New Zealand surfer Paige Hareb has won an inaugural event featuring the world's best surfers in a man-made wave pool in California as part of a world team. Hareb told Kawekōrero it was a surreal experience in freshwater, not salt, it wasn’t rough so it came down to one’s talent and ability as a surfer. Hareb teamed up with surfers from South Africa, Japan and Tahiti to take out the World Surf League's Founders Cup at the inland venue called the Surf Ranch.
“It’s still sinking in but I think it’s probably the most fun weekend of my life, it’s pretty surreal I guess driving inland to a pool, I’d never done that before, the whole weekend was really fun," says Hareb.
She says she did, however, feel the pressure up against some of the world’s best surfers.
“There were five teams of five competitors, 3 guys and 3 girls in each team, we actually had to finish in the top 3 to go into the final and we finished third equal with Australia so we had to have a surf off and my team captain Jordy chose me to be the girl to surf on one wave and he surfed on one wave up against Australia’s best,” she says.
After winning the sudden-death surf-off against competition favourites Australia, the world team scored eight points in the final, with Brazil scoring seven and the USA four. Ten years in the making, the WSL Surf Ranch is the longest open barrel, man-made wave in the world and can run both left and right. American surf legend Kelly Slater, an 11-time world champion who still competes on the World Tour, was the driving force and brains behind the project.
Hareb says, “It was all his idea and pretty much like his home and he was hanging out on the couch next to me at one stage and he’s just another human but it’s pretty amazing sitting next to him.”
The Taranaki surfer is in her seventh year as part of the World Tour since her debut in 2009, when she recorded her best overall finish of ninth.
”My advice is persistence is the key and as long as you love it and never give up. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now definitely had some downs but it’s definitely worth it,” she told Kawekōrero.
Hareb, who is back on the World Tour after a three-year absence, has been eliminated after the second round of all three events so far this year.