INTERVIEW WITH 2008 NATIONAL CHAMPION COURTNEY CONLOGUE
Thursday, August 28, 2008 | Written by Janice Aragon
INTERVIEW WITH 2008 NATIONAL OPEN WOMEN’S AND GOVERNOR’S CUP CHAMPION COURTNEY CONLOGUE
“Winning Nationals has always been a very desirable goal for me since I was 10-years-old competing in the Mini Grom division. It took me until now to reach that goal. It may have taken me a while to get a National title but what matters is that I didn’t allow my losses to get the best of me. I’ve learned so much along the way.” – Courtney Conlogue
Courtney Conlogue finally got her National title. The four-time Conference and reigning Regional Champion achieved her dream of Nationals gold beating west coast rival Sage Erickson and Hawaiian standouts Malia Manuel and Leila Hurst who took two titles herself in the Explorer Women’s and Girls’ divisions. Courtney has been on a Nationals mission since virtually the day she donned a NSSA jersey as a 10-year-old Mini Grom. And after five years of sweat, tears and relentless determination there was no stopping the 15-year-old this time as she swept through her preliminary rounds bulldozing her opponents and winning the final with a spirited performance. For Courtney, winning her first National Championship is just the beginning of a dream fulfilled. She will pursue her second straight title in 2009 as well as set her sights on success in World Junior Championship competitions. Two months after her Nationals triumph had sunk in, NSSA Executive Director Janice Aragon caught up with Courtney for a Q&A session to chat about her surfing, her accomplishments, her heavy school load and her future campaign.
NAME: COURTNEY TAYLOR CONLOGUE
AGE: 15 YEARS OLD
SCHOOL: SAGE HILL SCHOOL
HOMETOWN: SANTA ANA
LOCAL BREAK: ORANGE COUNTY BEACHES
PALS YOU SURF WITH: DAD, BROTHER, LEXI, DYLAN
PROUDEST MOMENT: WINNING CONFERENCE, REGIONALS, AND NATIONALS ALL IN THE SAME YEAR!!! FINALLY WINNING THE OPEN WOMENS NATIONALS
SPONSORS: BILLABONG, REEF, HUNTINGTON SURF AND SPORT, NIXON, SMITH, SEX WAX, DAKINE, GO211.COM, ZOLA, TOYOTA OF HB, NALUS ISLAND GRILL
Janice Aragon: First let’s start off by getting a brief rundown of how it all began. When did you start surfing and how did you get into it?
Courtney Conlogue: I always remember being at the beach. It’s where we went to relax and hang out every weekend as a family. Everyone always comments on how we live inland but it really isn’t that far away from every beach. We travel all over California for surf. My dad has surfed since he was 12 years old and I learned from him and his friends. We always took trips to Mexico with a large caravan of friends. We would surf and go fishing. I started surfing when I was 4 years old.
What made you want to start competing in contests?
I enjoy competition. I’ve competed in several other sports such as swimming, Tae Kwon Do, track & field, and cross-country. My family surfed together and competition was never a factor until someone approached my parents and told them about NSSA and thought I might enjoy it. My first event was in the Mini Grom division at State Beach in San Clemente. I’ll never forget that one.
You had a tremendous 2007-08 season. The four consecutive record-setting Conference titles, your first Regional title and then the Nationals. Describe the feeling of pulling off each one of those accomplishments.
This year was definitely my best results year in NSSA. Breaking Holly Beck’s record by getting 4 consecutive conference titles was cool. I’m glad that I conquered a few of my goals and obstacles in my amateur surfing career. I found that it also showed me that I was having a bit of consistency in my competitive surfing. Winning my first Regional title was amazing because I was runner up a few years before. In the past I was left looking up at the champ just wanting to finish at the top too. Winning Nationals has always been a very desirable goal for me since I was 10-years-old competing in the Mini Grom division. It took me until now to reach that goal. It may have taken me a while to get a National title but what matters is that I didn’t allow my losses to get the best of me. I also believe that by having to work so hard to get there makes the win mean that much more to me than getting it the first year I started competing. I’ve learned so much along the way.
How did you train for the Nationals?
Every year of competing has been preparation to win Nationals. Every session I have done has given me more experience on how to be one with the ocean and a better competitor. This year I came into the season not wanting to lose. I lost out in the quarters the year before against two Hawaiians in my own backyard. I didn’t want to have that happen again.
Who did you train with?
I train with my mom, dad, brother, sister, and a few coaches. I had just finished track & field this year with my high school team just before Nationals. I took up pole vaulting too.
Tell me about the board you rode at the Nationals and how it worked at Lowers?
I rode my “old faithful” which I have had for a few years. It was shaped by Bushman (5’9”, 18 1/8, 2 1/8). It responded to the waves and me completely for Nationals. It has now officially been retired.
What was going through your head on Finals day?
I had a lot on my mind that day: wanting to win, how to get there and just getting mentally ready for the moment.
How were your nerves before the Open Women’s final? Did you feel the pressure was on for you to win it?
I think everyone has the pressure to win the Nationals if they’re in the final. To have the ability to control the emotions, stress, and everything has to do a lot with who becomes the champ. At every Nationals your sponsors are there, a huge crowd is screaming and hooting on the beach, and then there is just you having to give your best performance and to give everyone a show. Every surfer has their nerves and performance jitters in an event. No one wants to be the first place loser. I always feel that as an athlete you are always pressuring yourself to succeed. In surfing it all depends on you and your results. For the most part surfing is an individual sport. I don’t think the pressure was coming from anyone else but me to win Nationals.
You are now finally a National Champion after five hard years of grit and determination. After it all sank in, describe the feeling of reaching one of the highest pinnacles of amateur surfing?
It meant a lot to me to get a National title. It is definitely one less monkey on my back. I felt super excited and relieved to finally have that completed all the way through. It is something I will always have and can never be taken away.
Why is the Nationals such a tough contest to win?
Nationals is tough to win because there is always so much talent in amateur surfing coming to this event. It’s important to have your top performance on if you want to be the best. The best in the nation come to compete and to win.
Did your sponsors do anything cool for you after your victory?
Billabong sent me flowers and gave me the new flip video camera. But what mattered to me was that I accomplished it for myself. It means a lot for me to be able to climb another step in my ladder.
Who was your favorite surfer to watch at the Nationals?
Nat Young for sure! He was on fire! He wanted it really bad from the start of the year. Just in 1 year he brought his surfing to another level.
What motivates you to achieve your goals?
I’d have to say what motivates me to win is just pure competition against others in my sport. I want to continue to grow and understand what it takes to be the best. I want to continue to try and figure out the ocean.
Who are the greatest influences on your surfing and why?
Lisa Andersen and Brad Gerlach. Lisa was able to get 4 ASP World titles and become the best without any support from her parents. She wanted it so much and she didn’t let anything get in the way of her love for surfing. Brad has the skill, compassion, and the knowledge to be the best. He charges the biggest waves in the world and rips on small waves at HB. He has mental strength and knows how to control his pressures, feelings, and emotions. They set great examples for me for many different reasons.
I notice you never whine about the judging even when things don’t go your way.
I don’t whine about the judging at any event. I leave the judging to the judges. I believe that if I didn’t win I made a mistake by not demonstrating full domination during the heat over my competition enough and didn’t make it obvious that I should win the heat. I also think that when I lose even if I thought I won or a call on an interference isn’t made – I walk away learning from the experience. It isn’t my part to complain about a judge’s call. Everyone is human and you can’t win it all the time.
What’s it like handling your intense school schedule and staying on top of your game in surfing?
It is definitely tough everyday during the school year. I walk into the classroom wanting to learn and gain some new knowledge and hang with my friends. A lot of my courses can’t be done on the road such as Chemistry or even Spanish.
What school subjects will you be taking next year?
I will be studying Geometry, US History, Biology, Art Fundamentals, Spanish III, English III, and Golfing!
You also enjoy other sports. What other sports are you into or competing in?
I’m on the track & field team and compete in the 400, 800, 4 x 100m, 4 x 400m, and pole vaulting. I love martial arts. I was 1 test away from getting my black belt in Tae Kwon Do when my teacher became ill. I’ll take it up again someday when I have more time again. I really enjoy swimming and after a session of surfing I’ll swim towers. When I was younger I was on a swim team. I love archery but haven’t had a lot of time lately to practice. I’m taking up golf at school. I’ve never played before but I’m looking forward to it.
How important will be defending your National title in 2009?
Very important!!! It is always fun trying to defend titles.
You started competing so young when you were 10-years-old in the Mini Grom division. What advice do you have for young girl surfers who are just starting out?
Don’t let the negative people in life bring you down, feel weak, or worthless. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose as long as you don’t quit and never stop doing what you love or want to do and try.
What would you do to improve things in Women’s professional surfing?
Create an organization that governs only women’s professional surfers just like they have in other sports. That way the focus and finances would be set for the women and not shared.
Besides your NSSA accomplishments, what stands out as your biggest achievements thus far?
Competing in the WCT at Honolua Bay placing 9th, getting 1st at the Van’s event, becoming the ASP North American Jr Pro champ last year, getting to the podium in France during the ISA Jr World Championships and never getting in the losers rounds.
What are your expectations for 2008-09?
Defend my NSSA National title, do well at the Billabong and ISA Jr World Championships, and just try to do well at keeping everything balanced with school and competing.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
On the WCT getting World titles, helping with global causes such as Surfaid, and trying new things.
Name someone you would really like to meet and why.
I would want to meet the most successful business people such as Bill Gates and others that make good choices and try new ideas.
What is the best advice that anyone has ever given to you?
Take no prisoners!
Anyone you would like to thank?
I would like to thank my whole entire family: Dad, Mom, Charleen, Ryan, Sage Hill School, my coaches, Janice and Gayline, my team managers, and all my sponsors. Thank you for supporting me as I continue my learning, searching and growing.