Talk about doing a complete 180. That’s what Ventura’s and Women’s Elite Tour rookie Sage Erickson, 22, endured in 2012. She couldn’t buy a heat win on the Women’s Tour, wallowing at the bottom of the ratings throughout the year. But she kept her head above water, worked hard, had the backing of family and friends, and at the U.S. Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach, she came away with her best result, a fifth. That wasn’t nearly enough to re-qualify her for 2013, but the momentum was there. She jumped on the Women’s 6-Star events and won back-to-back events in Oceanside and Spain, catapulting her to the Women’s No.1 World Ranking, and more importantly re-qualification on the Women’s Elite Tour in 2013.  Here’s what Sage had to say after her big turnaround.

© ASP/ Huruguen

VC Reporter: Up until the last third of 2012, it was a tough year for you, your first on the Women’s Elite Tour. Describe some of your early struggles?
Sage Erickson: This year was my rookie year on tour, I definitely struggled with it. Being on the WET has been one of my biggest competitive goals, and to reach it I didn’t really know what to expect. I think that I put a lot of pressure on myself in each heat to outperform, which ultimately I ended surfing a bit more safe or just not comfortable if that makes sense. One of the biggest lessons, I think, that can only be learned through experience is coming up against such big names like Steph (Gilmore), Sally (Fitzgibbons), Tyler (Wright) … all these girls that have an amazing competitive winning ratio! Personally, for myself, finding the balance of mental and physical strength is what this year has taught me. It’s not an excuse, though. There are other rookies who succeeded. They and the other top 17 inspired me daily to push myself a bit harder and be a bit better.
But you persevered and turned things around, I want to say, at the U.S. Open. From there you got on a roll. What did you do differently to get things going in your favor?
The U.S. Open was sort of my breakthrough performance. It was my only real result on the WCT this year. It came a bit late on that tour but really fired me up to finish strong on the World Qualifying Series (WQS). I think a few things helped me there. Being in my home country, home state with so much support from friends and family really lifted my confidence. Losing quite a bit doesn’t necessarily motivate you at times, or have you feeling the best, so that extra push lit a fire. My brother (Noah Erickson) was heavily involved with me throughout the U.S. Open, and the two victories following in Oceanside and Spain. He is such an amazing surfer himself, with so much raw talent, that his refreshed outlook and knowledge was super-beneficial to me. He’s my best friend, my wing man, my coach, all in one. He just makes me feel calm in pressured situations while competing. I also have a really good batch of boards from Channel Islands. I have a magic board for both good waves and small waves. When you have that confidence it tends to follow you in a heat or on a wave. I just really got tired of losing. I wanted to win. I wanted to be on the 2013 CT. These things plus the passion to succeed just kinda paved the way these past couple of months.

© ASP/ Dunbar

All of a sudden you have back-to-back wins in the Star Events and find yourself with the No. 1 World Ranking. Quite the roller coaster ride you were on. How does it feel to work so hard and find yourself at the top of the heap?
I can’t even begin to say how excited I am right now. In 2012 I competed in 16 events. That’s more than one event a month. It’s been a serious grind, but it’s so rewarding to know that my goal this year was to be on tour again and that’s what I’ve done. Winning two events also was so surreal. It’s the best feeling ever. For me, the real special moments were not winning itself but it’s when I won twice and came to the beach. To be welcomed by the girls on tour, my friends. The girls I have become close to throughout my travels. Without this amazing surfing lifestyle I would not have been able to meet these incredible people. It’s such a humbling feeling. It’s rewarding in the sense that I’ve put so much time and energy into my career. The level of women’s surfing is rising and you have to evolve with it.

So you’ve re-qualified through the Star Events. For 2013, what pitfalls will you avoid to stay on the Elite Tour?
I’m just going to enjoy the year, every moment of it. Focus on one heat and one event at a time. Jesus gave me everything this year so I know he’ll provide many lessons and experiences in 2013!