Okay, so you’ve pulled out of the final event of the season – the Beachwaver Maui Pro – and we haven’t seen you in a jersey since Uluwatu. Can you tell us what happened this year?
I actually got sick in July, during the Jeffrey’s Bay event. I had gone to Africa early to go surfing and prepare. I love JBay and had gone the year before just to surf, plus I thought I could get some waves in before the whole crew arrived. I was happy to get a fews surf in. Then I first started feeling ill when I went on an overnight safari. My head was on fire and so was my body. I'd never felt like that before and I actually called my brother Mikey who said he thought I needed to go to the doctor. I didn't want to believe him, so I called WSL Commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer and told her how I felt. She told me to please drive to the hospital. Mikey got the medical team organised and then we went from there; I had to go to Port Elizabeth where I was admitted through Emergency.
The official diagnosis in the hospital at JBay was Influenza A. I spent time in hospital, and then came back to JBay where I was treated by the medical team. I couldn't travel until my fever broke, and I stayed in bed for probably ten days straight. All-up I lost 8kgs, and at one stage we thought I had pneumonia as well. I don't reckon I ate for a week. It's the sickest I have ever been in my life.
So now, I haven't been able to shake it and I have been diagnosed with post-viral syndrome from getting Influenza A. I am pretty much battling chronic fatigue, which is a real challenge. People think it's just about being tired but there is more to it – although that does have a lot to do with it.
Have you tried to come back to compete, and, if so, can you describe the circumstances around that effort to return?
I actually was going to try and surf in the Surf Ranch Pro in California. I thought that of all the events on the calendar that was the one that I could manage myself the best at, with the set schedule, set number of waves etc. I even flew to California for it – that's how convinced I was. I came early with the idea that I would go and see Mark Kozuki, because he has always fixed me, and then I’d go up to Lemoore for the training days pre-event. I went and saw Kozuki the day I landed, and then I literally changed my flight for the next day and flew home. I spent one night in California.
What has your recovery regime consisted of over the last several months?
I've been seeing a bunch of different doctors, including a specialist in Sydney. It's hard because chronic fatigue is so difficult to treat. I’ve been resting a lot, eating right, taking herbs and reading Harry Potter, which is my new favourite thing. And I try and go for a small swim every day – that’s a highlight for me.
Can you describe your headspace as you've watched the season unfold?
It's been interesting to watch the Tour from here, when I feel good and I can. I've never been out of events... I've been injured before, but I’ve never actually taken time off. This is new for me, to actually be sick and realise that I can't just push through it. Last year I had no business surfing on my knee, but I decided that I would and so I did. It's different this time.
In terms of the Title race I've always looked up to Steph, so I'm cheering for her and I hope that she wins. Lakey has had a great year though and I'm proud of her for stepping up.
When can we expect to see you back in the water competing, and what will it take to make that happen?
Well now that I have spent so much time out of the water and because I can't surf in Maui, I have to ask for the 2019 wildcard. So hopefully the WSL decides that I am a good candidate, and I'm back next year.
Interview courtesy of the World Surf League