Saturday, November 27

Pandemic travel hurdles ‘hard for my mental health’ – surfer Paige Hareb

Unable to reserve places at MIQ if they travel abroad to participate in competitions, some of New Zealand’s best athletes are forced to rethink their career paths.

New Zealand surfer Paige Hareb sits on a pole during the inaugural Founders Cup.

Surfer Paige Hareb sits on a pole during the 2018 Founders Cup in California.
Photo: Photosport / WSL

This comes after the wife of multisport athlete Braden Currie, who is stuck in Europe for at least seven more weeks after traveling abroad for a competition, has raised concerns about inequality in the MIQ system.

Sally Currie wrote an open letter to Sports Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson calling for the MIQ process to be changed.

But Braden Currie isn’t the only one who has to choose between home and career.

Paige Hareb has been a professional surfer for 13 years. It is a job that he loves.

But once the pandemic hit, she was faced with the agonizing choice of staying in New Zealand without a career or income, or continuing to compete in events abroad and risking being stranded abroad for unknown periods of time.

Although some athletes have opted for the latter option, while praying to secure a spot at MIQ, for Hareb the risk was too great.

She made the decision to withdraw from the World Surf League Challenger Series, which begins in California this month.

“It’s probably the most important decision of my career. I was back and forth about whether or not to go for about a month and towards the end, it was bothering me a bit.

“It’s my career and my job. That’s my main source of income. It’s a pretty harsh reality to say no to that in the end.

“I decided that prevention was better than cure and I just hope it’s the right decision or I just have to make it now.”

Hareb said it was impossible for him to reserve a spot at MIQ as he spent countless hours on the website and enlisted the help of his family.

“I had been looking at the competitions that I wanted to do for months. I tried it quite a few times and days just sitting at the computer and ads would appear and even tried only with places that, like dates, weren’t going to work for me, but I tried to see if it could be fast enough and I wasn’t. “

Over the past year, Hareb lost endorsement deals, as well as any money he might have made from overseas competitions.

He said the dilemma had affected his mental health.

“I think it would be tough on my mental health either way. Even just staying home even though I’m safe and sound. It’s just unknown when I can go back to my job and my career and the fact that it may not happen and what having to choose a new path is definitely quite unsettling.

“I’m trying to take it every day as it comes and then I hope everything works out.”

Hareb has kept in touch with fellow surfing partner Billy Stairmand, who took the risk of traveling abroad to compete, despite not securing a spot at MIQ.

“Right up to my decision not to go, we were texting almost every day asking what to do and he almost dropped out too I think, but he actually did a fundraiser for the people who helped him go. Once that started, He said he felt bad if he retired, he was almost in a more complicated position and he feels like he has to go.

“He’s also leaving his wife at home. I don’t think he’s 100 percent sure about that, but yeah, that’s what he’s doing.”

For now, Hareb is taking a break from his sport, but hopes to get back in the water competing next year.

If all else fails, she has a backup plan.

“I still trust my sponsors. I have a contest at the end of next month where hopefully I can also win some prize money.

“I’m actually trying to finish my real estate papers, so maybe I’ll start with that and see what happens.”

Sports Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said For the first time He appreciated how difficult it was for athletes whose work required them to travel.

He says it was more difficult for people to reserve places for MIQ than it was for larger groups like our Olympians or Paralympians.

“We have a lot of New Zealanders who want to come back here for reasons that have to do with their families, we have companies that need critical workers like CSR workers, we have to find a balance here.

“But I will certainly continue to defend these individual athletes because I know it is difficult for them.”

Sport NZ CEO Raelene Castle declined to comment on the issue.

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