Oney Anwar

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Lorca Lueras talks about raw talent, opportunity, and aspiration with Indonesian surfer Oney Anwar.

World Tour potential. The next big thing. The Chosen One. Those are bold statements indeed. However you cut it, the fact is that Indonesia has high hopes that 19-year-old Oney Anwar will make history and qualify as Indonesia’s first surfer to make the World Championship Tour. Coming up from a humble beachside family of 12 brothers and sisters in Lakey Peak, Sumbawa, two islands east of Bali, Oney was surfing beyond his years soon after he was able to stand on a board. Surfing waves came naturally to Oney and in a short time the soft-spoken kid from Lakey Peak was not just riding the best waves in the world in his backyard, he was landing the most complex surfing tricks and pulling into big barrels with ease . . . turning heads on everyone around.

In Bali Oney netted wins in every major junior event around and it was evident he possessed a rare natural talent for surfing. One day after winning another junior event his sponsor Rip Curl pulled the trigger and popped the question: “Do you want to take this to the next level?” It is a “Yes!” answer Oney has never regretted, an answer that brought him to Australia’s Gold Coast on a paid-in-full high school education and intense surfing training program covered by Rip Curl to set the wheels in motion towards a World Championship Tour campaign. Only 32 surfers in the world make this top-level tour through a World Qualifying Series in several countries and there is a lot invested in Oney to make it happen. KUBAN caught up with Oney in Australia, where he was just back from Brazil and Bali and on his way to surf in Hawaii, where he took a minute to break down how life qualifying for the World Tour is.

Right now you’re ranked #125 in the world (out of 700+), how has your year on tour been?

I was ranked 105th but I missed the prime Hawaii contests this year because I went to the World Pro Junior championships
in Brazil for my last year as a junior. It was a hard decision. I got 3rd in France at a five-star pro event that pushed me up to 105th on the ranking and because I missed Hawaii my ranking dropped. But I got 5th in the World Pro Juniors Championships, the furthest an Indonesian surfer has ever made it.

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What is the hold up for Indonesians to get on the world tour? We know the visas to travel are a big hassle to get, but is there anything else you feel that holds Indonesians back?

I think culture shock. Indonesians don’t travel as much as other people do. On the road the food is different, the boards you ride are different, the waves are different, a lot of times you’re wearing a wetsuit in cold water, a lot of things that Indonesians are not used to. I think Indonesians need to travel more, not just go one month and come back, they need to go somewhere like Australia, put in time, waking up early and putting a wet wetuit on and surfing in cold water. They need to compete in as many surf contests as possible and train more too. And most of all, learning more competition strategy.

How do the Indonesian surfers compare on the international level?

I think in competition the Indonesian surfers became a lot stronger this year. Before we were so mellow and nice and got tricked by foreigners in competitions. But this year we had the Oakley Pro Bali World Championship Tour contest at Keramas and everyone watched it really closely and learned from it and now all the Indonesian guys know how to compete better. Usually in Indonesia everybody is friendly and sharing, they look after you like a brother, like if we have food and you didn’t eat yet, we would share it, or in a contest, go ahead, take this wave. But during a contest when you’re out in the water, there are no more friends. That’s one of the biggest things I learned in Australia, to be aggressive in contests. You can’t share waves in a contest. It’s a competitive sport, when the waves come you can’t share. And after the Oakley Pro Bali the surfers here saw exactly how it is. After the heat is over then you can be friends again.

For sure. If you don’t surf smart, you’re going to lose. And in your case that could be in a different country and mean an expensive loss. It seems you’ve learned a lot living in Australia, how did you end up going to school there?

Rip Curl sponsored me and helped me move to Bali with photographer Nate Lawrence to start doing contests there. I started winning some and then Rip Curl came to me and said, “Do you want to take this to the next level?” And I said, “What do you mean the next level?” And they said, “Going to High School in Australia and training there for surfing. I thought about it for while and said, “Yes, I’ll go to Australia.” And I loved it. You know, a lot of kids here in Indonesia have an opportunity to do this, but nobody knew it was going to come or to who, nobody expected it, and I didn’t know either. I just did the right thing, just go surfing every day, didn’t go party, the sport was different to me and the opportunity came and I made the right decision.

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How was school in Australia?

Australia is great because the opportunity here is so much greater at my age for surfing. Going to school I made a lot of new friends and I really enjoyed it. I was also invited to surf on my school’s (Palm Beach Currumbin High School) surf team and in the local Boardriders club. I won my school’s Sportsman of the Year Award three years in a row from 2010-2013 and I even got a scholarship, which rarely happens for Indonesians going to school in Australia. Sometimes it was difficult, like guys from New South Wales would make comments about why I was on the school surf team because I wasn’t Australian but our coach would say, “Don’t worry about it, use that to make you want to surf harder,” and I did and ended up using it to my advantage.

And now the Gold Coast is your home?

Yeah it’s my home. I’m trying to get my permanent residence, it’s pretty hard though but hopefully I’ll get it. At my age now for surfing it’s the best place to be.

Find out more about Oney Anwar is his upcoming documentary “Chasing the Dream” out this year and also at www.ripcurl.com

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