The feel of gritty sand stimulates her; whipping wind inspires her; and barrelling waves electrify her. It’s no wonder that Chelsea Tuach is in a world of her own, dominating seas that no other Barbadian or Caribbean surfer has ever mastered.
Whether she is riding the strong currents at home or in California and Miami, United States; Australia; France; Portugal; China; or Spain, this determined 20-year-old has one dream: to reach the highest level of professional surfing.
Last year, she made it.
After outmanoeuvring top, international competitors at a series of major events throughout 2015, Chelsea booked her place in the September World Surfing League (WSL) 6000 Pantin Classic held in Spain and emerged women’s champion.
It was her ticket to the coveted 2016 WSL Women’s Championship Tour –– an elite competition of the best 17 professional surfers.
“I don’t think I could put that moment in words,” Chelsea says.
“Coming out of the water the interviewer asked me, ‘Do you know where you are in the rankings right now?’ He was like, ‘You are now fourth in the world. Congratulations! You are on the world tour’.
“I couldn’t even believe it. I thought I was going to faint, because I had wanted that since I was ten years old in Brazil and seeing those girls, and saying, ‘I want to be like them; I want to be on the world tour. I want to be one of the elite 17’.
“It was an amazing year: a lot of surprises, and great, great moments.”
Chelsea’s love affair with surfing began at home. Surfing is like breathing for the Tuachs.
The pro grew up eagerly watching her father and brothers catch waves; so it was only a matter of time before she was able to join them. She did at just eight years of age.
“I started surfing because my brothers were surfers, and my dad; and they would leave me at home and go out; and I was the little sister who wanted to be in everything
that they did. So I picked up a board and I started surfing with them.”
Confessing she has always been a water baby, a chuckling Chelsea let it be known there was no life without her surfboard.
“I have always loved the ocean . . . . I loved surfing on evenings; it was just so relaxing after a full day of school. I would come home, put on my bikini and go out in the water. You’d just feel so relaxed; you’d feel so at peace.”
Chelsea was fortunate to accompany her brothers Shane and Dane, both members of the Barbados National Surf Team, at various competitions. She followed in their footsteps and qualified for the national team at just ten.
“I got to travel to Brazil with my big brother Dane. It was amazing going there and seeing it. [There were] about 50 girls from all over the world in an under-18 event . . . . They were so focused!
“I could see them running on the beach, being really focused with their coaches, and surfing amazingly. There was no girl in Barbados who was doing what they were doing, and I was like, ‘Wow! I want to be like them. I want to push surfing for Barbados’.”
Chelsea put in the hard work while balancing her studies at Queen’s College. Her efforts paid off, and she shot to fame winning several local and regional titles.
In 2011, she won the National Championships Of Barbados, Junior Pro Event at the Soup Bowl and the Under-16 Caribbean Girls Championship in the RipCurl GromSearch event in Florida.
Chelsea has also won the Junior Female Athlete Of The Year three times.
With her heart set on making it big in the surfing world, Chelsea decided to move to California.
“I had some great advice from Peter Hill, who was one of my sponsors at the time. He said, ‘You know there are thousands of doctors, lawyers in the world –– you can always go back to school. But there are only 17 professional girl surfers on the world tour, so make a push for that; and if it doesn’t work out, you are a bright girl, you can go back to school’.”
So off she went and immediately got down to business in California.
“I was doing a contest every weekend. It did wonders for my surfing. In Barbados, I was only surfing with one other girl about five contests a year; but there I was there for four months –– from August to December –– and I got a lot of practice in, a lot of experience. After that I knew I wanted to be a professional surfer for the rest of my life.”
Chelsea continued to shine. In 2014, she copped the title of Sports Personality Of The Year –– Barbados’ highest sports award –– and last November, she was named the WSL North American Junior Woman’s Champion.
Chelsea’s recipe for success is confidence.
“Surfing is such an unpredictable sport! You have got the tides, sand bottoms, reef bottoms, the way the wind is blowing, the way the swell is coming in! I think the most important thing is that I am focused and that I am confident; and that I will find the way. “I always believe that whatever happens, it is supposed to happen. I am always trusting in God that if I am losing today, it is because I am meant to lose and learn from it.”
More than anything else Chelsea loves flying her ultramarine, gold and black flag on the world stage.
“I love coming from Barbados. I love the people in Barbados. Every time I go away, I always get so much support! I always get messages. And whenever there are Bajans in the same country as me, everyone always comes out and watches me for a day. It is so lovely!
“When I was in Pantin, I had my Barbados towel, and I was trying to hold it up –– it was awesome!”
Chelsea has already started her hectic year. Over the next three months, she is set to ride the waves in Australia in five different competitions. From there she heads to Fiji, United States, Portugal, Spain, France, and then to Hawaii for her last event in December.
Barbadians will be rooting for this local gem, and, more than anything else, Chelsea wants to give her homeland a gift for its 50th birthday –– another big win on the world stage.
“I am the first Barbadian to be on world tour; so there is going to be a lot of talk about Barbados this year. So I am really excited to show off what kind of talent we have in Barbados and to talk more about Barbados.
“And, you know, winning is one thing; but when you win for your country, it is a completely different type of victory. It feels amazing.”