Paige Hareb has rediscovered her passion.
That's not to say that she ever lost it, but being unable to chase summer in the form of the various competitions around the world over the last two years, the Kiwi surfer has had a chance to reset.
For more than a decade, Hareb has been competing among the world's best – including spending eight years on the World Surf League Championship Tour, the pinnacle of the sport.
Falling off the CT at the end of the 2019 season, her failure to requalify was the start to a challenging couple of years for the 31-year-old.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, her opportunities to compete abroad were nearly non-existent.
In 2021, she took the risk of travelling to El Salvador for the International Surfing Association World Games in her bid to qualify for the Olympics. She finished 11th in the event – an agonising one heat short of the mark for Olympic qualification.
Instead of gallivanting around the globe, Hareb took the enforced hiatus to reconnect with home soil - playing in football and basketball leagues at home in Taranaki, while exploring other parts of the country and spending plenty of time on her board.
Reflecting on the past two years, Hareb says while it felt like she was being robbed of time late in her career, after a rough start her mindset soon changed.
"It has been a nice break and a nice refresher. I think it has made me appreciate all the traveling that I have done," Hareb says.
"I'm hoping it's going to be good for me. I'm more excited about surfing again now than I was two years ago, and I'm excited to go away and get back into the whole competition scene."
Hareb plans to travel to Australia next month to prepare for a return to the competitive world of surfing. She will do so as the newly minted national champion – picking up her first two New Zealand titles at the national championships in Westport last week.
Hareb won the women's open event as well as the women's over-30s category, finally getting to clinch a prize that had long eluded her.
"I kind of thought it was a little bit funny that I have gotten results internationally and couldn't get a national title," Hareb says. "I was almost thinking of not ever trying to get one just because I thought it was quite funny, but it's a pretty nice feeling to actually get one.
"I've been wanting it since I was like 17 or 18, but I haven't really been in the nationals too much over the last 12 years. Still, seeing some of the other girls I compete against get it over the years has made me want to get my name on that cup as well. So, it's nice to finally do it."
It's a nice way to return to action after only competing sporadically in the past couple of years, and a result she hopes to build off of as she enters what will likely be the final stretch of her career.
Hareb hopes to be able to represent New Zealand at the Olympic Games in France in 2024, after which she admits time will likely be up on her life as a professional surfer.
While enjoying her first prolonged period at home in some time, Hareb also set about establishing pathways for her life after sport. Like fellow surfer Ricardo Christie, Hareb did her real-estate papers, while she has been saving up and investing in property over the years.
"I guess that's always in the back of your mind," she says of life after sport.
"I'm glad I've done my real-estate papers because it gives me something to fall back on, and I've been lucky enough to save a bit of money and buy some property as well. The goal is to eventually have a passive income and still surf, but I'm open to other things.
"Over the last 10 years I've looked at that. A lot of athletes do have to go into the workforce and get a 9-to-5 job. It has always been a goal of mine to try and delay that as much as possible, or forever. Hopefully I could tick that goal off, but who knows."