A few weeks back, the world’s greatest surfers hit the artificial waves at Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch in Lemoore, California to compete in the Freshwater Pro, a stop on the World Surf League’s World Championship Tour. With surfing making its Olympic debut in 2020 at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the tour is pulling double duty this year. The world rankings at the end of the season will determine 18 of the 40 places at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.
For its part, the WSL is known around the world as a progressive leader in sports. Last September, the league announced that they’d be offering equal prize money to men and women across all of their owned and operated events — which shouldn’t seem like a big deal until you realize that they are the first US-based global sports league to do so. The WSL’s efforts have been widely covered and offer a model for combatting unfair pay practices between gendered-sports (we’re looking at you soccer).
Slater’s Surf Ranch has also tried to increase the visibility of women surfers with Rising Tides, a global engagement program for girls offering clinics with the world’s best surfers at each stop to inspire the next generation of wave riders. The WSL’s Challenger Series is also set to increase from two events to four in 2020, giving women more chances to qualify for future Championship Tours and overall improving the level of competitiveness.
Ahead of the Freshwater Pro, we spoke with five of the top-ranked surfers in the world about how they travel. WSL Freshwater Pro 2019 champion Lakey Peterson, a Santa Barbara, California native who is currently ranked 2nd in the world, and a Team USA Olympic hopeful. Stephanie Gilmore of Australia, a seven-time champion and Olympic hopeful for Team Oz. Caroline Marks a Melbourne Beach, Florida native and the youngest surfer to every qualify for a WSL Championship Tour. Carissa Moore, a three-time world champion from Honolulu who is currently ranked number one in the world, and a frontrunner for Team USA, and Courtney Conlogue, a two-time runner-up to the World Title and a Team USA Olympic hopeful from Santa Ana, California.
What did we learn? That surfers love Japan, have great taste in food, and have the best jet-lag beating tips. Plus lots of insight into some of the most beautiful places on the planet. Here is how the world’s best surfers travel!
What is your sure-fire method for finding the best food when you’re out on tour in new places?
Carissa Moore: Word of mouth. Talking to the locals.
Stephanie Gilmore: Before I go anywhere, I usually try and reach out to some friends to get a little list of all the good spots.
Lakey Peterson: That’s a great question. I think the best way to guarantee the best food is just to cook your own when you’re out, but traveling to all the places that we get to go to it’s pretty fun to go and experience that culture and what’s local or what that area is known for.
Generally, word of mouth is great. Google is also great to find really cute little boutique spots, but I guess in my experience I’ve found that if you ask local people where the best place is to get fresh, good food, they can steer you in the best direction.
Caroline Marks: I just look at my phone and go on the maps and just look for the best food nearby or I ask around, like the local people, that’s kind of my deal.
Courtney Conlogue: I’m a massive Yelp fanatic. I absolutely love it. And then when I’m on tour, I follow my nose in… Europe or wherever. I really go just walking through the different streets. Say like Spain, I love going to taste pinchos and tapas, so I would just walk through those main aisles and find a spot where I see all the locals hanging and end up just checking it out. I’d say another thing I do, just to all my friends around the world, I ask them for guidance on where their favorite spots are to eat, and then I’ll try those places out. And I do a little bit of research. I have a couple of different ways. Sometimes TripAdvisor’s actually really good for restaurants, too.
When it comes to socializing, how do you go about making new friends on the road?
Carissa: I’d probably just go up and say, “Hi, my name’s Carissa,” and just start up a conversation.
Stephanie: Being open to meeting new people is pretty key, and I think it’ll surprise you the strange places that you’ll meet lifelong friends on your travels. If you’re using public transport or even if you’re at the airlines or whatever and you sit next to someone, sometimes you’ll just be like “Do I want to talk to anyone?” But sometimes you’ll take your headphones out and have a chat with the person next to you and they’re actually really interesting, and you can be really good friends for a long time. Everyone has a cool story to tell, it’s just whether you’re willing to open up and listen to it.
