Chelsea Tuach embodies everything that is so right about women’s surfing right now. Smart, talented, driven, composed, powerful and beautiful, the list goes on. This young Roxy surfer from Barbados, is inspiring not only North American girls, but young female surfers world-wide since joining the WSL tour this year. Lunch with Liz caught up with this fellow Suzuki cars ambassador for a chat and the best Acai bowls in town, at Niche and Co in Kirra, during the Gold Coast’s Roxy Pro.
WHERE WE WENT: Niche and Co, Kirra
WHAT WE ATE: Pink Pitaya Bowl – pink Dragonfruit, Banana, Berries, blended with cold pressed Apple Juice, topped with Strawberries, Ago, Chia Seeds, Coconut and Mint $14, Peanut Butter Acai Bowl – Banana, house made Peanut Butter, raw Vanilla protein and Almond milk, topped with Banana, LSA, Coconut, Choc Bucking, raw Cinnamon and Honey $14.
WHAT CHELSEA WORE: Roxy
WHAT LIZ WORE: Talulah
How did you start surfing?
“I started surfing when I was 8 years old! I’ve got two big brothers and they were surfers and they would always go out and surf and leave me at home and I couldn’t have that. I wanted to do whatever they did, so I begged my mum to let me start surfing. I picked up a board and after that it was a family affair! Every weekend we were packing up the car, putting together some food and just staying for the whole day at the beach. So it was really, really nice. We also had a beach house on the east coast of Barbados and we would go there every August for the whole month. So we would just surf all day and that way, since I was a little girl, I really grew to love the ocean. That’s how I started. Then my brothers were really good surfers and they would actually compete and go to the ISA’s in South Africa and Tahiti and that’s when I was like ‘geeze, I want to do that’, so I started competitive surfing and after I got my first win I never looked back!”
What is the surfing culture like in your hometown St Michaels, in Barbados?
“In Australia there are so many people in the water. At home it’s way more laid back. A crowded day in Barbados is maybe 10 people out at Soup Bowls. We do have a couple of girl surfers, but nothing like California, or here in Australia. There are a few more girls picking it up at home these days, but when I was growing up, there were only me and this one other girl and her name was also Chelsea! So there was only two girls in Barbados surfing, we were always in the final together, we were always battling it out, we were kind of at the same level so we could still push each other without needing a large number of girls, the two Chelseas, so that was cool.”
At what point did you realise you wanted surfing to be your career?
“My first Pro win! I went up to Coco Beach, in 2010. I went to do the under 14 & 17s divisions and when I was up there I got some advice to go in the Pro. You know going in the 14s & 17s wasn’t that prestigious, but if you could get to the quarter-final of the Pro, that was a big deal and you could make some money. So I bit the bullet and went for it and made it all the way to the finals and then won! Against surfers much older than myself! I was 14, it was incredible for me, because I really considered not entering it. When I saw the names in the heats and they were girls that I’d been reading about in surfing magazines and stuff, I was thinking there’s no way I can beat them! Then once I got that confidence boost, I thought ‘well these girls are really good and I just beat them’ I wanted to see who else I could beat! I kept flying to Florida and doing the east coast events and started to really like it and I wanted to continue to push myself to see where I could go. I’ve always loved surfing so it was cool to find a career in it!”
What does your ROXY sponsorship mean for you? And likewise having the support of Suzuki, Sol and Dragon optical?
“Roxy’s been with me since 2008. I was in France and I had just won my heat and Chad Wells was actually doing some commentary and he works for Quiksilver and he brought me into the booth because he was getting a lot of comments online from Barbados and he was like ‘I just wanted to bring you in here, because you’re getting so many comments online and support from Barbados and where is Barbados?’ and we got talking and I had a Roxy wetsuit on and he said ‘so are you sponsored?’ and back then no one was sponsored in Barbados! It was just a dream, something you’d see the girls in the surf movies have and stuff. So I said ‘no I wish’ and he was like ‘oh well, I know someone in California and I’m happy to send your bio’ and this is all live – so all of my family were seeing this go down! I could not believe it. Ever since then Roxy have been so awesome to me. You feel so special to be with such a great brand. I feel very blessed to have their support. Suzuki picked me up this year in January and I’ve already been able to do such cool things. We flew to Jamaica and did some charity events with the local kids, I got to do a Swift driving experience back home, which was amazing. Oh my gosh it was so much fun! So I’ve definitely got some really good backing behind me.”
