|ESPN.com: Surfing||[Print without images]|
|"I am going to work as hard as I can for the remainder of the year, improving on things I can control, and the rest, I will have to deal with next year. There is still a lot to learn."|
"Who are your rivals?"
"No one in particular," Bianca Buitendag says.
Just anyone and everyone between her and the proverbial top. No personal vendettas. No hard feelings. Just hard surfing. And goals that need meeting.
Buitendag's been kicking it on the Junior and Qualifying Series circuits for the last five years and this year, she consolidated the drive that had previously been split between school and surf comps. She set a major goal for herself: Qualify for the WCT.
In October, she marked that mission accomplished.
"Going into the last WQS of the year, there were rumors going around, but I wanted to wait for it to be official," she says. "My coach, Mathias, and my mom were with me [when we found out I'd qualified]. Most of the competitors came up to me and congratulated me, which I appreciated the most. That night, when I was lying in bed, I was just thinking, 'Did I really just qualify?' I mean, it was such a long process to get there, and it happened so quickly."
|Buitendag won in the SATA Airlines Azores Islands Pro in September to clinch her slot on tour.|
More than anything, Buitendag felt relieved in that moment, which sort of leads you to believe that, had the rumors proven false, she would have been crushed. Confidence cautiously followed, but not enough to completely quash uneasiness about the coming year.
"There is a big part that is unknown," she says. "I am going to work as hard as I can for the remainder of the year, improving on things I can control, and the rest, I will have to deal with next year. There is still a lot to learn."
Buitendag, 18, has been surfing since she was 7, and though she thrives in competitive environments, the Roxy Pro Gold Coast will be her first CT event -- ever. She'll cope with nerves the same way she always does:
"I believe all things happen for a reason; that everything is part of a plan. Before I paddle out in a heat, I know that the future is decided. My trust in God and his plan give me a kind of peace," she says.
It also helps that the Roxy Pro Gold Coast is held at Snapper Rocks. One of just two goofy riders in the Top 17 (the other's Kiwi Paige Hareb), Buitendag grew up surfing backside at Victoria Bay point breaks, near Cape Town, and she'll be nice and comfy on the famed Queensland right-hander.
ASP Women's Tour Manager Jessi Miley-Dyer is eager to see how Buitendag's rookie year unfolds.
|Buitendag grew up surfing on her backside, so spots like Snapper will be a nice way to get started on the tour.|
"Bianca is going to bring an interesting element to the Tour, I think," she says. "At 6'1", she is really similar to Owen Wright, in that she uses her height to her advantage. She uncoils in her bottom turns and really unleashes off the top. Her backhand, in particular, is very strong, which will come in handy at places like Bells and Snapper. 2012 was a pivotal year for her: She moved to France to work with her sponsors (Roxy and Moskova), trained hard with Mathias, and spent a lot of time in the water. The results speak for themselves. She's got the guts to chase her dream and work hard for what she wants, and in this new era of professionalism for female surfing. Think Lakey Peterson and Sally Fitzgibbons and their training regimes, she is going to find herself right at home in the Top 17."
Last year's rookies collectively obliterated the concept of "shoe-ins," and Buitendag looks poised to follow suit.