Back to the Beginning with Bianca Buitendag

With a break from competition underway, we spent some time with Bianca Buitendag, digging through some of her first and favorite salty memories. Naturally we wanted to know what sparked her love of the ocean, a thirst for life on tour and what were her biggest influences when it came to surfing.

Back to the Beginning with Bianca

Take a trip down memory lane with Bianca below -

When did you start surfing?

To be very honest, I can’t remember much before I was seven. Most of the memories I do have are from old photos and stories told by my family. There are certain glimpses that I can recall however. I remember catching fish in the rock pools, and building sand castles on the beach, since my parents were always out surfing. My brothers and I finally built up the courage to test the water, and it was my father that pushed me into my first wave as a child. He introduced me to something that I now regard as one of my biggest loves, the ocean.

Back to the Beginning with Bianca(Before I had the courage to venture into the deep water)

Did you always dream of being a pro surfer?

Strangely enough, the answer is no! I grew up surfing every day, but the chance of a skinny, white-haired, freckled little girl from a little town in South Africa to make it to the top 5 female surfers in the world seemed close to impossible.

Was surfing one of your favorite things growing up?

I enjoyed all sports. I had provincial colors in 5 sports besides surfing before I was 16. But there was a sense of freedom in surfing, an excuse to adventure, every time you cross from sand to saltwater, you have no idea what to expect. You do not have to conform to a field, pool, platform, or track. You learn to read and thrive off of the unpredictability of the ocean.

Back to the Beginning with Bianca(standing alongside my brothers - My first surfboard and one of our first trips to Jbay)

Were there people along the way that gave you a helping hand, or encouraged you, that really stand out?

The most important people to include in your life, in my opinion, are people who would support you no matter what you decide to do. In that case, my parents are probably the greatest by a long stretch. I have had the privilege of growing up in a very supportive home, surrounded by people who are proud of who I am and not what I achieve.

I grew up totally unaware of what was going on in the surfing industry. The only surfers I knew were those at my local beach. For a long time, the only competition I had was amongst my brothers and the only coaching or advice I received was from my parents. It is safe to say my family were my inspirations, and are still today, their sincerity and support more than anything.

Back to the Beginning with Bianca(First trip overseas on a surf trip - age 12 - Bingin, Bali)

Back to the Beginning with Bianca(Best friends growing up - also one of the first contests with a ROXY sticker on my nose)

At what age did you sign with ROXY?

I sent a profile to ROXY, and they sent me a box of clothes through the post, so heavy that I couldn’t carry it into the house. I was 12 at the time, and am still sponsored by the same company 10 years down the timeline. I would open the box, and throw out everything that was pink and everything that has showed any type of femininity – I have two brothers and at that stage I wanted to be a boy, and still strongly believed that I was.

Back to the Beginning with Bianca(The day I got the box of clothes from ROXY - 12/13 yrs old - my board is a size 5’2 and now I surf a 6’2!)

Back to the Beginning with Bianca

Back to the Beginning with Bianca

When did you realise this could become a career?

I was faced with the decision in my last year of school: with good grades, I had the option of either going to study or taking the opportunity to compete full time. Having had education as a priority until I wrote that last exam, I felt like I had not seen my potential in surfing yet, and that I could not take an opportunity to do it without distraction, for granted. Later that year, I won two WQS 6stars, and it was only then that I had the answer to the question I had asked a year earlier.

Back to the Beginning with Bianca(My first WQS victory - putting me on a good road to qualifying)

There can only be one winner at the end of each contest. How do you stay focused and driven, when a contest doesn’t go your way?

This goes deep. This goes beyond disappointment. Ever since the first contest, there has always been this pressure to perform. You have a lot of attention and confidence when you are getting results, and it all fades away and leaves you empty when you don’t. When you do over 15 contests in a year, performance becomes your identity. It is what you measure yourself onto such a degree that when you lose, you don’t only doubt your performance but you doubt yourself as a person. This can hurt. You even start believing that others only love you when you perform. I felt the consequences of this lie on my first year of tour. But knowing the truth, something that I discovered when I was 17 years old, has been the best thing that has happened in my life. The truth is that God loves us unconditionally, without requirements, with tears of compassion in His eyes, without judgment, without restriction. I have found my identity, my refuge, my comfort, my joy, my peace and my life in that love. And everything that remains is just an expression of this love that continues to fascinate me as I discover its depths.

Back to the Beginning with Bianca

Back to the Beginning with Bianca

Which athletes do you admire and why?

I admire most athletes, not necessarily of the athletic excellence, but more the challenges, tragedies, and transformations they overcome, expressing it through the proclamation of their sport for the world to see. These athletes are not only successful on a track, but their character, having been shaped for many years, is my greatest inspiration.

Back to the Beginning with Bianca

Back to the Beginning with Bianca

What does SUCCESS mean to you?

Success to me is living in freedom. To be one who is unattached to the world. One who lives and loves generously, giving instead of taking. “She is clothed with dignity and strength, and laughs without fear of the future.”

Back to the Beginning with Bianca

Ever thought you would come this far?

Never in my wildest dreams. Actually, I did not even have the dream, thinking it seemed so impossible for a skinny, freckled, white-haired girl from a little coastal town in Southern Africa to make it. And it is not the sporting success that I am referring to; plainly the privilege of meeting the people I have grown to know and love and the countries and cultures I have seen.

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Tagged in Surf