Tahlija's surfing dream there for the taking
22-YEAR-OLD Tahlija Redgard's eyes look to the sky as she contemplates a dream of touring the world as a professional surfer.
"I feel like it's just there,” she says. "Ready for me to take on, and I know I want to get there.”
A newcomer to the Angourie area, and with only a year of competitive surfing under her belt, Tahlija's recent second place finish in the women's state surfing title, and third place in the Australian titles this week have her even more focused on turning her passion into her career.
Tahlija grew up on the Sunshine Coast, and her love of the ocean and surfing began from the age of five.
"I've always loved it, just being in the water and the ocean,” Tahlija says.
"And about three years ago, my best mate (and professional surfer) Mick Campbell got in my ear going 'You need to do something with this'.”
With not many opportunities at her Sunshine Coast home, Tahlija moved to the Gold Coast with the intention of starting to compete in Women's Qualifying Series events, but it didn't go to plan.
"I just couldn't do it. I love the cruisier lifestyle, and I love my fishing,” she laughs.
"And I was talking to my aunty who lives here in Angourie one night, and she was like 'just move down and live here, I reckon it'll be good for you.'”
And so began the support of a community for which Tahlija says has been an unbelievable support in her journey of the past six months.
"It was hard to move down here, but my aunty put me up for three months in a caravan and fed me for nothing, and got me a job. It was absolutely unreal,” she says.
"And then surfboard shaper Luke Short, he and his family have really looked after me as well, and the surfing community has been so supportive.”
With the support of the Angourie Boardriders to enter the state titles, Tahlija says she was totally focussed on the events.
"I just put 110% into the event. Stephanie Round at Fluid Physio and Gym and Raymond Laurie has been teaching me heaps of stuff and I just put everything in,” she says.
"And every time I compete, I learn something new every time. Surfing in competition is different, and the more heats you go in the better you get.”
A second place event on her new local breaks meant qualifying for the Australian titles in Coffs Harbour, where she placed third, and now has an overseas trip waiting for her.
"I'm going to Japan in October for a month to compete in two WQS events,” Tahlija says. ”I'll go and stay with Luke's crew while I'm over there.”
With good results, Tahlija hopes to build points for next year's series, with her aim to do the tour full-time.
"It's full on next year, all the events in Australia and a few overseas,” she says.
"I'm still looking for a full-time sponsor though, it's so expensive, but I've had so much support already from the local community.”
And at this time next year, Tahlija's sights are set as high as the sky.
"I really want to be doing well. I want to be on the tour; I want to make a living out of it,” she says.
"I just love the feeling it gives you, it makes you feel so good to surf...and to train every day makes you feel even better.
"The whole lifestyle I've done from such a young age it just feels natural.”
And while she may be surfing the waves of the world over the coming years, you feel like her newly found home won't be far from her mind.
"I still love doing a bit of jewy fishing around,” Tahlija laughs. "I absolutely love it here.”