The Long and the Short of it with Rachael Tilly 16 year old Professional Longboarder

16 year old Rachael Tilly had a big year in 2014 representing her country at the International Surfing Longboard event and winning a silver medal, competing in the World Longboard Championships in China and taking out a number of other events nationally and internationally. The truth is, the girl has serious style and is making all the right moves in the surf world to make sure people know exactly who she is.

Growing up at Capistrano Beach, California little Rachael took her first ride above the water when she was just four years old. Being the daughter of an former pro surfer would naturally mean the progression and love of the sport would take over. Rachael entered her first contest at 6 years old and dominated the waves. She says of the experience “After my first event I was hooked. I loved surfing so much and worked hard to finally win my first contest, The Roxy Wahine Classic at San Onofre, when I was 8 years old.”

Rachael Tilly Surfing at Queens Beach  Photo by: John Oconnor

Rachael Tilly Surfing at Queens Beach Photo by: John O’Connor

What was your first World Longboard experience? How was it and what did you learn from it to help your surfing? My first year competing internationally was in 2013. In September, I travelled to Peru with the USA Surf Team and competed in the ISA World Longboard Championships. I finished the event with a silver medal in the Professional Women’s Division. It was so exciting for me, espcially since it was my first world contest! After Peru, I traveled to China to compete in the ASP’s World Championship event and also attended an event in Australia. At the end of 2014 I returned to China for my 2nd World Championship event.

How often do you compete and what drives you to compete? Now that I am surfing professionally and travelling often, I don’t compete as much as I used to because there are not as many contests for women’s pro longboarding. I grew up surfing on our local surf tour, the Western Surfing Association (WSA), and did that for about 8 years. The WSA contests really helped me round out my competitive skills and I still do a couple here and there. In California we have club contests as well, we meet once a month to compete locally.

The local club contests have some fantastic competition since most of the girls from California that I travel with around the world do the contests too. The reason I love competing is because it puts the pressure on me and my skills in short heats of just 15-25 minutes. I find it really exciting and they give me something to work for. I surf everyday to improve myself from the previous day and having competitions to look forward to help to achieve goals and drive my motivation.

Rachael Tilly surfing at San Onofre, California Photo by: Masa Kaimana

Rachael Tilly surfing at San Onofre, California
Photo by: Masa Kaimana

How did you decide Longboarding over Shortboarding? I used to compete in both longboard and shortboard. My dad, who is also my coach, said that I should pick one and work get really good at it in order to fulfil my goals for being the youngest on tour and youngest World Champion. I decided to pick longboarding because I really like the gracefulness of it and the lifestyle that comes along with it.

There is no other feeling like noseriding, it’s my favorite maneuver. I still do shortboard for fun and do club contests here and there for shortboarding. It’s always fun to jump on the shortboard and due some fast turns that I can’t do on a longboard.

Your win at the WSA in January was epic, winning both divisions, how did you pull that off? I actually wasn’t feeling that well that day. However, that made me even more determined to overcome it and win. In every heat, I made sure to paddle the hardest I could and be selective with my waves. Being selective with my waves is probably the biggest thing I’ve learned about competing and heat surfing since I’ve been traveling around and surfing against girls from all over the world.

The waves were very fun that day with the sets being about 4-5 feet and very powerful. One of the things that helped me get an edge over the other girls was I paddled hard right at the beginning of the heats and made it over the sets while a lot of the other girls got stuck on the inside. This helped me get first pick on the waves. Since I stopped doing the WSA regularly, I hadn’t competed against most of the girls, so I didn’t really know what to expect, therefore, I just surfed the hardest I could!

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What did you do on the wave that you scored the 9.8? Have you programmed that in your mind for next time? Yes, I have definitely programmed it in my head for next time. To even get that wave, I had to paddle battle a girl and I worked my butt off. In result, that was the main thing I remember from it because I was so tired from that. When I finally was on the wave, I got on to the nose right away while the wave was still on the outside and held it for as long as possible. I then followed that up with a couple of big powerful turns. The wave ended up opening up all the way to the beach (which was part of being super selective that day), so I was able to continue to get some turns and noserides. That was definitely my winning wave and if I wasn’t selective or if I hadn’t paddled so hard to get it, it would have been a lot harder to win.

Hopes and dreams for 2015? My next planned trip is to Australia for the Noosa Festival of Surfing. I went there last year with my family and we absolutely loved it, so we’re going back again! I also hope to return to Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Hawaii trips are always fun and Puerto Rico is very interesting since it is a whole different culture over there. I love experiencing different cultures and I’ve been taking Spanish Class at school for the past 3 years so it would be fun to try and put what I learned since I was there last to use!

Rachael is supported by Hurley and Hobie Surf


Rachael Tilly at San Onofre, California Photo by: Masa Kaimana

Rachael Tilly at San Onofre, California
Photo by: Masa Kaimana

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