Ella Williams began 2018 in the same familiar way – bouncing around the globe on the hunt for vital points on the World Surf League qualifying series.
But after failing to make much on an impact at the first three major events of the year, she decided it was time to get her body right.
When she was 16, Williams suffered a broken nose and underwent two procedures to fix it. However, soon after the surgeries, she began having issues again.
"It'd gone crooked," she says. "I couldn't breathe properly through it, so it was really hindering my surfing and just my general living."
Williams considered going back under the knife, but in 2013 she became the Junior World Champion. With the title came a career decision – commit to working on the qualifying series towards the goal for making it to the World Championship Tour, or get her nose fixed again.
She chose to focus on her career.
"So for the last three to four years I've been super busy doing the QS and a lot of my time and energy hasn't been in to getting my nose and my health 100 per cent, it's more been that I want to be on tour and do that kind of thing."
For four years, Williams battled on the qualifying series – picking up two event wins along the way. But she wasn't surfing to her full ability, and decided 2018 would be the year she took care of herself.
Instead of heading to some of the competitions on the second half of last year's qualifying series, the Whangamata star went back under the knife in August. Williams was sidelined until the final event of the year, in Australia in November, but watched on as fellow Kiwis Paige Hareb and Ricardo Christie earned their spots on the Championship Tour with impressive qualifying campaigns.
"It (was) definitely a challenging year for me, but I had to pick a time of the year that I just needed to block out," the 24-yar-old says.
"It definitely had an impact on my results and my overall ranking for the year, but it's just one of those things. You just have to take it on the chin and look towards next year."
Now, refreshed and ready for another year chasing waves around the globe, Williams will continue her quest to join the world's elite.
While her four years battling on the qualifying series have been tough, she says one of the hardest parts has been that a number of girls she beat to win the Junior World Championship have gone on to star on the Championship Tour.
"When you're in the same kind of area then all of a sudden they jump leaps and bounds, you do question yourself," she admits.
"But I think everyone has their time in life. Everyone advances at different times and, hey, maybe I was meant to not go as far so I could learn over the last few years and get experience. I definitely think I'm just in my bubble, doing my thing, and I know when the time is right it will happen.
"Even though sometimes I wish it would happen sooner, you've just got to go with it."