Surfer Chelsea Tuach. (J.Weekes/BGIS)
The Soup Bowl at Bathsheba, St. Joseph, has attracted many surfing superstars from all over the world. It is therefore no wonder that it is also the favourite spot of Barbadian surfing sensation, Chelsea Tuach.
From age eight, Chelsea knew she wanted to surf. She recalled that growing up, her father and brothers would surf every weekend, and wanting to be a part of their outing, she convinced her mother to let her take surfing lessons.
“They would always leave me at home and I begged my mum to let me get surfing lessons because I wanted to do whatever they did. After that, it just became a family thing.
“Every weekend, we would pack up lunch, go to the beach and surf all day. We would all be in the water and mum would be on the beach filming us and cheering us on. I think that is where my love for surfing came; because it was so family-oriented it brought me a lot of happiness,” she recounted.
At age nine or 10, Chelsea entered her first competition at Maycocks, St. Lucy. That morning, her father encouraged her to go out and do her best, as she was a bit intimidated by being one of the youngest competitors.
“I remember in the water a very big wave had come through. My dad was with me and I was very happy to let it pass, but he was like ‘no Chelsea that is a good wave’. There were so many people on the beach. They saw the wave and they were cheering and I was like, ‘oh well, I’ve got to do it now’.
“So, I pushed my fear aside and I went for it. I made it all the way to the beach and I heard the beach erupt and I saw my mom and my brothers. They were so happy for me and that gave me such a great feeling, pushing my limits and performing for a crowd. I actually ended up winning that event,” she declared happily.
Chelsea became the youngest surfer to represent Barbados on the world circuit, competing in the ISA World Junior Championships in Brazil in 2006. However, it was not until a competition at Cocoa Beach in Florida that she started believing in herself.
While there to compete in the 14 to 17 division, she was encouraged by family friend Alan Burke to compete in the professional division. He implored her to challenge herself. After some thought, she agreed, and made it to the finals.
Like many professional athletes, Chelsea had to balance school with sport. Dedicated to both, she made sure not to fall behind in school work. She credits her teachers at St. Angela’s and Queen’s College for always being supportive when she missed school to attend competitions. Her friends also played their part by sharing notes and keeping her abreast of anything she missed.
After doing well in her CXCs, it was time to make the difficult decision – to further her education, or go after her dream of being a professional surfer. Chelsea credits family friend, Peter Hill, for helping her with the decision. “It was actually tricky to decide if I wanted to stay with surfing, or if I wanted to do CAPE… Peter Hill, one of my mom’s friends, was also a board sponsor for me for a few years.
He said that he was in the same situation when he was a young boy; he loved surfing and he loved his school work as well, but his parents didn’t really understand the surfing industry and pushed him more towards school. He told me he had one regret, and that was that he did not pursue surfing.
“He said, school will always be there. There are a lot of doctors; there are a lot of lawyers in the world, but they aren’t a lot of professional surfers, and he said if you have the opportunity just go for it, and see where it takes you, and if it doesn’t work out then you can always go back to school,” she recollected.
Chelsea’s parents have always been instrumental in her career. She credits her mother for always taking her to practice after school and on weekends, and her father for helping with the technical side of her career by creating her website.
No matter where her career takes her, Chelsea is a proud Barbadian and loves coming home. Whether she is indulging in local delicacies such as cou cou and flying fish, heading to the Soup Bowl, or receiving support from Barbadians, she says it is always a good feeling when she’s here.
“I love that I can wake up in Barbados every day and never have to put on a jacket. I can go in the water and always surf in a bikini. I love that I can go to the beach every weekend, I love everything about Barbados …I love the support that I am getting from the Barbadian public…
“I know that on tour there are going to be a lot of Barbadians watching me and rooting for me. It makes me feel special; it makes me feel like I have a purpose, and hopefully I can go out there and do my best on the world tour and inspire young Barbadians.”
For Chelsea, the future looks bright. As she continues on the Women’s World Tour, travelling to places such as Australia, Fiji, Brazil and Hawaii, she hopes to continue surfing professionally for a long time. When she retires, she hopes to set up a high performance training camp for local athletes in Barbados.
“I am studying nutrition, and I am hoping that and my athletic background will help … because we don’t really have a high performance camp here where all athletes can come … I think it would be cool to come home and help our athletics and stick to the sports industry,” she noted.
We know that Barbadians everywhere will continue to support Chelsea as she continues to strive for excellence in and out of the water.