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The Year of the Hustle

Newcastle, Australia

Peri Roberts made one of her better life decisions when she left Australia in 2020 to pursue a Maui-based competitive kitesurfing career. In the months that followed, Australia’s borders locked down hard for the second time, yet the 22-year old surfer was free to travel the world, racking up enough points to claim the 2021 GKA Women’s Kite-Surf World Championship. Leaving Newcastle on Australia’s east coast wasn’t easy for the lifelong surfer/kitesurfer, but swapping Australia’s 3-month windy season for year around kitesurfing sessions in Maui was the first step on her quest for the tour title. 

As an admitted daddy’s girl, Peri attributes her initial obsession with surfing and kiteboarding to her father, a diehard windsurfer turned kiteboarder. Following in the footsteps of her dad, she earned her upwind wings on a twintip at the age of 12 and promptly swapped to a surfboard, never looking back. Starting with smaller competitions in the Newcastle area, she picked up local sponsors and worked her way towards a wildcard entry into the GKA at the 2018 Torquay event as well as a Naish sponsorship. 

// Photo Svetlana Romantsova

Motivated by fellow women chargers, Peri vividly remembers the moment Moona Whyte won her first World Championship: “She was 18 and probably the youngest girl to have won it at the time; I was 14 and that was one of the biggest inspirations for me.” In truth, Peri was surrounded by inspiring athletes, having grown up with Keahi de Aboitiz, legend Ben Wilson and a younger James Carew in the Australian scene. Carew, being one year ahead of her, always helped Peri frame her immediate competitive goals. 

One of the biggest accelerators in Peri’s early competitive career was Australia’s iconic Merimbula Classic, where in 2017, the top podium spot landed her a free ticket to a kitesurfing week on Namotu, Fiji with Ben Wilson. Having followed the GKA tour all over the world, those early sessions on Namotu Lefts are still some of her favorite waves.

If the culmination of Peri’s efforts is her Kite-Surf World Title, the journey wasn’t always easy. Having released a year-long video project titled The Hustle, an intimate self-edited video that captures the ups and downs of chasing her dream, Peri reflects on some of the serious obstacles she had to remove to stay on tour this year. Between having her Australian passport stolen on a surf trip, Peri worked three jobs and sold her car to fund her travels and make this year a success. If babysitting, kitesurfing instruction and low-paying digital marketing jobs weren’t hard enough, the recent surf tour format requires top competitors to possess not only solid surf skills but also strapless freestyle chops. Peri recalls, “Coming from a pure surf background, I worked for months on landing backrolls all while getting smashed in the process.”

Australian transplant Peri Roberts demonstrates her newly acquired strapless skills.
// Photo Miriam Joanna

As an inherently competitive person at her core, Peri spent the last year training in overhead waves on Maui, which made the lackluster conditions during the Dakhla contest window less than spectacular. Although she pulled off the win by making the best of Morocco’s waist high sets and intermittent wind, Peri is hopeful that the tour will continue to improve its approach to conditions, noting that next year, the GKA is returning to marquee destinations like Mauritius and Rio de Janeiro.

Reflecting on the sacrifice and hustle, Peri plans to return to the tour next year, but notes, “I’m not doing it the way I did it last year.” Excited to work on bigger video projects and focus more on freesurf content, Peri wants to build on her momentum with a focus on pushing her limits on performance kitesurfing and surfing bigger waves. With Indo and a return to Namotu in her sights, this season, Peri hopes to hustle less and kitesurf more.

This article was featured in our winter 2022 issue, Vol. 18, No. 4. To read more, click here.