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The ASM Interview: Courtney Conlogue Talks Her First Coaching Experience and Team USA’s Silver Medal 

At the 2023 International Surf Association (ISA) World Junior Championship — 46 countries and 356 athletes competing in Rio de Janeiro Nov 24 - Dec 3 — Team USA’s 12 surfers put on an impressive display of power and airs despite the tricky conditions on hand. 

The final result was a coveted silver medal — a stepping stone from the previous year, where Team USA brought home bronze. 

Not only was the result different this year. Team USA had a World Championship Tour coach in their corner: Santa Ana’s own Courtney Conlogue. 

Photo: ISA

“Bringing Courtney back to coach is one of the best things I’ve done in my position over the last 20 years,” said Andrea Swayne, CEO of USA Surfing. “Courtney went through the USA Surfing program and had a successful career on the WSL World Tour, so her coaching was a full-circle moment for the two of us. It was special. The fact that our first female coach is actually an alumna of our program is amazing. I can’t think of a better person to have brought to Brazil with us.”  

We sat down with Courtney to talk about her first coaching experience, her advice to the team when several came down with a stomach bug during the contest, and her thoughts on Team USA's impressive talent pool.

ASM: Courtney, how did coaching Team USA at the 2023 ISA Junior World Championships come about? 

I was on the USA surf team from 11 years old, Peter Townsend was my first coach. I remember this photo of me at the Parade of Nations in cheetah print Oakleys, and you could see the dream coming true in my eyes! I was on that team until I was 18.

At the WSL Finals recently, I ran into Tracy Axel and told her that I’d be open to coaching the Junior or the Olympic team. I’m a jokester, but that kind of stuff I don’t joke about. If I say it, I mean it. 

"I love passing knowledge, sharing, and empowering people to accomplish their goals and aspire to be greater. I think it’s the coolest thing — to see someone gain confidence because of the guidance you give them." 

A few weeks later, I got a call from Andrea [Swayne] who asked if I was joking haha … and I said no! I’m super down! I thought it’d be a cool full circle to pass that knowledge, share, and impact beyond just surfing in a jersey. I feel like I’ve done so much in that area of competitive surfing and I want to share it all with this next generation to inspire them. 

Photo: ISA

Talk about coaching the event itself. Was it different to be coaching instead of being in the contest jersey?

I met with the team a few weeks before the contest during training days. It was cool to get to know the kids beforehand. 

Prior to us going to Brazil, I did research on every athlete … the ins and outs of what they did, their strengths, their passions, their family, all to better understand each of them. 

These kids aren't just athletes, they’re people. My goal as a coach and individual is to not only inspire them as an athlete but make them a better person.

"At the end of the day, it ties into your performance. If you’re strong as an athlete but have weak habits, it starts bleeding into your performance. When the pressure gets high, those self-doubts, lack of confidence or insecurities might come out." 

Photo: ISA

Going to Brazil with the team, I felt a mix of excitement and nervousness. I just wanted to give them the right tools at the right moment. I always think that less is more … Finding those little details and fine tuning them, pulling out their strengths and enhancing them ...  that was my focus. 

The team was amazing. All 12 athletes worked so hard. They had adversity with getting sick over there … 4 or 5 went down one morning from a bug … but I thought gosh, this is a part of life and a part of Tour.

"So I told them that a lot of you have a goal of being a pro athlete, and you have to be the best on your worst day. It’s about learning to dig deep and realize you have give your all in your heat. I was really impressed with how the athletes were able to dig deep despite the adversity." 

After we got Silver, some of the girls wanted to hike up the rock the next morning and watch the sunrise. They asked me if I could wake them up with your whistle at like 4am ... I thought ‘Wow the athletes are asking me, the coach to wake them up … That's sick! I was really inspired by that, and the camaraderie they built during the event. They became a team while they were there. 

What did the experience teach you about coaching?

I knew it was going to be a lot, but man. When you’ve been on Tour as long as I have, you learn ways to manage your energy and conserve it. Here, it was like I was surfing in all 12 heats for each of the 12 athletes!

I prepped for their heats like I would in a jersey so I could guide them properly. There were 8 to 10 hour days … even 12 hour days. I was getting up at 3:30am to get ready for the day.

"It was as much my job to be ready as theirs."

Photo: ISA

What were some of the highlights of the event from a coaching perspective?

There are so many. The camaraderie on the beach … all the 16 and unders cheering on 18 and unders, waving the American flag. The energy was really high. It was awesome.

Photo: ISA

That, and all the girls wanting to hike after the event and reflect after the event. That was a beautiful moment. 

Talk to us about the talent pool in Team USA. 

Where do I start? There’s a lot of talent developing right now. I’m excited to see what these next few years bring. That's why I wanted to start mentoring and guiding this next generation. I want to really impact any way I can for them. 

"I want to make sure I help this next generation be better than I was and have better tools that I did."

I had my coaches, but there wasn't a path to take to get where I got. 

Photo: ISA

These athletes have talent, but they need guidance and direction. I want to give them the tools it took me decades to learn. 

"I was paving my own way with my mom, dad and coaches. There were a lot of unknowns, that’s how life is, but any tool helps … how to pack, what to bring, how to prevent jet lag … little details like that so when they get to their destination they’re ready to hit the ground running." 

Do you plan on coaching more in 2024? And along with that, what can we expect from you in the new year? 

Definitely! Coaching again would be awesome. Right now, I’m in this phase of my journey where I want to help inspire, mentor, and empower the next generation. 

I’ll probably do a few surf trips. I really want to push women’s surfing outside of the jersey. I really believe there's an opportunity to explore the world in a way outside the jersey. I’ll probably dabble in big waves, maybe some mid lengths, and keep working on my equipment.

I’ve been painting a ton too! I have new pieces that are at the Huntington International Surf Museum up for sale. 

"I’ll be chasing swells, impacting others through the journey and inspiring others through action." 


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