The fight for the number one spot in this list was fierce. Taranaki’s Paige Hareb is unquestionably New Zealand’s most successful surfer ever. She is the consummate professional – a surf athlete carving out an incredible path. Just look at her achievements.
“Paige, to me, is the athlete we need to model if we want to get more New Zealand surfers to the elite stage.”
Paige, 28, is New Zealand’s first female surfer to make the tour – she joined it in 2009. She remained on tour right through to 2014 – six years straight until she was relegated to the QS in 2015. That didn’t dampen her spirits – she just resolved to work smarter. Paige rejoined the tour in 2018. The year was a tough one for her, suffering a nasty injury during a free-surf in Mexico that took her out of contention. She turned that negative into a positive and re-emerged with an intensity and focus that was crystal sharp and without doubt had five colourful Olympic rings etched into every single decision she made. Her back half of the 2018 season was masterful.
“Paige, to me, is the athlete we need to model if we want to get more New Zealand surfers to the elite stage,” offers Matt Scorringe, of The Art Of Surfing. “Her mental strength and share tenacity is what is missing in the New Zealand surf culture as a whole and she has shown such fight to stay at the top level for longer than any other New Zealand surfer. I look forward to the day she has time to help the next generation with some insight on her mental game, which has kept her at the top for so long.”
And that is partly why she is emerging as our most likely Olympic hope – she proved that at The Founders Cup held in Kelly Slater’s wave pool at The Ranch, where she was a key performer on the World Team. She didn’t just join a good team, she was one of the World Team’s standouts that earned victory at the specialty event.
“The fact that Paige has been in the top bracket, or lurking around the top bracket now for so many years makes her our top surfer for sure,” offers Craig Levers, of Photo CPL Media. “This year we saw a reinvigorated Paige. Now regarded as a veteran of the tour, she proved once again that she belongs in that top echelon. Her performances at the Ranch (which was fucking epic), the win in Japan and the quarters berths in Australia and Honolua Bay illustrated she’s not just there as cannon fodder for the top seeds, she’s evolving as a surfer. She’s most likely to be our New Zealand Olympic medalist hope by qualifying for the CT in 2019.”
As the 2019 WCT season begins Paige and Ric are the first Kiwis we’ve ever had on the tour at the same time. They’ve both earned their place and both are surfing stronger than ever. Should Paige have occupied the number one spot? Maybe, but either way these two surfers at the top of this list are where New Zealand’s big hopes lie.