Lakey: I think it’s just being open to conversation with people. A lot of times when we’re on the road, we’re competing, and it’s sort of hard because at events, you’re in your zone. I’m not wanting to meet new people or exert that energy, but there are so many people you meet along the way when you’re just free surfing or whatever, getting a coffee. I think it’s just being open to conversation with people and chatting and asking questions about the place. That can also lead to some really cool relationships.
Caroline: The cool thing about surfing is that there are so many people out in the water. It’s the one sport that, when you’re practicing, a bunch of people that you don’t know could be in the water with you. It brings a bunch of people together.
Courtney: In the ocean. It’s pretty easy. The ocean bonds us all together. We always end up making friends in the lineup, as long as you don’t snake them. And if you do, say sorry. I’d say just meeting friends in the water or sometimes at a coffee shop, or just being a genuine, good human, you’ll end up making friends.
What’s your favorite post-competition activity?
Carissa: Probably taking a nap.
Stephanie: Eat a good meal. I’m usually pretty hungry after I surf.
Lakey: I’m generally pretty tired, so movie at my house with my husband is really nice. I guess just after surfing in the day, I generally like to get a coffee to warm myself up, and a good meal. Something healthy and fresh and you kind of feel recharged for the rest of your day.
Caroline: My favorite thing to do is surf, so I kind of just surf all day. Take a nice nap and then go for another surf after that.
Courtney: Checking things out. Like in South Africa, I did the bungee because I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Like bungee, skydiving, hang gliding, that kind of stuff. And then I loved exploring in Europe and going to all the castles and seeing the culture and history. Just kind of going off the beaten path and away from the ocean. When I’m home I love to go camping and just hiking. The outdoors is kind of my vibe.
What’s on your current “travel music” playlist right now? Do you have any songs that psych you out before a competition?
Carissa: I’m kind of all over the place. It just depends on what mood I’m in. I mean, I really like Sia and I like Rihanna. I like Miley Cyrus. There’s actually good songs from Billy Ray Cyrus right now.
Stephanie: Oh yeah, the current playlist. I got a couple of good ones, actually. There’s a song by a band called Belle Epoque. It’s like dance hits. There’s this other band I’ve been listening to called Laid Back, which is pretty fun. Some Arthur Russell, Gil Scott-Heron. Led Zeppelin. They’re always a go-to of mine. This is a bad topic. I’ll sit here for hours and talk about music.
Lakey: My playlist for a contest is a lot different than the playlist I’d listen to when I’m just cruising. I guess for cruising, lately, I like this song called, “Tennessee,” by Allan Rayman. It’s pretty sick, I just found it. And then my pre-heat stuff is like a lot of deep rap. A lot of 50 Cent, a lot of Eminem, Lil Wayne, stuff like that. That’s only pre-heat and gym, otherwise I never listen to that stuff.
Caroline M: Billie Eilish. She’s so sick. She’s my favorite artist right now. She’s really cool. “Bad Guy,” I really like that song and “My Strange Addiction.” Those are my two favorite songs by her.
Courtney C.: I’d say my favorite go-to’s are Chuck Berry, some Metallica, not too much because I end up getting way too aggressive and just like aggro. My vibe just changes, it gets really amped up. Sometimes a little too much. And then Ziggy Alberts and Maggie Rogers are kind of like my chill-er vibe, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise, which I think the name’s awesome. And that’s initially why I started listening to them and they’re actually really good. Super talented. And then let’s see, Nina Simone. Let’s see what else. Elvis, yeah. I kind of listen to everything. Chris Stapleton. George Ezra, he’s good. I put him on when I want to pass out and go to sleep on an airplane.
What’s your favorite way to kill time in a new place?
Carissa: In a new place? I love going out and sightseeing or just seeing the place that I’m at or eating good food. Adventuring. I love taking pictures.
Lakey: When you’re in a new place, it’s just fun to explore where you are. See something new, do something different, just walk around. I’ve always found that if you go for a run in a new place it’s a really cool way to experience the area. Or go to a park and do a workout. You can kind of experience where you are a bit better and it feels pretty good when you finish.
Caroline: Kind of just like sightseeing and checking it out. Trying to get the vibe for the new place.
Courtney: Just walk the streets. Go outside, check out my surroundings. I’ve always been a paper map kind of person, so in Europe, I have a map that’s super old. It’s all taped up, too, but it still does the job. So I’ll check it out, go somewhere where I haven’t been. I love road tripping, so that’s kind of my way of learning the area. I’ll just start driving or walking and then check out the area so I’ll feel at home. I think when I travel and compete on tours, the best way to approach it is making it feel homey and like you’re a local.
What are your methods for fighting jet lag?
Carissa: I just say get out, stay up as long as possible, don’t take a nap, and be in the sun. Because the sun gets your body acclimated faster. I don’t know, the first few nights I always need to take a little bit of like melatonin, or something that helps get you on the right sleep cycle as fast as possible. But the first day is super important. Just get out and stay out. And if you take a nap, keep it to 45 minutes to an hour or so.
Stephanie: You got to get out and go for a jog or go for a surf. We’re lucky that when you dip in the ocean, it’ll wake you up real quick. Going for a run. Just getting the oxygen flowing and blood flowing, that’s pretty crucial. But also not looking at the time. I don’t really check the time of the place I’m in or where I’m going, and I just kind of get there. I see what the people that live there are up to, like is it lunchtime, okay I’ll just have lunch, even if I’m not hungry. Just to get into the times of what everyone else is doing is pretty key.
Lakey: Sleep when it’s dark and wake up when it’s light. And also, exercise when you get off the plane. So like for me, if I can get off and go for a surf straight away, that really helps. Normally, I just for a surf or a little workout if there are no waves. If you take a nap, you’re probably going to go down, but if you can stay awake until 8 p.m. at the place you just landed, it’s easier to get on that time zone.
Caroline: Figuring out when your flight time is and what time it is there. Let’s say you have a flight and it’s midday where you are, you try to stay up and then once you get there, you can go to bed at the right time. I think that’s super important. That first night’s sleep sets you up for the rest of your trip.
Courtney: I almost transition on the plane and then I also hydrate a lot. Avoid salt on the plane. I always get super dry, so I just travel with lotion or jojoba.
I love watching the sun come up when I’m jet-lagged. I always find watching it come up and set kind of puts you in the time zone. Another thing, if you end up landing in the morning, if you’re in your place before 8:00, you can take a little 30-minute power nap, never… I know it’s super challenging, but never go past an hour or else you’re doomed. That’s the rule of thumb. And then if that happens, you just embrace it, and you go, “You know what, I’m going to start my day.” Do some yoga, a little meditation, and then just kind of go with it and see how much you can do you’ll end up being super exhausted, and then you’ll sleep through your night.
So, a couple of different tricks. It depends on your scenario.
What’s your favorite way to kill time on the plane?
Carissa: I pretty much watch every movie on the little TV monitor. Reading, taking a nap, journaling, magazines, reflecting on life.
Stephanie.: Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time on my Garageband just trying to make music. It’s probably the worst music you’ve ever heard, but it’s really fun. I just got a new iPad and with the Garageband, you can actually play the piano and stuff. Like actually play the keys or the guitar notes. It’s pretty sick.
Lakey: Movies and sleeping. Sometimes I’ll journal or read a little bit, but I normally fall asleep doing that.
Caroline: Honestly, as soon as I get on a flight, I just sleep. I’m such a sleeper. And then I watch some movies and try to find a nice book to read. But mainly just sleep.
Courtney: I always bring a good book. I catch up on movies because I don’t watch any TV really at home. So I’ll end up watching some really cool movies and documentaries. Write in my journal. It kind of depends. That burns time pretty quick, doing all three of those. And I always walk about the plane just so I don’t get cankles. I mean, it’s pretty challenging to not get them. Just walk around, stretch so you don’t go full stiff just Robocop when you walk off the plane.
