di Erika Scafuro
Thomas Cravarezza is one of those people all competing surfers would like to have by their side before and during a competition; he is the one who knows the fears, weaknesses and strengths of every surfer he follows on his training journey. Thomas is an elite surf coach, a job he does in Australia, the country in which he moved from Italy to years ago. During the first leg of the World Longboard Championship Tour Thomas followed João Dantas and here he tells us how it went.
You are Italian, but you live and work in Australia as an elite surf coach. Can you tell us about the path that led you to this job?
«I moved to Australia about ten years ago with some friends. I already had experience as a coach and guide, had my own surf school in Italy, and led organized trips around Europe and Morocco. I was lucky because I got a job at Manly Surf School in Manly Beach a week after I moved there. I did quite a bit of groundwork here in Australia, working hard under my boss who is a highly respected coach and big wave rider. After we started with the advanced courses, we had more and more demand until we opened the first High Performance Surf Center in Sydney, which is now called Surfers Gym. Over the years I was able to gain respect and get more and more work here on Sydney’s Northern beaches».
From May 16 to 24, Manly Beach hosted the first event of the World Longboard Championship Tour. You followed the preparation of João Dantas, how did it go? Had you worked together before?
«We had never worked together. Filippo Orso put us in touch and asked me to give him a hand, since João had never been here in Manly. He only arrived a few days before the race, so unluckily we didn’t have too much time to prepare. However, I think I managed to establish a relationship of trust. My main concern was to make him feel that there was someone who supported him even though he was on the other side of the world. It started out great but unfortunately ended sooner than expected».
What were João Dantas’ highlights for you in this first championship?
«João surfed great in the trials, which was a hard heat where only the first two surfers could move forward. The waves were good, he made a nice left at high tide which allowed him to express his surfing. He was relaxed and got applause from everyone».
What are the complexities of a spot like Manly Beach?
«The major complexity is that depending on the tide or direction of the swell the waves can change dramatically, even within one heat. During the first few days of competition, the banks created a strong backwash that put a lot of athletes in trouble. Luckily I am here at the beach every day so I tried to advise João based on my experience».
How do you prepare a professional surfer for an international competition?
«Ideally, you establish a relationship over time, you plan a path both technical and physical. The most important message I give my athletes is that you should not just focus on a particular goal, but love the process that gets you there. Work on every aspect and find a balance both physically and mentally».
From a mental and emotional point of view, however, how do you handle the tension and stress of a surfer, especially if he competes in a spot he doesn’t know?
«It is handled according to the single person. I practice meditation and breathing exercises that I try to teach my trainees. This was perhaps the main problem with João. Because we didn’t know each other well enough, I couldn’t tell that he was particularly nervous before his heat in the third round. He had found himself in the most difficult heat of the round, against two former world champions. We had thought of a strategy before the heat, but when things got bad we couldn’t execute it properly. I think it was a good lesson for both him and me».
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
«Right now I am doing a lot of coaching with young girls. I have two daughters who are girls, and for me the future of girls’ surfing is definitely going to be very interesting. There is a new generation of girls who will close the gap with the men very quickly».
Currently, what has been your greatest job satisfaction?
«One of the kids I’ve coached since he was little, Saxon Reber, won the local trials to enter the Challenger Series. Definitely the most exciting win, I think it will be the first of many».