Tati, Malia Coco…I think they’re all great athletes. Tati loves going for waves at places like Fiji, and it’s so fun to see her surf on her forehand. Malia has that flow, and Coco coming from the Ho family surfs really well.”

On Tour camaraderie…

“For the girls, the line [of competition versus friendship] is the water’s line. As soon as you hit the water, game on. We’re able to switch it off back on the beach. In the preheat area, once you put those headphones on and you look at the lineup, you’re wanting to win. It’s either you or them. Either way, it’s a healthy competition, the fact we get along on the beach and can switch it on and be competitive in the water, that’s the next generation. At the end of the day, there’s camaraderie, but any person would want to be holding that trophy.” 

On her favorite North Shore waves…

“If I could kick the crowd out, [my favorite wave would be] Pipe. I love surfing V-land when it’s playful, Sunset when it has a bit of West in it, Haleiwa, sometimes Rock Piles. I’ve been lit up there but I love that left. I loved towing Hammerheads, too. I don’t get to do that often. Oh, and small Waimea. I love playing with big boards and cruising into a big wave, just focusing on the drop.”

On her outlook for the 2017 season…

“There’s always fine tuning to do in your surfing, it’s always evolving. Look at Kelly [Slater]…he has multiple World Championships and consistently reinvented himself. I want to surf great waves and push my surfing and really focus more on that time in the water. I’m also going to be bringing on Luke Egan full time next year [as a coach], and I’m looking forward to that opportunity, to having a seasoned veteran there and using his knowledge. He’s been able to teach me a lot, and I love learning. To have someone who has such a deep knowledge around…I want to be a master of my sport.”





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