Meet the 14-year-old WA surfer who faced the best in the world at the Margaret River Pro
While most of the 14-year-olds were stuck in school yards this week, Willow Hardy was paddling in a huge swell to take on the world’s best surfers at the Margaret River Pro.
- Willow Hardy, 14, faced her heroes in appreciable conditions at the Margaret River Pro
- Its competitors have had nine world championships between them
- World number one Carissa Moore had nothing but praise for the young “charger”
The teenager won a wildcard ticket to the event and faced quadruple world champion Carissa Moore in her first round this weekend.
She backed that up with a round against seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore.
Although she was knocked out of the Pro after her match against Gilmore, Willow said she was grateful for the opportunity to compete.
“It was so amazing, literally everything I ever dreamed of,” she said.
“It’s definitely a great taste of what it would be like to be a professional surfer and I’ll keep working to make that dream come true and maybe one day it could come true.”
The Margaret River Local said surfing against women she had long idolized was a scary experience.
“I’m so nervous when I meet them, but they’ve been so nice,” Willow said.
Willow was one of the most popular female surfers at the Pro, receiving huge cheers from the crowd every time she ran into the water.
“Knowing that the whole crowd was behind me, it was truly an amazing experience,” she said.
“All of my friends came over to watch, and it made me feel so happy before I went out.
Having requested a few days off from school, Willow was surprised to see some of her teachers show up to watch.
“I think they all know what I’m doing,” she said.
‘Fear in excitement’
The Main Break Swell is well known for its size and was large and powerful during the Pro’s early days, testing the experience and abilities of all surfers including Willow.
“I’m definitely trying to turn my fear into excitement,” she says.
“It was pretty solid yesterday, but I was lucky because during the summer and during the lockout, because we live so close, it made me go out in the greatest conditions just to push myself “she said.
“Exciting to watch”
Moore, the current world number one and the favorite to win the Pro, said she has followed Willow’s career.
“I haven’t given her any advice because she doesn’t need it because she surfs so well,” she said.
“I know she might be a little nervous, but I just wanted her to enjoy the experience and there is no pressure.
Crystal Wallace, owner and operator of Yallingup Surf School, has also seen the youngster improve from year to year.
“Willow is a really kind and happy face in the water – she always shares and is always encouraging,” Ms. Wallace said.
“She’s riding really, really big waves, way beyond what I think her age group or division would one day be surfing.