Name: Raquel Heckert
Home: Niterói- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Beach: Itacoatiara)
Occupation: Big wave surfer, tube rider and journalism student
Raquel, when did you start surfing?
I started to surf when I was 13, but after I turned 16 I started to wonder about getting barrels and bigger waves, and wanted to know how surfers handled the tough conditions under the water when they are taking wave after wave on the head. My curiosity became my goals. I had always competed in small waves in Brazil but when I went on my first surf trip to Puerto Escondido in México, I realised that surfing big waves and barrels was my real calling, rather than small wave competitions. So now this is my focus. I think surfing is something that God has given to me. I believe I have a special mission with this sport to reach people with love and experiences. I love to overcome my limits in the water and show people that everything is possible. I want to be a person that inspires and encourages other people every day to believe in their dreams and work hard for their dreams to become reality.
Where do you live and what’s it like there?
I live in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro. I love the joy, passion and persistence that people have in Brazil. Sometimes it takes us so long to achieve or have something, that it is of real value when we get it. I live with my family, and just being with them I am happy. It doesn’t matter what else is going on around us. I live part of the year in Brazil and part of the year in Hawaii. The place I live in Brazil is not as calm as it is living in Hawaii. In Hawaii you don’t have much to worry about, whereas where I live in Brazil is near a small dangerous community that I have to cross in order to go out every day. I see people selling drugs, I see guns and I hear gun shots almost every day. However, I don’t feel that I’m in danger every day because I know God is always protecting me. I feel like I have angels taking care of me all the time. I have been blessed to grow up near to Itacoatiara, a beach that is a 15-minute drive from my house. The place is full of beauty. The waves are tubular and the beach is one of the heaviest waves in Brazil, so I feel like I have a really good training. Two years ago when I was surfing there almost everyday I broke 11 boards! The wave is very strong, fast and close to the shore. Unfortunately it’s not very consistent, so I have to travel by myself by bus around Rio city to find another spots. However, when Itacoatiara it’s good it’s the best place for me.
Where’s your favourite place to travel to?
My favourite place to travel to surf big waves is Hawaii, because there are several options when the forecast is showing big waves: Big Pipeline, Sunset, Makaha, Waimea, Outreeefs, Waves and Jaws. I also love Indonesia, not for the big waves like Hawaii style, but for tubes and heavy surf. I like Indo because I can surf in uncrowded spots, consequently catching a lot more waves than in Hawaii. My dream is to surf Tahaiti, maybe in the future that will be my favourite place…
Describe your job?
I am a professional free surfer of barrels and big waves, part of the new generation of big wave riders in Brazil. My goal is to do everything to honour God; with my surfing and the way I relate to people I meet on my way. I want to be more than a great surfer, I want help people a little with my experiences and words, but my dream is to provide them with their material needs too. I am also a journalism student. I love writing and reading, and I think it all started with me writing a diary. I’ve done this since I was a child.
What do you do to stay in good shape?
I always try to eat well, sleep well, go to the gym and surf a lot. I’ve never smoked anything and I don’t like alcohol, I like to focus on things that will make me a better surfer because I don’t have time to waste. It’s hard enough to be a focused athlete, so I imagine it will be even harder if I drink and smoke. I don’t want to have to worry about having to control myself or anything else. I prefer to stay away from it and enjoy life naturally. I’m crazy enough already!
Who inspires you to be a better surfer?
There are so many good surfers that inspire me to be a better surfer. Although my dad and my grandfather aren’t surfers, I’d say they are the ones that inspire me the most. They always tell me to be the best version of myself, and to do my best in everything even if nobody is watching. My grandfather would do everything to help me, he doesn’t let me give up, and he also always teaches me to be more thankful and put my trust in God.
What’s the biggest surf you’ve been in?
I think that the biggest surf that I have been in was the last El Niño winter at Waimea Bay, Hawaii. The Eddie Aikau contest was cancelled because they needed around eight hours of huge waves to make the whole contest happen and the forecast was showing just four hours of the “Eddie size” surf. I preferred get into the water to surf before the swell get huge. It was around one o’clock and just me and like six people in the water. Before I knew it, I’d spent the rest of the day in there. I got five beautiful waves, and one of them I surfed by myself. It was amazing! I was so stoked to be there and see the Eddie Aikau competitors there and other surfers that I admire deeply in my heart. I was happy and scared at the same time! The Hawaiian winter just gone I surfed Jaws three times after being invited to be a part of the first women’s big wave contest on the WSL. At Pipeline I surfed second reef last season, and that was amazing! And my last season I surfed a very big Uluwatu, and big Padang.
How do you conquer your fear?
It’s a constant game with my mind. I am always dealing with fear and I am instantly assessing the situations in which I am placed. I always seek courage, because if I don’t try I’ll never know. But I also try to do things with certainty, to reduce the risks. There is a part of fear that limits me to respect to protect myself and a part of it that teaches me how to overcome my limits and to win. It’s something I always have to weigh up but I can’t let the fear stop me. Life is a challenge, and fear is something that can overshadow your dreams. It’s up to you to decide to face it or not. I try to focus on my strategy, prepare myself for the moment, connect with the sea, understand my positioning, and pay attention to what other people are doing. I look for a comfort zone in the ” chaos” and avoid the maximum risks by having attitude at the right time. Sometimes we make mistakes, but life is made up of difficulties that will make us a better person later. Trust is everything, and I believe my faith in God makes me persist so much in life, forget the bad side of things and focus only in the present.
If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
Joy, persistence and faith.