From catching the bug in Shek O to catching waves at the world surfing championships in Japan

Joe Keogh has been surfing as long as he can remember and now will be the first person born in Hong Kong to compete in the ISA World Junior Championships

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 September, 2017, 3:52pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 September, 2017, 8:36pm

Joe Keogh would look out the window at 6am every day, from his home in Shek O, to check the waves. If there was swell, he and his friends would go surfing all day.

Now he is competing against the best in the world.

“I was lucky to live right on the beach and we had a good local crew of kids so it was great fun,” Keogh said. “I was one of the younger ones so I was always trying to out-surf the older kids.

“I just got the bug and any time there was any type of swell I was out on the water surfing with my mates,” Keogh, 18, said.

Since those early days, Keogh has moved to Australia to further his surfing and will now be the first person born and raised in Hong Kong to compete in the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Junior Surfing Championships in Japan, from September 23 to October 1.

Keogh has never surfed in Japan before.

Teenager Joe Keogh born to ride waves

“I have surfed in a lot of competitions in Taipei east coast so I sort of expect similar waves,” he said.

“I hope the wave size isn’t too small but growing up surfing in Hong Kong, I’m used to a variety of wave conditions,” Keogh said.

The varied waves in Hong Kong were a great learning experience for Keogh, but aside from the occasional typhoon swell he literally outgrew the waves and had to search further a field.

Sponsors sent him to Taipei, but he decided to go to school in Australia when he was 14 years old, to one that had a surf programme on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

“It was hard being away from mum and dad and my brother and I didn’t know anyone,” he said.

“But I met some good friends quickly at school so I fitted in pretty well. That was a great year and I surfed two times a day.”

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Later, he moved to Narrabeen Sports High School near Sydney that had an elite sports programme.

Keogh now has a professional approach to the sport, mixing his time on the water with core strength and cross training at the Manly High Performance Centre.

Now a regular on the surfing circuit, Keogh has competed against many of the other surfers he will face in Japan.

“We can all do well on our day. But you have to be confident and ride your own waves sometimes and not worry too much about what the other guys are doing in your heat,” he said.

Keogh is also working as a carpentry apprentice, having left school last year, but has experience building surfboards for Onboard’s factory, which is one of his sponsors.

When Keogh’s not competing or training for surfing, he is, well, surfing!

“I just got my driving licence and saved up from working in the surfboard factory. I bought an old 4x4 Ute.

“I have a bed in the back and we like to go camping and surfing in isolated big wave spots. That’s what I like to do to relax,” he said.

“I’m proud to be representing Hong Kong in the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships in Japan, and want to keep competing for Hong Kong in the future.”