Surfing: Pro forced to go with the breaks

By Ben Guild


Surfing has the reputation for being the domain of a laidback bunch, but nothing could be further from the truth for those trying to make it professionally in what is a dwindling market.

Bay of Plenty Polytechnic High Performance Scholarship recipient Gracie Spiers, who won the women's open division at the South Island Surf Champs in March, is the perfect case in point.

The stylish surfer is widely regarded as one of the finest female surfers in the country, but does not know exactly where she ranks. "There's the open circuit in New Zealand that runs over summer and I think I'm in the top three for that, but all the junior competitions are separate," she said.

"I couldn't tell you where I rank, really. The market at the moment in surfing isn't great - there's no money in it. It costs you more to do it than you make so I'll just keep surfing and competing and see what happens.

"With the down-turn, all the surfing brands are really struggling and a lot of the competitions have lost sponsorship - especially in women's surfing - which sucks."

Sponsorship from Billabong, Kustom, Von Zipper and Palmers helps matters, as does the scholarship with the polytechnic enabling her to study marine science, but trying to crack the big time can be tough.

Two years spent on tour in Australia while working two jobs led to Spiers' competitive surfing suffering, so she came home to study a subject close to her heart. "I don't have anything specific planned for my degree, but I love the ocean and travelling so anything I could do to combine those two things would be great."

Spiers, who began surfing aged 10 in her home town of Whangamata, prides herself on keeping up with the trends in the ever-evolving sport.

A sprained knee is currently keeping her out of the water, but she is considering travelling across the Tasman in the middle of the year to compete. The breaks of the Americas - specifically those offered by Peru and Hawaii - are in Spiers' sights.

But in the meantime, the surf near Matakana Island, Raglan and Whangamata will have to suffice.


Career highlights



  • 3rd at the Backdoor Pro Junior at Mount Maunganui.


  • 2nd at the Volcom VQS New Zealand Champs in Gisborne.


  • 1st Open Women at South Island Champs.


  • 4th ITL New Zealand Women's Open.


- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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