After coming inches away from throwing in the competitive surfing towel last year, Nicole Pallet was convinced by her dad to give it one more shot. And now, competing in her final year of the Under 20 division, the Durban North local has been cleaning-up all over the country with a hat trick of recent wins. Ahead of the final event of the Billabong Junior Series starting on Friday, we caught up with Nicole to find out where her head is at.
Nicole was stoked to claim victory at the Billabong Junior Series at Magnatubes.
ZIGZAG: Hi Nicole, you’ve been dominating lately. First you claimed victory at the Billabong Junior series event in J-Bay, then you went on to win the Under 20 division of the SA Champs in Richards Bay. This past weekend you followed that up by making it a hat trick with victory at the Boss of Moss in Mossel Bay. How does it feel to be on such a good win streak?
NICOLE: It feels amazing! I’ve wanted to get to this place for so long now and it just hasn’t been possible. Now that I’m here, I am just so grateful to get the recognition and approval that I’ve always wanted.
Have you felt like your surfing has progressed a lot over the past year or so?
Yeah, I definitely think my surfing has improved over the past year, as well as my mind-set that I have when I go into each heat. After having a really bad year in 2014 and only placing in a couple of contests, I really felt like giving up competitive surfing and following my brother in free-surfing. My dad was actually the one who told me to keep going and give it one more go (this year), as it was my last year in the Under 20 division. After last year, I took a break from training and coaching to just go free surf in random places with my brother and I just had FUN surfing. It made me realise what I had to do going forward, and a couple months later I was back at coaching and started to train really hard at gym. Then after the first win at the RVCA in J-Bay, I was stoked and loved the feeling of winning and just went into each contest after that keeping that feeling in mind.
With a solid rail game and a hunger for victory, Nicole has been unstoppable lately.
And how has training been going?
I have been training really hard with my coach QJ (Quintin Jones), and joined Movement X in Umhlanga, where they do a lot of cardio exercises as well as yoga classes, which I’ve really enjoyed. Every now and then I go to their boxing classes to release a bit of tension. I’ve also been focussing on my mind-set and making sure I don’t worry about the uncontrollable factors that happen in a contest, as it takes away from thinking about what I can control. I’ve also been surfing lots with my brother, and he pushes me to try different things and I also just recently started eating properly.
Tell us about the Billabong Junior Series thus far. How have the comps been?
Well, last year’s event at Seals was a bit of a disaster for me – I got knocked out in the semi-finals. This year at Magnatubes was a lot better with the priority system set up. I really hope that they use the priority system again this weekend, as it took out all the hustling and equalised the playing field. My strategy for the last contest had to change as I had never surfed a contest with priority before. Instead of scratching for waves, we had to be more patient and selective. I ended up in the final with Olivia Brand. She had been surfing really well in her previous heats, so I was a bit nervous going into it, but once I got my first score I was a lot calmer and just waited for another set wave to come through. Winning that contest really boosted my confidence and made me realise that it was possible for me to make the WSL Africa team.
Nicole surfed well to claim the RVCA Junior Challenge title at The Point in June.
What are your expectations for the final leg of the Billabong Junior Series?
Well, I’m hoping to at least make the finals as this will secure me a spot on the ASP Africa team to go to Morocco next year and compete at the World Junior Champs. I think everyone is my biggest challenge. You can’t really rule anyone out. Someone could be having a great day in the water and just rip it up, you never really know. My strategy going into it is to do what I’ve been doing in the last contests, which is just not letting anything bug me. I just need to go out there and focus on what needs to be done.
Has growing up with a brother who rips influenced or pushed you?
Yes it definitely has! Without him I probably would be nowhere right now, I might not have even been surfing. His passion for surfing has definitely rubbed off on me. He always makes me surf in siff onshore waves and then makes me go out on big days, so he is always pushing me to further my skills in all kinds of waves. He also has such knowledge of contest surfing (not that he’s good at it) but he watches a lot of the CT contests and knows what the judges are looking for, so knows what I need to do in order to impress the judges in local contests. When my dad films us he will always go over footage with me and point out the little mistakes I make that, if I correct, make all the difference in my surfing.
Nicole claimed her first SA Champs title in Richards Bay last month.
How do you feel about the state of women’s surfing in SA, and globally, in terms of coverage in the media, contests and the general perception?
I think it has come a long way. Bianca has done a lot for women’s surfing in South Africa and we get a lot of exposure through her. She shows that it can be done and that hard work pays off in the end. It makes you feel like it’s possible to get to where she is and that motivates other South African girls to go for it. Girl surfing has still got a long way to go globally as it’s not on the level of men’s surfing yet, but maybe one day it will be.
What are your goals for the rest of 2015 and where do you want to be at with your surfing in the next five or so years?
I hope to at least make the finals of this next Billabong contest to secure a place on the ASP Africa team. Then I want to see how well I do over there to determine if it’s worth giving the Qualifying Series a shot. So within the next five years, I would like to have the backing of a sponsor so that I can compete on the QS and hopefully one day make the CT.
Smashing the lip on her way to victory at the Billabong Junior Series in J-Bay.
Nicole’s brother Matt produced this short video – Asylum – which showcases some of Nicole’s rad free-surfing skills.
Nicole will be in action at the final event of the Billabong Junior Series, which kicks-off at Seal Point on Friday, 25 September: