SA surfer Tayla Hanak set to take on world’s best female big wave specialists in inaugural Hawaii event

Story by Rob Greenwood, The Advertiser, October 10, 2017.
Picture by Tom Huntley.

Tayla Hanak will hope for better fortunes when she returns to surf one of the heaviest breaks Hawaii has to offer.

The SA youngster is one of 30 female big wave specialists from across the globe who have been invited to compete in the inaugural Women’s Waimea Bay Championship.

Hanak said the famed North Shore break provided the scariest moment of her promising career when she tackled it as a teenager three years ago.

“I got absolutely dumped and got washed the whole bay in,” Hanak, 20, said.

“It was the only time I thought that maybe I wasn’t going to come back up.

“I was so deep that my ears felt like they were going to burst and it felt like I had no energy left in my muscles.

“But I turned around and paddled back out because I was the only girl out there.

“If you just go in, all the guys are like ‘ah yeah, she’s just a girl’.”

Hanak and fellow competitors have been on standby since last Sunday when the event entered its waiting period. Organisers are holding out for 6m (20 feet) swells, measured in the Hawaiian style from the back of the wave, before giving the competition the green light.

“Everyone is watching the forecast and it will probably be a week out that they know that there’s a big swell coming,” the former Australian under-18 champion said.

“As soon as they say ‘yep it’s on’ everyone gets the first flight over.

“Usually with most sportspeople, they’ve got a certain number of weeks until the event so they can start to ease of.

“But it’s tricky for me, because I have to keep training and try to stay at peak (fitness) for the next month because I could be called on at any time.”

The Yankalilla laboratory medicine student began surfing with her father aged five and started competing seven years later.

Hanak has represented Australia in international junior competitions and surfed on the World Qualifying Series, but her passion remained testing herself on the biggest waves on earth.

“My heart and soul is the big wave stuff,” said Hanak, who hoped a women’s big wave world tour would kick off next year.

“I’ve surfed bigger and bigger waves and haven’t really got to the point yet where I’ve been scared of something.

“I’m just waiting figure out where my limit is — you’ve got to keep pushing until you find your limits.”

Surfing SA chief executive Craig Potgieter said the governing body spotted Hanak’s potential in 2014 when it sent her to Hawaii to experience the heavy breaks for the first time.

“She is an exceptionally talented young surfer who is confident in any size surf and has a bright future as a big wave surfer,” Potgieter said.

“She is an inspiration to South Australian surfers and testament to the fact that with hard work and determination you can achieve your dreams.”

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