The girl next door has an exceedingly good nature, easy charm and a winning smile. If she also has an edgy sense of style, a wicked frontside snap and happens to reside in Ventura, Calif., then Sage Erickson might just be your neighbor. The 21-year-old finished 13th on the World Tour and was the leading lady on the Women's QS, but her rookie year was far from a cinch.
After two years on the star series, Erickson was comfortable with both the locations and the opposition, which is a dangerous way to be when you're surrounded by some of the fiercest competitors in the world. She admits that she didn't know how to prepare for her inaugural elite year and post the kinds of results for which she'd hoped in 2012: She finished 13th at five of seven WCT events.
Somewhere around Rio, that string of "unlucky 13s" became frustrating and Erickson was forced to consider that she might not be amongst the Top 17 next year.
"I was so hungry," she says. "I had been putting so much time in at the gym, reading sports-psychology books, and my equipment felt really good. I felt like a result was around the corner. And it didn't happen in Brazil."
She had what she calls a "white moment" while sitting on the beach in Brazil. It's "where everything is clear and your direction is kind of chosen for you," she says. She felt that God was telling her not to become weary -- that she was meant to be on the Tour. "After that, I wanted to work that much harder for a result," she says.
She finally pulled out an equal fifth at August's Nike US Open -- the seventh and last women's CT competition. Eliminating World Champion Steph Gilmore along the way strengthened her conviction that she was where she belonged.
"That was such a huge moment for my confidence level and momentum," she says. That momentum carried her to a six-star win the following week in Oceanside, Calif., and another in September in Pantin, Spain.
"Heading over to Europe, I kind of upped the ante," Erickson says. "I really wanted to win the entire WQS. My brother [Noah] and I did the calculations, and I needed a semifinal finish to overtake Courtney [Conlogue]. I actually ended up winning. It was really amazing because I love Europe so much and the waves were probably the biggest I've surfed all year, so it felt even more gratifying to be on top in challenging conditions.
"And, that result guaranteed that I would be on the WCT next year," she continues. "Since I had such a struggling rookie year, it felt really good [to know] that committing myself to both the WQS and the World Tour had paid off."
Her trials have taught her that balance is key -- and that refers to everything from emotions to equipment to the Tour itself. She believes the women's schedule is off-kilter without a big-wave reef-break comp in some place like Hawaii, for instance. "I think it would be really important to our sport to get us in some more power. We all want a challenge," she says. That being said, she's not at all sore about the condensed Tour schedule.
"It's funny, so many people are like, 'I can't believe your Tour is so short!'" she says, "but I think a few of us girls really kind of appreciate that, because we get time to do things that we love besides surfing."
Erickson's using her six months of World Tour vacation time to take her career in new directions. She'll try her hand at commentating the Oakley World Junior Championships in Bali this month and the O'Neill Coldwater Classic Santa Cruz in November. She's also involved with O'Neill Girls and Teen Vogue's Generation Nextproject, which supports young fashion designers, and B4BC (Boarding for Breast Cancer).
"I'm really excited to be a part of B4BC and their new 'Be Healthy. Get Active. Ride!' campaign. Their main objective is something that I believe really strongly in, which is just living a healthy, active lifestyle -- especially being a girl," she says. Sage Erickson is passionate, principled and not even remotely pretentious. She's an elite surfer, but she's also a human. She would be a really good neighbor.