The Rookie: Nikki Van Dijk on Making the World Tour and Joining the Oakley Family
For Nikki Van Dijk, qualification for the ASP Women’s World Tour wasn’t a matter of if, but when. In 2012, she was still in school and dabbling in the Qualifying Series. She was a wildcard into a WCT even hosted by her primary sponsor. At the end of the year, without fully committing herself, she found herself just three spots outside the bubble.
A former ASP world junior champion and one of the most powerful, technical and graceful surfers on the junior circuit, her combination of talents should transition nicely to the big leagues. In her first event of her rookie year, she had the unfortunate circumstance of being matched up against five-time world champion Steph Gilmore in her first elimination heat. The fairy tale didn’t play out as hoped and she was sent packing, but it didn’t seem to put a damper on her spirits. “I can definitely tell just from one event that it’s going to push my surfing and I’m going to learn so much, so it’s exactly what I need,” Nikki said.
We sat down with Nikki on the Gold Coast to talk about all that’s going on in her life as she adjusts to life on the Tour.
What was your approach to 2013? Was the plan to try to qualify?
Definitely to qualify. My first year on the qualifying series was the year before, in 2012, I kind of did a few events, and missed out on qualifying by three spots, so 2013 was definitely the year and that was what I was mainly focused on. I didn’t have school, I was finished with school, everything went towards surfing. It was good to work so hard and have it pay off and it means so much more when you work hard for things.
Did you celebrate at all when you locked down your spot?
It was actually kind of funny because I stayed in Europe another two months [after qualifying], I was meant to be there for a month and we ended up staying for the rest of the summer. When I came home, everyone was so excited. When you have some success, you really understand and realize how much support you have behind you and coming from Philip Island, it’s such a small community and everyone knows everyone, and everyone knows you surf, so there was so much hype and happiness around my qualifying.
They feel like they have someone on Tour now.
Yeah, it’s so cool to represent them and it feels really special because everyone is so excited. So I just want to do the best I can this year and make them proud.
Any new approach to your off-season or training heading into your rookie year on Tour?
No, not a different approach because I’m still just leaning so much. I didn’t really want to change too much, I just knew it’s going to be so hard so I worked a lot on my surfing and training and just figuring out and knowing that I’m going to be learning the whole time, so go in open-minded and have a lot of fun with it. Everyone says this, but you seriously do your best when you’re having the most fun, so I’m going to stick with that thinking. I had some time at home, I spent some time in Hawaii, so that was nice. It was more just surfing and not thinking about training and everything else. I just surfed a lot; I just frothed out. Here as well, I’m just frothing out. I got knocked out early, and people were asking if I was going to go home, and I was like, “No! I’m surfing Snapper every day, it’s so sick!” I’m excited to bring a fresh face and exciting surfing, just me, to the Tour. Just show everyone how I can surf and make it a really fun year. Gosh, we get to go to Fiji and Maui and Trestles, how can I not be frothing?
What are you most looking forward to on Tour?
I think knowing that we’re going to be able to showcase the best of women’s surfing, to date. I think it’s so cool that we have Trestles and Maui on the schedule; Maui’s just going to be amazing. I think also, like when I’m out in the lineup, I’m surrounded by all of my heroes. I just kind of look at them funny and think, this is so weird! It’s also cool, like being in a heat with Steph [Gilmore] the other day, my first year on Tour, it’s like, “Great, I have Steph!” but let’s try to put on a show and take it to her. So it’s really fun, I can definitely tell just from one event that it’s going to push my surfing and I’m going to learn so much, so it’s exactly what I need.
What do you see as your biggest weakness right now?
My biggest weakness is frothing on my heroes too much. No. In my first heat I was just so nervous, just thinking, what do I even do?! Like surfing Snapper with three people doesn’t ever happen, so I just didn’t even know what wave to take. Take every wave you can get! I was just so stale and stiff and nervous – I’ve just got to learn that I’ve got nothing to be nervous about. It’s just so silly to go out there and feel so nervous that I can’t even stand up.
What’s it mean to you to be apart of the Oakley family now?
Oh my gosh, it’s amazing. There are just so many amazing athletes that are apart of the team, even just looking at the surf team, it’s like, oh my god: Kolohe, Adriano, Jordy Smith, they’re all just such amazing athletes. To be one of them is really awesome and I’m honored.
You can watch Nikki perform next at the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro which runs from April 2-13 at www.aspworldtour.com.
Learn more about Nikki Van Dijk by checking out her bio here.