Bodyboarding champ Tristan Roberts talks hustling his ass off while others are partying it up, dealing with anxiety and what he wish people knew about him. 

by Francois Conradie

We know you’d like to think that talent is enough – so you can justify your couch surfing ; ) – but no. In our exclusive interview with bodyboarding champ Tristan Roberts, he gets real about exactly how much blood-sweat-and-sacrifices you need to add to the mix to make it in the real world. Success-seekers, listen up.

1. First off, how and when did your bodyboarding career begin?

Tristan: Bodyboarding started for me when I moved to Hermanus, where I was introduced to the beach life (back in 2003). I was 6-years-old and surrounded by a load of guys killing it at Onrus beach – with my brother being amongst those guys. I soon caught on to join them and fell in love with the sport since day one.

2. What do you wish people knew about you?

Tristan: I wish people knew that it really isn’t just easy getting to where I’ve been and that I am not “so lucky” as people always think.

I had tough times growing up. I’ve lost my dad, which plays an important role in any athlete’s life. I have been lucky to have such a supportive mom, but I also struggled to get overseas at first, as it is costly.

Sponsors are difficult to find when you don’t have a reason for them to believe in you yet. But if you just keep up what you know needs to be done, someone will soon spot your potential and you will have the shot you’ve always been looking for.

I just really dislike how people always say “you so lucky to be traveling”. It’s not luck. Yes, I am appreciative that I do. But If you knew the time I put into the last 12 years of my life, luck would be the worst way to describe it.

Putting in some work today with @tannermatodes . Work hard , play hard ?? #working #trainingday #time

A video posted by tristan_roberts (@tristan_roberts) on

3. What do you think is the most challenging thing about being 18?

Tristan: The most challenging thing about being 18 is saying no to the night life. I’m not saying don’t socialise at all . I’m just saying don’t get too caught up in it.

Let’s be honest: has going out and getting intoxicated ever had a positive effect on your ability the next day? Not that I know of. If this becomes a consecutive thing, just think how much time and energy you waste doing something, which is so completely useless.

If I go out to socialise, I still want to feel fresh the next morning and continue with my usual doings – which consists of a lot of exercise. I know it’s tough when you’re 18 – since it’s now legal to drink as much as you want and have stories to tell on how much you drank, but where does that get you other than back in the same place next weekend?

4. How do you deal with pressure/anxiety/fear in your career, but also in your personal life?

Tristan: Pressure and anxiety is something that everyone feels when they first start competing. But as soon as you start believing strongly in your abilities; and you start telling yourself that if anyone is prepared, it’s you; and you have the reasoning to believe that, then you soon start feeling more at ease when you compete.

In dealing with anxiety and stress in my personal life, I try figure out exactly what it is that needs to be done and prioritise getting that done.

If it’s something that’s just working on me, like personal issues, I run to the ocean. The ocean is a playground created by God and puts me at ease. It’s where I do my most logical thinking and many times I just need the feeling of the ocean flushing over my face to put me back in my comfort zone.

5. What qualities do you like in someone, romantically?

Tristan: To be honest, I don’t even know. Haha! I have tried dating girls, but it’s so tough for me when I know what I want and am trying to do everything in my will to achieve that and of course at the same time you need to try make the time to be with her. And she will probably also want to do the socialising night-life thing every weekend, so it’s tough.

But of course a true supportive and beac- lover of a lady, is ideal.

6. You have been to numerous international comps, ranging from the World Games, where you represented South Africa as a Springbok Bodyboarder, to qualifying rounds for World Tour competitions. What has surfing against other professionals and bigger waves taught you professionally and has it taught you anything on a personal level?

Tristan:  Riding against other guys, which I have looked up to since I was a kid, is obviously humbling and you try take in that all the hard work you did is finally paying off.

It just taught me that anything is possible with hard work. If you want something really bad, what’s stopping you from getting it? Why does someone else deserve a world title more than you do ? They don’t. They do if they work harder though.

Soon your idols become your rivals and you have to now accept that they have no more right than you to be the best.

Riding bigger waves around the world has helped me know what I need to prepare for and know how fit I need to be. It has taught me a lot about how just when you think you are prepared, the ocean proves you wrong. Which then makes you go back and train even harder. You are never as fit as you can be, there’s always room for improvement.

Possibly the best feeling in the world . . . ISA Men’s World Champion . . Thanks for all the support my friends !!

A photo posted by tristan_roberts (@tristan_roberts) on

Cool bits of Tristan-info

Favourite trick and why?

Tristan: My favourite trick would have to be doing an air-reverse. Simply because doing a three-sixty rotation above the wave with your legs crossed tight, landing straight in front of the foam-ball facing the beach, whilst you prepare for the hard impact of your board slapping the water, is simply the best feeling.

Favourite surf spot and why, local and international?

Tristan: My favourite spot locally would have to be a beach break near my home, which is the most fun right-hander you can ride at full speed into a heavy ramp (which would normally send you to the flats).

I shouldn’t mention this spot or the location as I don’t want the local eyes staring holes through me haha! But internationally, I’d say Canary Islands. It’s without a doubt my favourite destination with Fronton being the best wave in the world to bodyboard in my eyes.

Your worst wipeout?

Tristan: My worst wipeout would probably have to be one where I was riding a reed break around home, which is about a 15 minute paddle across loads of seaweed. Then when you get there, you’re exposed to a wave – which you think is near perfect – until you see how shallow it is with rocks which often end up showing face.

I ended up paddling into a wave, which was too dry which pinned me down on the reef head first and then just tumbled me along the rocky shelf. I ended up coming up feeling my head and seeing my whole hand covered in blood. I was so cut up all over my body and it felt like I had been jumped by five guys just kicking me all over.

I was in pain and had to take on the long paddle back in over deep water to get to hospital. A couple of stitches and a few pain killers and I was all good – but humbled by the energy of the ocean.