PHOTOGRAPHED BY HILLY
The beach is Courtney Conlogue’s oyster. She has spent the past few years riding the wave of success, placing in both amateur and professional surfing competitions, competing for that proverbial surf-champion pearl on sun bleached shores throughout the world. Her irrefutable talent, determination and edgy appeal caught the attention of Smith Optics several years ago and led to a major endorsement.
And she’s only 15.
Her age may make Courtney somewhat of a novelty in competitive surfing, but in no way do her years gauge her talent. A quick overview of the Santa Ana, Calif., native’s surfing resume makes it evident she has come a long way fast. A member of a litany of surf teams and organizations, Courtney has racked up some awe-inspiring feats in recent years. She was the youngest surfer to compete in the WCT (World Championship Tour) at Honolua Bay, wowing the crowds as she tackled 12-foot waves. She has piled on numerous accolades, winning the USA Championships last year and scoring a perfect 10 at the WQS (World Qualifying Series). Just to name a few.
It is no wonder that Smith Optics wanted their eyewear on Courtney Conlogue. “I got involved with Smith when I was 12 years old,” Courtney says. “I just remember how excited I was to wear my glasses every time I would go outside. Surfing is hard on the eyes sometimes because of the glare off the water. I don’t wear sunglasses when I surf, but as soon as I’m out of the water I put on my Smith shades to protect my eyes. My favorite style is the Domino. I don’t usually wear ‘bling,’ but I make an exception for these because they look so good. All of my Smith glasses are durable enough to withstand the wear and tear that I put them through.”<
Having Courtney on board is a definite asset to Smith Optics. “The trick to successful athlete endorsements hinges on the athlete and their ability to relate to the customer and bring people to the brand,” says Greg Randolph, public relations manager for Smith. “Different personalities speak to different segments of the market. For us, the key is building a team that speaks to our customers. A diverse roster of the right kinds of athletes gives us the opportunity to not only drive the public for our products, but push PR for our athletes as well.”
Courtney’s sponsorship with Smith goes beyond fiercely sporting the shades; she is a part of the Smith team. “It is a really cool thing to be able to ride on the Smith team,” she notes. “My new team manager, JP Collett, is always checking up on us to make sure we are satisfied with our eyewear. They have supported me and my surfing for three years and have never disappointed me.” And at the rate Courtney is going, three years adds up to a lot of surfing competitions.
Competing at an advanced level does pose some obstacles for Courtney. “As a young female surfer, it is hard finding surfing contests in my area that support women surfers my age,” she says. “I just traveled to Australia and I learned they have several junior pro events to compete in. It definitely gives the girls there the global advantage in competition.”
While surfing competitions for people her age are few and far between in her hometown, Courtney finds that sometimes competing against surfers out of her age range has its benefits. “I surf against others around my age, but it’s good for me to surf against people who are older than me and have more experience competing. I may not win every time, but I walk away from the event having learned something.”
Courtney’s passion for surfing surfaced at an early age. “As a family, we spent all our time at the beach,” she recalls. “I would watch my dad and his friends surfing while I played on the beach until the sun went down. When I was four years old, my family and a group of our friends went to Punta Abreojos, Mexico, on a surfing and fishing trip. We camped on the beach for two weeks. My dad taught me to surf during this time and it has been part of my life since then.”
During the week, when Courtney is embracing her land animal alter ego, she resembles your average California teenager. She attends a prep school in Newport Beach where she excels in her English and algebra classes. In her downtime, which she may not come across too often, she goes to a skate park near her house, spends time with her dogs and enjoys archery. She deals with the issues any girl her age would, trying to find a balance between schoolwork and play. Except, for Courtney, on weekends, play is work and work is play and she spends her time in competition or finding new spots to practice.
Courtney recently became a part of surfing history at the X-Games, an annual event focused on extreme action sports. Held last July, she was part of the pioneering crop of women surfers in the games held in Puerto Escondido, Mexico. “When I competed at the X-Games this past year, it was the first time they were letting women surf at the event. I surfed for the USA Team and it was an amazing experience.” And a successful one at that— the U.S. women’s team beat the world team, taking home the gold medal in surfing.
Not only was the win at the X-Games a major feat for Courtney’s career, but also a significant achievement for her as a female surfer. “As a North American, I definitely believe that the sport of surfing is different for men and women when it comes to competition,” she says. “Men have way more competitions than women on the ASP (Association of Surfing Professionals) than women have on most levels. This year I have one Junior Pro event in North America while the men have 10. It makes it a challenge. I don’t believe I am any different from male surfers; I want to get the best waves, compete and travel, too.”
X-Games surfing coach Lisa Andersen has since become a source of inspiration for Courtney. “[Andersen] was world champion four times. There hasn’t been a world champion from the USA since her last win in 1997. As I get older, I’m seeing more and more what it will take to succeed in this sport as a woman. I admire all the female surfers before me who have followed their hearts and dreams.” On her surfboard, determination navigating the crashing swells, Courtney Conlogue has already become a part of that tradition