It’s the stuff of dreams doing what you love every day, and making money out of something you don’t consider to be work at all. The pinnacle of professional surfing is celebrated and desired – score a sponsor and make the tour and surely you will spend your days basking in a golden glow. However, this light works very well to obscure the sweat, tears, borrowed money, hitched rides and nights spent on couches that are part and parcel of the hard yards of climbing the professional ladder. It’s no secret that the QS lacks the glamour and comforts of the CT, making the grind that much more challenging. To garner an insight into what it means to take the leap of faith into the competitive arena, Tracks recently caught up with Jess van der Meer, a Narrabeen surfer, who is competing in the Australian legs of the QS for the first time in 2017.

So it’s your first time committing to the QS, is the whole experience how you expected it to be?

When I decided I was going to start the grind I tried to go into it without too many expectations. There are just so many variables that come with competing in this sport - doing well, not doing well, the conditions (you just never know what you're going to get), possible injuries…

Is there anything that you didn't consider or that has caught you off guard?

After only doing two comps and already having taken a month off work I guess I didn't realise how hard it was going to be without an income. I was working as much as possible to save for this trip so I was only able to fit or afford one training session in a week, which was good, but two would have been ideal!

Jess tweaking the tail and making the spray do the talking.

Was it a kick to your confidence game transitioning from free-surfing to working towards a professional level?

It definitely has a whole different feel, competing rather than free surfing. It was a process, I'm still getting in the swing of the new headspace.

In terms of preparation, what did your average day look like in the weeks leading up?

Leading up to my comps I was surfing 2-3 times a day averaging about 4-5 hours in the water, training with Beau Mitchell and doing some of my own fitness stuff. Training with Beau has really taught me a lot. I had a break from competing for 5 years and a lot has changed - priority was brought in, hassling and tactics are a bit different now - so I've been working a lot on that as well as wave selection. My fitness training involved a lot of dune running, planking to try and work on my core and some good old squats. 

Do you think it was enough? Do you feel prepared?

There is always room for improvement and enough will never be enough! I am pretty happy with the preparation that I did but I will definitely be adding more to it. After not competing for 5 years it has definitely shown me I have a lot of work to do in order to catch up to how far women's surfing has come. 

Jess hunting the zone beyond the lip.

How is it as a female surfer? Do you think your experience is any way different from the boys?

I would like to say no it's not very different to the boy’s experiences, but I feel it most likely is. For a long time people have viewed surfing as a sport dominated by men so I think we feel like we have more to prove. I've definitely experienced a lot of support from the boys but there are always those few guys out in the surf that just can't stand chick surfers! Snakes and drop-ins just cause we're girls! I think there is more pressure on women’s surfing to have an image and a name for yourself. 

What boards did you take with you?

I took my two faithfuls and a new board - my 5'8 DSC, 5'6 5spark and my new 5'7 epoxy 5spark. My favourite would have to be my DSC, it goes really well in anything from 1-4 foot. 

The most important thing you’ve learnt so far - potential grom advice?

At the start, you might just lose more than you win. To do well, you really need to try and take your emotion out of it and just take it as it comes.