Surfing’s New Wave: Courtney Conlogue
The world of women’s professional surfing changed forever in 1997, thanks to a $150 investment. “When I was four years old, my dad took us on a trip to Mexico,” Courtney Conlogue remembers. “We did some fishing and surfing. Well, boogie boarding for me. I asked my dad if he would teach me how to surf. He took me out and I had the best time. When we got home, we went to a Rip Curl outlet in San Clemente, California. He gave me $150 and told me ‘You can pick out any used board you want under that price.’” The rest is American surfing history.
Currently ranked No. 2 in the women’s World Surf League, Conlogue has her sights set on being the first US woman to win the world championship since Lisa Andersen won it in 1997.
“When I made the tour, I was the only US woman on the circuit, and it was hard,” Conlogue remembers. “There were times I felt like I didn’t belong. It’s a very small group of women on tour, and I had to prove myself to the judges and to the people. There were times where I felt like I should just go to college instead. But during the second year, I won an event, and I said, ‘That’s it. I’m going to be a world champion.’”
Growing up with a modest background in Santa Ana, California didn’t make her quest easy. You have to finish in the top 10 each year to qualify for the following season without going through qualifiers again. That means surfing around the world, on your own dime, competing as much as possible to earn your ranking.
“It’s incredibly expensive,” Conlogue says. “Fortunately, I had some sponsors to help. Being the only American for a time helped push me to want to succeed. We have three Americans on tour now. If I can inspire girls and boys, not just in surfing, but to follow any dream, that’s something special. Even the impossible is possible. You just have to find solutions.”
When Conlogue isn’t trying to master Mother Nature’s most prodigious waves, she tries to bring art to everything she does, especially in design. Her dream is to someday have her own line of clothing. But she will soon have her own skateboard, which she designed in conjunction with Carver Skateboards. “The board has a lot of my life incorporated in it,” she says. “It has Mexican influences, because that’s where I learned to surf, and it has Tahitian influences, because that’s the first place I ever traveled to compete.”
Conlogue assures us that pro surfing isn’t always as glamorous as it sounds. “I’ve been to amazing places around the world,” she says. “But you never see the part where you are living out of a suitcase for weeks at a time and dragging that suitcase and two boardbags through airports hoping they don’t get crushed.”
But for Conlogue, travel is just another part of the great unknown of a surfer’s life that’s to be embraced and not feared. “Some days, the wave comes with seconds to go on the clock. Other times, you feel like you are a magnet repelling every good wave away.” But there is one thing of which she is completely sure. “I will be a world champion,” she says. “It’s just a matter of time.”