17 years old
Cabarita Beach, Australia
That little NZL next to her name on the webcast is what catches your eye, isn’t it? That, and her sharp backhand at Snapper and Bells earlier this season. It was there where she introduced herself to the world. Hello, world. Name’s Sarah. She ended up in the fourth round at Snapper and the quarters at Bells. Which is where we meet — at Bells, that is.
ASP media director Dave Prodan introduces us during the Steph vs. Sally final. Sarah’s wearing wedged heels, a shy smile and big green eyes. We small-talk for a few minutes: She tells me she wants to win a world tour event in the next couple of years, a world title shortly thereafter and in her spare time enjoys tennis, golf and skateboarding. A weathered Aussie eavesdropping on our conversation leans over to me and nods in Sarah’s direction, “That’s gonna be New Zealand’s first world champ, right there.”
Later, Sarah stops by the Bells SURFING house for a portrait. She’s got her family in tow, as she always does when she travels. I ask her dad what spurred the family’s move to the Gold Coast when Sarah was just 9 years old. “We moved for women’s surfing,” he says. That’s some foresight there, I think, picturing the family’s hopes leaning on fourth grade Sarah. But he explains that her older sister was also a promising surfer, and to give her a fair shot, they transplanted to the wave- and industry-rich Goldy. Because it’s tough to make an impact in New Zealand — there’s little money, less exposure and plenty of great talent in their prime years virtually hidden by Australia’s shadow. But not Sarah. She is in the sun on the Gold Coast and her prime years are still ahead of her. She wraps her portrait with SURFING photog Duncan Macfarlane, gives us a high-five goodbye and is on her way. As the family backs down the driveway, I jab Duncan with my elbow, “That’s New Zealand’s first world champ, right there.” —Taylor Paul