Editor's note: This interview took place well before the Hurricane Sandy disaster.
Courtney Conlogue freesurfing is a thing of beauty. She's mastered categorical control down to the minutia and it's something that her body won't relinquish, even when her mind does. When she's not focusing on scores, or time, or competitors -- when she's focused only on finding her next barrel -- her surfing is even more perfect. It's set to a score of laughter. Conlogue doesn't bring heat strategy to her freesurfs. She relishes the energy of a friendly posse. She has no intention of outshining its other members -- even encourages them to take some of the good ones. But she is honed and naturally gifted, so she does outshine them. She is brilliant.
About 40 minutes from Mikey DeTemple's Brooklyn apartment, SMASH NYC's Tyler Breuer texted me:
"Good morning! Heard coming to NY to surf today!" I responded in the affirmative.
Conlogue and her manager, Tony Lee, are taking a little vacay in the Apple. Breuer, an excellent source of insider New York surf info, set them up in Mikey DeTemple's Brooklyn apartment.
Another text: "I was thinking of heading to a secret spot. Keen?"
Conlogue, Lee, and I squeezed into my car with several boards and joined a small caravan of Sunday morning city surfers. We picked up BEC sandwiches on bagels and Americanos with too much unrequested sugar. We followed a red Jeep through unfamiliar New York territory for hours before arriving at "Tyler's secret spot." Or maybe it was 53 minutes. "The first rule of fight club..."
The ride afforded us enough time for quality discourse. Pets: One of her dogs is named Draco -- not after Draco Malfoy. Life direction: People tend to interrogate Conlogue about university. She tried it for a while, but it didn't work with the Tour and the QS and everything else she's got going on. She reckons traveling and reading provide pretty decent education. I flashed back to our New Zealand road trip, when Conlogue effortlessly shared a wealth of information about the geological wonders we visited. I told her she's probably better-educated than most uni graduates, anyway.
A caravaner stood on the hood of her car and surveyed the surf across a few hundred meters of wild land.
"I can see spray coming off the back of something," she said.
Ninety minutes later, the tide was rising and the wind was still blowing offshore. Hard. Breuer and Conlogue labeled the conditions "hollow-mush," but as we were in New York, we decided it would be "Challah-mush." The water was fairly warm, but the late September air was crisp. Shoulders (mine, at least) struggled with full suits after a summer of trunking it. Everyone except Conlogue and myself was riding some kinda brightly-colored, abbreviated craft. Allegedly, they "paddled like longboards." I was constantly two strokes shy. This dismayed Conlogue. Not because my atrocious surfing was bringing her down; because she wanted me to be having as much fun as she was. She decided I was going to get the next great 4-footer that came through. When Conlogue says go for it, you do. Floating less than a foot away, she literally shoved the tail of my board to ensure I didn't miss it.
I cut to the left and the green, East Coast lip encased me. Bliss.
Under other circumstances, this mightn't have been an ideal barrel entry. But Conlogue's aid didn't come from a supercilious place. The next time I checked my watch, another two hours had passed.
Conlogue has a thing for barrels. The girl who is known for her powerful, blasting hacks says she actually went years without learning to turn. All she ever wanted to do was get slotted -- no matter how unlikely it seemed. She'd even find cover at Trestles, a notoriously mushy, if fast, wave. She eventually branched out when her dad told her, "You have to do more than get barreled at contests." She's still got a knack for hunting them down.
After four hours, we were shivering and dragging our feet, but determined to find quality dim sum.
Streets named for trees and presidents bustled as we made our way through Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, boba tea in hand. We only fleetingly observed that salty blonde hair and tans didn't exactly go unnoticed in this neighborhood. When a random solicitor approached, Conlogue automatically said, "No, gracias." The result of growing up in predominantly Latina Santa Ana, Calif. Then she realized the irony of English speakers speaking Spanish in Chinatown.
In another borough, after more caffeine (at Blue Bottle Coffee), Conlogue actually walked in a circle after crossing paths with a black cat. She claims she's not superstitious about competition. That would imply her fate was in someone else's hands.
Somehow, we broached the topic of automobiles. Conlogue drives a white Toyota Tacoma. "You have an FJ?! That's my dream car!" she exclaimed earlier. After surfing, she asked, "Can I test drive it?"
"Of course, " I said. It's my mother's.
Conlogue got her license two weeks ago. But don't worry, Mom, she's highly capable.