Two years ago Kirby won the prestigious ASP Women’s Star event at Newcastle’s Surfest and was looking like she was headed for the Top 17, until she gave it all away.
“There were a few reason why I stopped competing,” Kirby said. “But the main reason was that I wasn’t enjoying it anymore and I was keen to start working full time. I know a lot of people didn’t understand why I did that, especially when I was surfing alright and could have tried to qualify. I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I’ve been brought up with the saying “do what you love and what makes you happy” and I’d lost the love and happiness that competing brought.”
This year Kirby had a change of heart and decided to get back into a competition rashie. She just missed out on entering the Australian Open of Surfing, then went on to win the trials at Surfest and made the 6-Star Round of 48. Her breakthrough event was the 6-Star Telstra Drug Aware Pro where she made the Quarterfinals, but was eliminated by eventual event winner Courtney Conlogue (USA).
“When I stopped competing I never thought I’d go back,” Kirby said. “But here I am almost six months into the year and loving my decision to come back. I just wanted to get back into my surfing at first and after two years off I knew it was going to take time and I was excited to see where the decision took me. After six months of surfing, training and trying to improve on everything I’d slacked off on in the two years, I thought ‘yeah why not let’s give this a go’ and I’m having some fun with it.”
Kirby sights a conversation with her brother Owen, current ASP World No. 10 as one of her inspirations to get back into competitive surfing.
“I think what really clicked for me to compete again was a conversation with my brother Owen,” Kirby said. “I’m not like Owen or Tyler as pretty much anyone who has met us knows. He knew I’d been thinking about coming back and just opened my eyes to other ways of competing, ways I’d never thought about and ways that suited me.”
Over the last two years the level of women’s competitive surfing has been going through the roof thanks to the likes of Carissa Moore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Stephanie Gilmore and the exciting crew of young women on the ASP Women’s World Championship Tour.
“So much has changed!” Kirby said. “These girls have taken women’s surfing to another level, it’s awesome. It’s a shame there’s not as many events as there used to be, but the girls have excelled anyway, that’s the main thing. I wouldn’t say my surfing is a hundred percent, but it’s the best it’s ever been and I still want to keep improving.”
Now that she’s back competing does Kirby see herself joining her sister Tyler on the ASP Women World Championship Tour?
“I love Tyler!” said Kirby. “She is seriously the best sister anyone could have. It would be great to qualify and travel around together and try kick each other’s butts in the water. I’m lucky to see the standard of the WCT everyday. It pushes me to go even harder and not slack off even though sometimes I want to. This year my goal is to make the top five on the ASP world rankings, but I like that I have no pressure on myself if that doesn’t happen. I’m just really happy that I’ve had the opportunity to come back and being able to travel to all these beautiful places and enjoy parts of the world that I never would have if I wasn’t competing.
Kirby is currently 17th on the ASP Women’s World Ranking, 6 places off qualifying for the ASP Women’s World Championship Tour. It’s going to be an exciting finish to the 2012 season with only a few more women’s 6-Star events left on the calendar and a bottleneck of talented surfers fighting for precious qualification points.