Annissa Tita Flynn
BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS My dad, mum and I live in Phuket, down in the south at a place called Chalong. I started surfing at Nai Harn Beach, which is a good place for learners. I'd been cable-skiing and wakeboarding, and was ready to try a new challenge. I was about seven or eight, and my dad bought me a big soft board, and was pushing me along on the waves. It was OK, I guess, but then I got a proper surfboard and I didn't really like it, so I went back to cable skiing and wakeboarding. Then I got another board, and I really liked it, so I started surfing at Kata. It's probably the best break in Phuket. So when it's surf season, from May until November, I ring my friend's dad, who owns a surf shop in Kata called The Nautilus, and if the waves are pumping, my dad drives me over the hill on his motorbike and down to Kata. Usually we stop for some khao mun gai first. It's Thai chicken rice and it's delicious. I entered my first surfing competition in 2007 at Kalim Beach in Phuket. I ended up winning the women's competition with a borrowed board. I remember the date, June 14, because it was my birthday. I also beat all the boys to win the 'grom com' [grommets competition, for young surfers]. I loved that, beating the boys. It was a great birthday present. I think that was when I turned nine. I guess I always found surfing pretty easy.
LEADER OF THE PACK Kata is my home break now. I'm in a group called the Kata Gang - it's me and my friend whose dad owns the surf shop and a couple of other 'groms'. When Kata is good, you can go left or right, it breaks either side of a rocky point. I prefer to go left, because I'm a goofy footer [left-handed surfer] and I like surfing on my forehand [front onto the wave] better. If Kata is a bit small, we go a bit further, to Kata Noi. Sometimes I go out and surf for five or six hours non-stop. My dad puts zinc cream all over my face so I don't get too sunburnt. He goes out sometimes on a big nine-foot Malibu board, but he just kind of paddles around and lies there and doesn't catch many waves.
GETTING BARRELLED Sometimes it's really hard to get out the back at Kata, but there's a rip near the rocks where all the water swoops around and takes you out. We call it the Kata Express and it can be really fast when the waves are big. If I get bored, we come in and sometimes go fishing or hunt for crabs or order some noodles and Cokes. Kata can get really big and scary. I remember one time during a storm [the waves were] over four metres but I didn't go out that day. It can be quite hollow, too; you can get barrels even when [the waves are] small. There are some real surf gangs in Phuket and the locals get pretty mean sometimes about their areas. There's the Kata Crew and the Kamala Crew, and sometimes there are fights and stuff. But my friends aren't interested in any of that. We just want to surf.
SURFING FOR POINTS I don't find competitions that much harder than just going out for a surf. I don't think I surf any differently, I just go for it. I don't think, I just go with the wave. The only thing is you can't drop in on other surfers if they're up and riding. You lose points for that, but you shouldn't drop in anyway; it's the main rule of surfing. I've also surfed in Bali and Hong Kong. This weekend I'm in Hong Kong again for the Hong Kong Reef Cup at Tai Long Wan [in Sai Kung; she was scheduled to compete yesterday in the women's and junior's categories]. Last year I won the women's contest, and I entered the juniors against the boys and came third. At the moment I'm ranked fifth in the Asian Surfing Professionals tour, and if I do well in Hong Kong and the last competition of the year in Malaysia, at Kuala Terengganu, I could get into third place. Some day I want to surf professionally and go on the tour full time. I've won over 100,000 baht [HK$25,000] in prize money so far, and I'm sponsored by Quiksilver and Ark Surfboards. In competitions, you have to be committed to the wave, you have to go for it, try and get your manoeuvres in early. I can't do aerials yet - well, sometimes I get up in the air but I can't land it. Plus you need really powerful waves to get the speed up and Phuket's waves don't have enough power.
IN THE PIPELINE There are lots of places I want to surf. I look in the magazines and say, 'I want to surf that one, and that one, and that one.' But some of the waves are so big, they look a bit scary. I guess the biggest I've been out in was three-metre waves at a competition at Kuta in Bali. I had to get towed out behind a jet ski, but didn't catch any waves. It was too big and just closing out. We had a look at Uluwatu [also in Bali] as well. It was four to five metres, too big for me, but amazing to see. One of these days I want to do a live-aboard tour in Indonesia, where you live on the boat and go to all these amazing breaks. My favourite surfers are probably Mick Fanning and Kelly Slater in the men's, and [four-time world champion] Stephanie Gilmore in the women's.
SCHOOL DAZE I go to school in Phuket Town at the Satree Phuket School. There are about 3,000 kids. I don't really like school much. PE [physical education] is OK. But I like seeing all my friends. When I go to competitions, I'm allowed to miss classes, but I have to catch up when I get back. No one at school cares much about surfing. It's not like I'm a big star or anything.
The Hong Kong Reef Cup continues today at Tai Long Wan, Sai Kung. Spectators are welcome