With all the places you’ve gone, where have you found the best food?
Carissa: I’ve been fortunate enough to find really amazing cuisine wherever I’ve gone, but the one that most exceeded expectations was Israel. That was amazing food.
Stephanie: I just went to Japan and the food there was insane. It’s like out of this world. We went to this two Michelin-star restaurant actually and I was kind of like a Japanese-French fusion. You’re eating some kind of foie gras with like a crab and weird little hot pot things. They were definitely some weird creatures, but it was all really delicious. I love Japanese food.
Oh, and Italian. I’d say Italian. One of my favorite restaurants is actually Rubirosa in New York. Just really good Italian.
Lakey: I think I’d have to say Europe, like France, for this. It’s just so fresh and good and everything’s kind of farm-to-table style, which I love. The town we go to in France, Hossegor, has a public market every morning where local farmers just bring their fresh stuff. So it’s not really a restaurant but I love to go there and just get whatever.
Fresh veggies, dried fruits, they have everything. Meats. So I always go there and do a picnic and that’s my favorite experience in France.
Caroline: South Africa has incredible food. Australia’s obviously really good. Brazil’s really good, too, but I’d probably say South Africa is the best. Kitchen Windows is my favorite place to eat in South Africa. I go there every night for dinner.
Courtney: Japan had amazing food when I was just there. It did not disappoint. I’ve wanted to go to Japan my whole life, and finally had the opportunity and I’ve heard the food’s amazing. It is so good. The fresh fish is just phenomenal. The Miyazaki beef is to die for.
I love Spain. I love pinchos and tapas. Europe’s phenomenal. Fresh baguettes in the morning. You get that and some Manchego cheese it’s pretty unreal with a nice glass of wine.
I like Chez Minus in the south of France, in the Hossegor, they do these amazing mussels and frites. It’s like the In-N-Out for France. It’s like the one time I see the French use their hands and their fingers and get messy while they eat. It’s really cool because the food is just phenomenal, and they do very simple seasoning where they have like this garlic herb butter that’s in the mussels and it’s super yummy.
You could order a pitcher of sangria or a beer and wine, and it’s just a very, very cool vibe. And then there’s also this place in Portugal that I love in Casa da Guia, and they do steak on a stone, and you sit on this cliff. It’s in Cascais. There’s like this cliff edge and it’s just panoramic views of Portugal and Cascais and the coastline. It’s just really phenomenal.
And that’s in this little Casa da Guia market. I always forget the name of the actual restaurant. I just know where to walk when I get there. They just have the coolest ambiance to go there for lunch or early dinner evening as the sunsets. It’s just breathtaking. It’s really cool. And then there’s a little happy hour bakery there in Cascais that’s really fun. From like 5:00 to 6:00, you get half off pastries and pastel natas, which are so good. Pastel natas are a little baby version of crème brulee with the little flaky cup around it. It’s so good.
Gosh, you’re making me miss Europe. Good thing I’m going there in like two weeks.
Since you all pretty much tour the most beautiful beaches in the world non-stop, what place has left you in awe from its beauty?
Carissa: Oh my goodness. Some of the days that we’ve been in Fiji, like crystal clear water and no wind and there’s not a cloud in the sky. That place is gorgeous. And then there’s been some sunsets in France. I think surfers have it really good. We travel to some of the most beautiful places. We’re always traveling to the coasts, so we get to see beautiful coastlines and sunsets. We’re very fortunate.
Stephanie: We go to so many incredible places. I’d say the last place that really left me like jaw on the ground was Iceland. We just had a trip to Iceland a couple of years ago and it was… It looks like the beginning of the earth. The beginning of time. And you’re surfing beside snow-capped mountains and it’s a photographer’s heaven, really.
Lakey: I think the place that blew my mind the most is South Africa. Just in terms of the animals, and the waves, the culture’s incredible. The food! Incredible, incredible place, sheer beauty. I would say tropical places like Tahiti and Fiji are pretty hard to beat but overall South Africa is my favorite.
