Ricardo Christie was New Zealand’s second ever male surfer to make the WSL Championship Tour (WCT), after Maz Quinn, when he qualified for the 2015 tour. But a miserable 2015 WCT campaign where he struggled to find his feet in anything but the best waves, saw him bucked off, relegated back to the WQS ranks for 2016. That’s a hard slog in anyone’s books. Ricardo made the most of it, scraping his learnings from that 2015 season and investing in his future, spurred on by his vibrant young family. He learnt what it means to be a top-level surf athlete. Not just the surfing instinct, which he has in spades, but the mind, body and competitive strategies. His 2016 and 2017 WQS seasons were brutal grinds, each time struggling to get within striking distance of the qualification ranks: 57th in 2016 and then 31st in 2017. By his own admission 2018 was his last roll of the dice. Toward the end of the season, as he turned 30, something changed in Ricardo.
“Ric seems to have found his happy space,” shares Matt Scorringe, of The Art Of Surfing. “He believes in his ability. He has proven he belongs at the top and he trusts in his process. I know he works on his mindset a lot and just being present in the moment so he can showcase his talent when it’s time to press go. He has proved that at Haleiwa – he looked so calm and relaxed pre- and post-heat, yet so lethal and enigmatic during the heat. It’s so great to watch.”
That event set in motion a sequence of events that would see Ricardo qualify for the 2019 season, his 11th chasing the tour dream. It was a sensational effort and critically lifted Ric above Paige Hareb in these very rankings … by a whisker.
“Ricardo tops the field for me and not just because of his re-qualification and his amazing surfing ability,” shares Hughes Surfboards’ Luke Hughes. “But also for the positive image he brings to the sport in New Zealand as a role model for our young. Paige Hareb is in this field for the same reason.”
“Ricardo tops the field for me and not just because of his re-qualification and his amazing surfing ability, but also for the positive image he brings to the sport in New Zealand as a role model for our young. Paige Hareb is in this field for the same reason.”
Others rated Ric’s comeback as one of New Zealand’s greatest sporting achievements of 2018 – you’d be hard pressed to argue with that.
“Ric has had an epic comeback to the CT,” offers strength and conditioning expert Dr Oliver Farley, who had Ric pegged as a close second behind Paige Hareb in his rankings. “It’s no mean feat with plenty of talented surfers out there vying for the same thing. This is a truly epic result for Ric and New Zealand heading to Tokyo 2020.”
For others, Ricardo’s end of year form in 2018 proved he has a new intensity around his game.
“While Ric’s heat performances are quite often frustrating to watch, he has an ability, style and free surfing that remains world class,” explains surf photographer Craig Levers. “Rumour has it that he wouldn’t have tried for re-qualification in 2019 if he hadn’t made it. In Balito and Haleiwa the flow finally went his way. If Ric can harness the intensity he showed at Haleiwa consistently then he’ll be on the ‘CT for years to come.”
Maybe it was that last roll of the dice, do or die mentality, but whatever it is Ricardo needs to tap into that energy for 2019. He can rest assured New Zealand will be right behind him.