What was it like paddling out for your first ever WSL heat at Snapper Rocks for the Roxy Pro?
“It was incredible. Surfing Snapper without the crowd, I wanted to go on every wave! I had to really slow myself down and be patient and wait for the right ones. It was a completely different experience to what I’d been surfing all week. Seeing my locker with my name on it for the first time and putting on my jersey, I felt so inspired. I felt so excited to get out there. I knew how many people were watching and I just wanted to paddle out, start with a good wave and showcase what this little girl from Barbados could do. I didn’t take the win and I think I could have selected better waves, but I got this one wave that I could really surf well and I could light up on. So even though I didn’t make it too far in this contest, I think the next one will be really good. I’ve already learnt so much from my first contest.”
How have you found your time on the Gold Coast?
“I absolutely love the Gold Coast. It’s given me a little taste of home actually, of the Caribbean. The water is incredibly warm, it’s so clear, you can look down and see the fish and the sand. We’ve had this really cool apartment across the road from the beach. We wake up every morning and can check the waves, see the sunset, there’s a nice boardwalk, so we’ve been walking around, I’ve just been loving it! Checking out the shops and the local food with my mum. The lineup is crowded, that’s the only bad thing, other than that, I don’t want to leave!”
Your favourite place to eat out while in Australia? And your favourite lunch at home?
“I love Sushi and in Barbados it’s really expensive, so you can only get it on special occasions. I have found this place, O’sushi in Coolangatta, which I love! We’ve been having it for lunch and dinner every second day. Lunch at home is Bajan local cuisine. Macaroni Pie, Flying Fish is incredible, if you come to Barbados you have to try it, it’s my favourite thing to eat in the whole entire world, it’s fried in a bread batter, it’s amazing, or Baked Chicken and Macaroni. They’re what I go for!”
You seem mature beyond your 20 years, what do you attribute this to?
“The education in Barbados is really good. I went to full school until I was 16. That’s high school. We finish school at 16 and do all our exams and right after that I moved to California by myself and stayed with this amazing family. I think I had to mature really quickly because of the lifestyle I’m living. I usually travel by myself or with the other surfer girls. I learn so much every time I travel. I try to talk to as many locals as I can and try to get as much knowledge as I can and just explore. I’ve been taking care of myself and keeping everything together and this sport definitely has matured me. It’s amazing.”
Your preferred travel partner?
“I love traveling with my mum, she makes it so easy. She takes care of all the business, she books my flights and accommodation, so honestly when I’m traveling with her all I have to do is pack my boards. I find I can relax and just go surfing and she deals with everything. It’s perfect. We’re a good duo.”
Who inspires you?
“On tour right now some of the girls really inspire me. Joanne Defay, she has been surfing so amazing. Sally Fitzgibbons was the first pro surfer I ever met and I got to hang out with her on a Red Bull trip and her whole personality, how well she carried herself, how passionate she was about surfing, I think I must have only been about 11 or 12 and it really inspired me to be a professional surfer, seeing her and seeing how cool she was in real life. I was like ‘geeze she does this for a living, that is the most amazing job’. From then on I really started to push myself and I was thinking, I want to be like Sally, I want to surf like her and be on tour with her. My mum and God and my whole family inspire me and the support I receive from home inspires me, all the messages I get telling me ‘I can do it’ mean a lot.”
Five year goal?
“Right now I just want to stay on tour and really establish my surfing. I defiantly want to stay on the world tour. This being my first event, I’ve loved surfing even more. Just seeing everyone in their training mode, I’ve watched so many heats already and they’re really motivating me. So my goal, to keep in the top 10 … and five-year goal, definitely be a world champion, I’ll push for number one.”
You can see a video of Chelsea and her surfing here – https://youtu.be/k4cPzRVfQ0k