A mother's love helps

Not too long ago, Courtney Conlogue took a trip to Hawaii to compete in surfing, but there was something missing, actually someone.

Conlogue, an incoming senior at Sage Hill School, picked up the phone to call her mother, Tracey.

“It’s just not the same without you,” Conlogue told her mother. “Because when you are here, my desires and needs are immediately met.”

Conlogue has coaches, mentors and plenty of adoring fans who support her. But they don’t come close to the importance and intimate style of Mom.

She’s been there from the start.

She was also there to see Conlogue’s greatest feat in her young surfing career. The 16-year-old won the Hurley U.S. Open of Surfing and the reward of $10,000 in front of about 70,000 fans Saturday in Huntington Beach.

There was no need to book a flight or reserve a car rental for this one. As Conlogue put it, the victory took place in her backyard. The Conlogues don’t live too far away, residents of nearby Santa Ana.

During this time of year, they are hardly ever home, especially Courtney Conlogue. This week, she’s competing in Costa Rica for the Billabong International Surfing Assn. World Surfing Games.

Usually, when she travels internationally to compete, she’ll reserve a room separate from teammates or other surfers. She’ll stay with her mom.

Tracey Conlogue is like a second coach, said former U.S. junior national team coach Joey Buran, who was recently inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame.

Buran, a Costa Mesa resident, said Tracey Conlogue keeps her daughter in line and also clears any distractions that might come her way.

The mother also keeps the daughter fit.

“She and I have a really hard work ethic together,” the mother said moments after watching her daughter being carried to the awards stage atop the shoulders of fans while she displayed an American flag. “As a team, she innately knows what she needs. I hate to sound so cliche, but the early bird gets the worm.”

Tracey Conlogue was referring to her daughter’s drive to continually practice in the morning and be the first to hit the waves. That happened back in April, when Courtney competed in the ISA World Junior Championships in Salinas, Ecuador.

Team USA finished fourth and Australia won for the fourth straight year, but during the week, Tracey Conlogue and her daughter made sure they would not get beat to the morning waves.

“We were right there before the Aussies,” Tracey Conlogue said. “That was our goal to get in the water before them, to get in the water first so that we have that additional training time.”

With regard to individual competition, that might’ve helped. Courtney captured a silver medal in the girls’ under-18 division.

Last month, she also took second place in the open women’s division at the National Scholastic Surfing Assn. National Championships in San Clemente.

But on the mainland’s biggest stage, Courtney broke through with her biggest triumph, winning the Open and taking out the defending champ in the process.

It appeared on Saturday that Hawaiian Malia Manuel didn’t stand a chance, not in Huntington Beach.

Courtney carried momentum she acquired in earlier heats into the final. Against Manuel, she scored 8.17 on her first wave. Then she put herself way out in front on the next set, scoring a 9.0, drawing cheers from the crowd that lined the shores and filled Huntington Beach Pier.

She finished with a combined wave score of 17.17 points. Manuel was at 12.67.

“When I dropped in, I was just like, ‘I’m going to try to seal it down and put the nail in the coffin on this one,’” Conlogue said of her 9-point wave score. “I just went as big as I could like I did [Friday] and figured that’s all I could do out here and just have fun while doing it.

“I just went as big as I could. It was go big or go home.”

Before Courtney could go big, she started small.

As a child she learned to surf while on a fishing trip with the family in Mexico. That’s where her father, Richard, and mother encouraged her to start chasing after her dream.

“The first time she stood on a surfboard she was 4 years old,” Tracey Conlogue said of her daughter. “It was at Punta Abreojos in Mexico.

“You don’t forget those things.”

The title as women’s champion of the U.S. Open also figures to be unforgettable.


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