Conquering the Board 2

Q&A with Tory Gilkerson, 2016 Women’s World Longboard Champion

23-year-old San Clemente native, Tory Gilkerson won the 2016 Women’s World Longboard Championship. We recently caught up with her while she was surfing at a competition in Papua New Guinea and asked her a few questions. Here’s what she had to say:

Rachael Tilly was the 2015 champion. Did you gain any inspiration from her? It was really cool to see Rachael win the world title before me. We have been competing in the same contests for a long time and going back and forth with heat wins, so her win made me really want tot to get a world title of my own.

Who/what inspired you to start surfing? When I started surfing at seven, my best friend Charlotte and twin brother Randy got me inspired to start up. We would go down to T-Street on the weekends and stand up on our boogie boards, and it all grew from there. Growing up I watched a lot of longboard films with Belinda Bags and Joel Tudor. That’s what got me into longboarding.

How did it feel to become world champion? Although not much has changed, it felt amazing to become a World Champion. It’s a great accomplishment and was always a goal of mine. I was always sort of the dark horse that could win but always messed it up somehow, so when I won, the support from the community and media was a bit overwhelming. It’s been so fun to get recognized for something I love to do.

What’s it like traveling the world as a professional surfer? Traveling as a professional surfer is so much fun and such a privilege. I still have to work and pay my way, so I really appreciate every trip as an adventure and try not to put too much pressure on my performance in the events. We’re all really lucky to have been to so many places and seen different things all because of our passion for surfing.

This is the first time ever for a PROFESSIONAL surf competition to be held in Papua New Guinea, where you’re currently competing. What’s it like there? Papua New Guinea is one of the coolest places that surfing has taken me. Having an event here has been so much fun and a cultural experience. Some locals here walked over night for 12 hours just to come watch us surf. It’s the biggest thing that’s happened in the Madang Province in a while. Every day there have been around 2,000 locals from all around that came to watch the surfing and cheer for us on every wave. The people are so nice, the kids playful and happy, and the waves are pretty epic, too.

What is your advice to young people in San Clemente on how to achieve their dreams? The beauty of young people is that we all have dreams, and if you set goals and make plans any dream is achievable. My advice would be to stick to the course you’ve chosen, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and just enjoy the journey because that is when we tend to reach our full potential.