By Branden Peters
Competitive spirit doesn’t look the same or mean the same thing to every athlete. Every player has to find their inner fire through a unique journey.
World class surfer Sage Erickson is still on her path to greatness. After competing as a top-level pro for six years, she finally broke through in 2017, with a Championship Tour victory in 2017 at the Vans US Open of Surfing in front of 100,000 spectators. Flirting with the #1 spot was something new for Erickson in the literal sense, but she’s always known she was a champion.
Sage Erickson grew up in Ojai, CA, a small SoCal town, known more for country music than surfing, so when she moved to Oahu, Hawaii and began her journey, she wasn’t as prepared as the other local surfers her age. Even with a competitive disadvantage, she knew that surfing was going to be a major part of her life from the very first time she got on a surfboard at 10-years-old. “The feelings that I got being out in the ocean on a board even as a young girl was super inspiring.”
While girls in Hawaii her age had been surfing for year, Sage spent the next four years of her life walking across the street to the beach everyday focused on building foundational movements and blocks that would turn her into a good surfer.
When her family moved back to California, Erickson entered into her first contest and won. Before then, she never knew why people competed, but after tasting, she knew it was a feeling that she always wanted. “It gave me a sense of value and believe that I’m good enough to go up against the gnarly girls in Hawaii and to compete with the best girls in the world.”
The irony about Erickson is that whether interacting with a fan, sponsor or competitor, she is one of the coolest people in the world. Sage exudes niceness and is also fiercely competitive every time she sets foot on a board. It’s this balance that makes her one of the most interesting athletes in her sport. “I’m really kind on the sand, but aggressive and in the zone in the water.”
It took a long time for Sage to find her inner aggression. At her core she says she’s pretty easy going “I like to be nice and I hate confrontation, and it’s kind of ironic that I ended up in a sport that is individual, I’m against an opponent and I’m pushing myself in the biggest waves in the world.”
For an athlete that spends the majority of her life in the ocean, protection from the sun is imperative. Even when training, Sage is also looking for the next best wave and she can’t do that with sunscreen running down into her eyes. “Being able to wear a product [like Art of Sport Sunscreen] that suits being in the ocean and living an active lifestyle means everything to me because that’s where I spend most of my time,” she says.
When Sage isn’t in the ocean, she alternates her training with boxing and cross fit— it’s through that she’s been able to tap into another level of intensity. “My aggressiveness isn’t naturally confrontational, it’s a part of feeling strong. When I feel strong it reflects on the inside. I feel If I can be a beautiful stylish surfer with a hint of aggression, then I may one day be a world champion.”
Thus far Erickson hasn’t been able to achieve the same success that she did last year in her breakout season. Like a true champion, she’s used the setback to fuel her. “These results are pushing me deeper to change my surfing, to pay attention to technique, to figure out why those results aren’t coming and that’s elevating my performance in the long run.”
Follow Sage’s journey @sageerickson