Magical Teahupo’o worth the danger, says Aussie surfer

Molly Picklum is ready to “dance with the devil” to conquer the feared Teahupo’o surf break and regain the world No.1 ranking.

With the competition window opening in Tahiti on Wednesday, Picklum currently sits third in the world rankings behind American teen Caitlin Simmers and France’s Johanne Defay.

But the 21-year-old from the NSW Central Coast feels she has an edge over many of her rivals, saying she can see their fear when they sit in the line-up at Teahupo’o, where towering, heavy waves break on to a shallow reef.

A surfer in action at Teahupo’o, Tahiti, where towering, heavy waves break on to a shallow reef. (AP PHOTO)

“I think in competition, there’s two things to the women that go on: obviously, the competitiveness of, like, just wanting to win, but also the fear you can see in a lot of the girls,” Picklum said.

“They’re not just trying to win, there’s also some inner challenges for themselves.

“When I see the fear, that makes me a little more confident because I’m a bit more comfortable in the situation, so I can focus more on what the job at hand is, rather than being distracted by fear or being uncomfortable.”

Picklum made a statement during training when she took on a Teahupo’o beast, drawing praise on Instagram from the likes of seven-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore and big-wave record-holder Laura Enever.

A proven performer, winning at Hawaii’s Sunset Beach this year, she said she spent three days in the water waiting for the wave.

“I felt like I could do it, but I also had to get over the fear because these waves were so big and scary, it was really daunting,” said Picklum, who is part of Australia’s four-strong team for the Olympics, which will be answered at Teahupo’o.

“And then my moment came and I just put my head down and paddled hard and I’m really, really stuck I got a ride like that.

“It felt like that seconds one wave that lasted five was worth all the hours that I put in.”

Picklum said she had a mental checklist she ran through when paddling out in a dangerous break such as Teahupo’o.

She said she had hated big waves when she was younger, but now embraced the “intense emotion” that accompanied it.

“I have a really clear understanding of what I’m entering into every time I’m out there,” Picklum said.

“I make that conscious decision every time that, yes, there’s a potential consequence, but also the other side of that is potentially the most magical experience.

“I’m willing to dance with the devil a little bit to maybe get that magic moment, and I think that mindset is what keeps me pretty calm and comfortable and eager to give this wave a good go.”

Olympic teammate Tyler Wright, ranked No.8, is the only other Australian woman to make the brutal 10-surfer mid-season cut.

In the men’s draw, Jack Robinson (No.2), Ethan Ewing (No.4), Liam O’Brien (No.10) and Ryan Callinan (No.18) are in the 22-strong field.