If you haven't heard of Pacha Light yet remember the name, because the rising star in Aussie surfing is about to be everywhere. Mark our words.
The 18-year-old is currently ranked fourth in the World Surf League’s Pro Junior series and is gunning for the World Championship Tour (which includes other national treasures like Stephanie Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons).
Aside from gobsmacking talent the Go Pro ambassador also has a heart of gold, using her significant Insta following to spread her love for the sport with young girls and encourage awareness about the environment.
We chat to the Gold Coast-native about everything from how she got her start to what a week of surf training looks like.
When did you first start surfing, did you love it straight away?
I was 9 years old and we lived in the bush near Iluka and noticed there was a board riders club that met each month. We went along, and my brother and I had a ball borrowing their boards. We were hooked, but our only board (to share) came from a garage sale and was pretty dodgy! I really wanted a new one for my 10th birthday but brand new surfboards weren’t cheap so mum suggested I might be able to help by doing some busking. I loved dancing, so we set up a boom box with my favourite songs, and a hat and a sign saying “Busking For a Board” and went along to the Roxy Pro surf comp on the Gold Coast. After a few songs, lots of smiles and quite a few coins gathering in the hat, a young lady joined in for a boogie to Rihanna. It tuned out to be a Pro Surfer, Laura Enever, who came back a little while later with one of her back up competition boards! I couldn’t believe it – I was so happy. I rode her board every day with my brother as my surf buddy and with a bit of practise I was up and in love! It was hard but so much fun - and we had no idea that it would be harder to learn to surf using a professional’s competition board!
I look back and think how special it is to have passed on this love for the ocean with such a generous and kind gift and we have a family tradition now to bring back up boards when we travel overseas to give to others.
When did you realise you wanted to surf competitively?
Growing up with my younger brother Yani, I wanted to do everything he was doing and more. He was really good and won junior champion at our local boardriders in his first year – so that was it – I wanted to win too! We moved up to the Gold Coast to look after my grandmother when I was 13 and that really opened up opportunities to compete more and I loved it, the atmosphere, meeting my friends, the motivation to get up at dawn every morning to practice – it's a good life!
What comp are you working towards at the moment?
At the moment I’m training for my second year full time on the World Qualifying Series – earning points from competition results to further my ranking with the world’s best women to ultimately qualify for the World Championship Tour. There are only 7 spots given each year and every girl wants a spot badly!
What’s been the highlight of your career so far?
In 2016 I placed 2nd in Nationals in the U16 division which gave me the opportunity to represent Australia at the ISA world surfing championships in the Azores Islands in Portugal.
It was so special to travel with the Aussie team and meet surfers from all over the world, we placed second to France and had one of the sickest trips together!
This year I’m competing in the World Surf League’s Pro Junior series and for a spot to represent Australia in Taiwan at the end of the year, I’m currently ranked no. 4 and I’m excited to keep pushing my surfing to get into the top 3!
I started this year with a win at the Burleigh Heads Single Fin Classic where we all rode pre 1984 retro single fins in the contest! It was so amazing to learn more about surfing’s history and watching legends surf at a local break!
What does a week of training look like for you?
A usual week of training involves 3 or 4 sessions at Surfing Australia’s High Performance Centre where I concentrate on building strength and stamina. Their facilities are really focused on bringing us to the next level of fitness in and out of the water. To recover from these sessions I head into P3 Sports and Recovery in Burleigh, from cold magnesium baths to infrared saunas and hyperbaric chambers, the crew at P3 have everything to keep me healthy and healing!
In the water I aim to surf twice a day, every day, with coaching with Clayton Nienabar on technique and Mick Cain to get competition ready! I'm always sure to take my GoPro HERO7 Black out with me as well, so I can review these sessions once I'm home.
I also love getting into the skate bowl and practising movements I would do in the surf, over and over again so it becomes second nature…
What is your day on a plate?
My day on a plate will start with either some oats and fruit, followed by a protein smoothie after training. For lunch I like to keep it light as I’m still running around and need the quick energy, I’ve been loving sweet potato and a salad packed full of avocado, homegrown tomatoes and lots of greens. I've also been making my own bliss balls with only 4 ingredients; almonds, dates, coconut and salt! Dinner time will usually be a bunch of veggies but my favourite at the moment is Dahl with red lentils and a bunch of garlic and turmeric. Travelling and working hard takes a toll on your immune system, so eating healthy and fresh and green is so important.
Do you still get nervous before big events? How do you work on your mental strength?
For sure! I think over the years I’ve learned to try and shift the nervous energy into power and focus, using those butterflies as fuel. I’m super grateful to get wisdom from a lot of amazing mental coaches and simplifying each problem in a competition so its easy to figure out in the moment!
Do you have any pre-comp rituals?
I love to listen to my favourite songs to amp myself up and warm up my body. If I ever get too amped up and feel like my heart rate is super high, I use a breathing technique to slow everything down and bring calmness – bringing myself back to the present, making it easier to focus.
How did you feel when the WSL announced equal pay for women and men in surfing? How important is this decision?
It was almost unbelievable – we were just used to the way things were. What a huge step for not only surfing but for women all around the world!
At the time of the announcement I had actually just been diving with 80-year-old grandmothers on an island off Korea – learning about strong, empowered women who support their communities sustainably – so it was just perfect. It really gives this new wave of empowerment and inspiration for all women, the confidence to excel in everything we do. The future is looking very bright with more girls than ever in the water having fun! Its such an amazing time to be a girl surfer and I hope many more join us!
How has surfing influenced your environmental activism?
Growing up either in the forest or on the beach, I loved and felt comfortable in wild nature. My mother is an environmentalist and we spent my first years living in the cloud forest of Ecuador, one of the top 10 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Mum was working with the local communities to set alternatives to industrial mining and we were living the sustainable model – permaculture, eco-house, solar power, compost toilet… I learnt about human impacts and threats from a young age, always being aware that you can make a positive change no matter how small. So its been a natural transition to bring this awareness to protecting the ocean that gives us the most incredible sport of surfing! Surfing means you are literally immersed in the ocean – it surrounds you, supports you and it connects you with this source of life – it is only natural that you would want to look after it!
I’m involved with a number of groups, including the Surfrider Foundation, and do what I can where I can, and trying to reduce my own impact wherever possible. Here on the Gold Coast I feel especially proud to have been involved in getting the southern Gold Coast coastline declared a World Surfing Reserve, helping protect it from destructive developments for generations to come! It feels very special to have a place you can share with future generations! I always bring a GoPro with me to share these stories and to capture beautiful moments in both the forest and the ocean. I think we are reaching a momentous point in history as people are beginning to use their voice and questioning our global systems and the inaction on climate change. We will always have hope.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations, both in and out of the surfing world?
I’m inspired by so many people in many different situations in the water and out, in simplistic, happy and healthy living or changing the world. I’m greatly influenced by Laura Enever’s gratitude and loving energy, Stephanie Gilmore’s elegance and poise on a wave and on land, both my grandmothers and the strength and wisdom they pass on and youth activists Xiuhtezcatl Martinez and Greta Thunberg with their incredible work on climate justice.
What would you tell any young girls looking to get intro surfing?
I would say, get out there! The ocean has become one of my biggest mentors in life, learning to go with the flow and being in nature. In a society that can make you feel so disconnected, I feel like I’m brought back into the present… feeling true connection with the earth. It’s my biggest stress reliever and I always leave the water with a smile. Nothing can ever beat the rush of catching a wave. I would love to see more girls break through their comfort zones and explore this beautiful sea.