Caroline: I went to Greece and that was absolutely incredible. I forget what it was called but we went sightseeing. I was kind of younger, this was a few years ago. I was 14. We also got some really good waves, which was absolutely incredible. I did a little Red Bull project and they filmed the whole thing. We went to this one place specifically, Crete. We took a ferry boat there. It was some of the bluest, most beautiful water. No waves, but absolutely incredible. We walked down this giant path of stairs and nobody was there. The sand was super light, and it was like, crystal-clear blue water and mountains. It was one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen.
Courtney: Gosh. Hawaii is pretty phenomenal. And then I’d say Ireland. I love Ireland. I know it’s super random, but the Cliffs of Moher are just… Yeah, it’s breathtaking.
Where in the world have you encountered the friendliest people?
Carissa: I thought that the people in Japan were super nice. I think it’s just a part of their culture to be extremely polite and accommodating. I thought they were so kind there. And Fiji. Fiji has good people as well.
Stephanie: I’d say Japan. I don’t know if it’s the language barrier or what, but the Japanese people are so nice. Really accommodating. Even in Tokyo there are so many people, but it’s kind of like this organized chaos and everyone is so polite and aware of each other. It runs really smoothly. You feel safe. Really cool.
Lakey: Fiji, I think, are the friendliest people in the world. They’re incredibly hospitable and just happy to have you and kind and welcoming.
Caroline: Japan. People in Japan are super, super sweet. I actually just went there. I’d say Japan is some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Courtney: Ireland, again. Hands down, Ireland. The hospitality is phenomenal. I went to Lahinch to surf some big waves over there and then did a trip with my friend who was filming me. The hospitality and just how kind they are. I was surfing in a lineup at a local spot and one of the gentlemen’s like, “Hey, it’s freezing out here. If you want to warm up, you can take a hot shower and I’ll put the kettle on and put the fireplace on. And your filmer can come and you can warm up.” And it’s just like, that would never really happen on multiple coastlines, let alone at a local spot. They loved having me surf there, and it’s just really special to see that and experience something like that. I feel like Japan’s very similar. The people are very polite and really thoughtful.
I’ve only been there once and it was for like six days, and I didn’t have the opportunity to really explore because it was just in and out for a contest. But the one thing I was able to enjoy was the food and the people. I love food, but the people, they’re pretty amazing. Just how kind, polite and grateful they were. You don’t get that very often with the majority, and it was really refreshing.
What’s the greatest surf spot, in your opinion?
Carissa: My backyard on the south shore of Oahu. Yeah, I’m a little biased, because I’ve grown up there, so you get good days. You get the best of the best days when you live somewhere, so home is always my favorite.
Stephanie: There’s so many, but maybe where I’m from, Australia. A place called Snapper Rocks. It’s probably one of the best surf spots in the world, but maybe I’m biased because it’s my home break.
Lakey: Well, I grew up on Rincon Point, in Santa Barbara, California, so I think I can’t not really say that. I love it. It’s my home. When it’s pumping, I love how that breaks. It’s pretty darn perfect. So to me, I think I enjoy those sessions the most, when I get it pumping. It’s hard to get it with no people out these days, but yeah it’s probably some of the most special surfs in my life out there.
Caroline M.: Oh wow. That is a very tough question. I did a trip to Fiji a couple of years ago when I was, I think I was 14 or 15 maybe. I think I might have been 15. I surfed Cloudbreak and that’s probably my favorite place ever to surf. I’d say Fiji is my favorite place to surf.
Courtney: Surf spot, Cloudbreak. For sure. Cloudbreak and if it’s on point, J-Bay (Jeffrey’s Bay). J-Bay’s cheeky sometimes. It likes to be small. She’ll light up and turn on and you’re like, “Wow, you’re the best wave ever!” But I feel like Cloudbreak’s just one of those spots that’s just pretty phenomenal and breathtaking. I just find it fascinating you have this outer reef and this perfect wave just peeling off it.