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Australian surfer Molly Picklum is a Championship Tour rookie on a mission

Having secured her place on the 2022 WSL Championship Tour, Molly Picklum is determined to embrace the challenge and smash it – learn about her rise and get to know here here.
By Chris Binns
12 min readPublished on
The first thing you notice when you meet Molly Picklum is her laugh, because it doesn't let up. But don't let that fool you – behind the laugh lies a steely competitor who'll have the planet's best surfers worried when she realises a lifelong dream and joins them on the 2022 WSL Championship Tour.
Picklum's path to the Dream Tour was less than conventional. In unprecedented times the WSL has done an incredible job to keep competitive surfing alive but the goalposts for qualification have been moved again and again. The new Challenger Series touched down for the first time in 2021, a string of four events that would see six women graduate to the Championship Tour.
After the US Open and two events in Europe, Picklum came into Hawaii needing a strong result to seal her invite to the big dance, and fell – literally – one place short in the semi-finals at the Haleiwa Challenger. Her hopes were dashed, or so it seemed, until American prodigy Caitlin Simmers did the unthinkable and – after finishing fourth on the Challenger Series – declined her place on the 2022 Championship Tour.
It was a move not seen since Taj Burrow said no to the tour all the way back in 1997, and while it speaks volumes to the talent and confidence that Simmers possesses, most importantly for Picklum it got her a start on this year's CT. For the 18-year-old from the Central Coast of New South Wales, who trains with Glenn 'Micro' Hall, and counts CT vets Adrian Buchan and Wade Carmichael as regular hometown sparring partners, it was a dream come true. Don't just take out word for it though, let's have Picklum explain it all herself.
New Red Bull surfing athlete Molly Picklum pictured with her new branded surfboard on Australia's Gold Coast.

Molly Picklum at Duranbah on Australia's Gold Coast

© Mickey Edwards

You’ve just qualified for the Championship Tour, well done!

Molly Picklum: I know! Got on there eventually, somehow, not sure how, but I’ll take the opportunity and run with it.

When did you first hear that Caitlin might turn her place down?

Before Haleiwa I was surfing with Caity a bunch and she had mentioned that she wasn’t that keen on doing the tour and had a lot to weigh up. To be honest, I didn’t really think anything of it, because I still had a big job ahead of me at Haleiwa. Then when I lost I was upset that I’d been knocked out of the event more so than that I hadn’t qualified.

I guess in the back of my mind I didn’t feel like I’d fully missed out yet because I knew about Caity’s decision, but who turns down a place on tour? I also had it in my head though that if anyone was going to do it then she’d be the one. She’s pretty smart, and she’s all about having fun and hanging with her buddies, so if none of her friends are on tour then I could see why she might not do it.

I was a bit sceptical but I just wanted to forget about it. Glenn said we should act like I hadn’t qualified and go be bummed like I hadn’t qualified, then go home and have Christmas with family and friends and try to forget about it. And then we obviously got the call, and I was on!

Run us through your emotions in Hawaii. You needed to come third in your semi-final at Haleiwa, were sitting pretty then fell on a wave and ended up fourth.

It makes me laugh to be honest. I didn’t know I needed third to qualify. Afterwards, Glenn admitted that he wasn’t sure whether to tell me or not, because all year long the plan had been for me to simply surf every heat as well as I could, not just focus on whatever I needed to qualify. I was trying to make the heat, not just get third. But, either way, I didn’t perform my best, so…

You seemed to take it well, and put a beautiful post [above] afterwards about the year being a positive one. Is it hard to suck it up and put on a brave face, or do you think that’s in your character?

I think I’ve learned to be like that. I don’t see many positives in letting it drag you further down than how you already feel. Glenn has been so good with me and helping me manage my emotions. One-hundred percent I felt bummed but I got so close, I should be happy with making it to within one spot of qualifying. It’s the whole year’s efforts, not just one event, and it was my first ever attempt at qualifying so I was happy with how I’d navigated that. I felt like I had a lot more to give and was excited for the next opportunity, so I was really trying to take the positives out of the situation. I felt good, I didn’t think too many things had gone wrong, and so I was proud.

The last two years have been crazy for everyone around the world, but to come out the other side of it with a place on tour is incredible, you must be thrilled.

One-hundred percent! What an unpredictable last few years and personally what an unpredictable qualification. I’m taking it like I deserve it, I had a good enough year to be in the mix so I’m going to seize the opportunity and give it everything I’ve got.

How does it feel to finally make the grade?

It’s crazy. From when you’re young the Dream Tour is always seen as the pinnacle, and then once you’re there it feels like the next step, not so much this big hoo-ha. It doesn’t scare me to be a part of the tour, it excites me, which I’m pretty fired up about.

Who are you going to be travelling with in 2022?

Glenn is going to come to most of the events, and so will my manager Ben Mathias. A lot of my friends are on tour too, so I’ll be travelling with them and having an absolute blast.

You share management with recently retired world number-one tennis player Ash Barty – have you hung out and had a chance to pick her brain at all?

Yes, I’m very fortunate to have met Ash. I went to watch her train one day, and then she came to the beach afterwards and watched Tyler [Wright] and I train. I've had lots of contact and have definitely picked her brain. We both travelled at a young age and have similar personalities, so I see us having a lot in common, and she’s Australian. She’s a classic, and we get along pretty well.

Who’s your crew?

I’m close with Bettylou Sakura Johnson, Brisa Hennessy and Gabriela Bryan, and I'm really good friends with India Robinson. I've trained a lot with Tyler, know all the Australians like Steph Gilmore and Sally Fitzgibbons, I’m mates with all of them to be honest. I’m closer with the younger girls who all qualified, so it’s going to be fun.

After you qualified did you get any messages from people that surprised you?

On the whole I was more surprised with the amount of messages I got. It’s nice to know that a lot of people are invested in you and genuinely take an interest and support you.

And Ash?

She actually said a few years ago she’d like me to qualify so she could retire and just cruise around with us on tour! When I did qualify she sent me a little message to say well done, which was pretty cool.

What’s with all the good surfers coming out of the Central Coast?

Have you seen the different types of waves we have around here? The level of talent in the water is through the roof, every generation gets pushed by the one before them, and wants to be better than them, so it becomes a breeding ground. Whenever I surf there’s always some local guy nobody has ever heard of in the water who surfs way better than me. So I’m always learning because the standard is so high, from your every day surfers to your pros.

How seriously do you take your surfing?

I think I always want to be the best I can be, in whatever I’m doing. My natural instinct is to go my hardest all the time, and sometimes that can be cruel to me and leave me rundown because I’ve worked myself too hard. I want to be a balanced athlete, which is hard with surfing because it’s not always structured, but I’ll try my best and be as professional as I can. I’ve got a good team around me, and I see a lot of value in wanting to be a professional athlete as much as wanting to be a professional surfer, to help me achieve my goals.

The flipside of that is that on dry land your character is very relaxed and laidback. Where does that come from?

That’s a really good question. My parents are both jokers, they’re really fun to hang around, and they say that ever since I was a kid I’ve always been very, very energetic. I was a bit of a joker, bouncing off walls, and slowly I’ve been able to rein that in, read people’s opinions of me and know when to slow down and be a bit mature about things. Ha!

What’s the most exciting thing about being on tour? Have you been in a Championship Tour event before?

I haven’t. Never even had a wildcard. Honestly, I think I’m most excited about the challenge of the CT being the next step, the next new environment to figure out. It really excites me to go up against the best in the world and see how I measure up against them.

You’ve been sponsored by Rip Curl for a long time and have been to Bells a lot over the years. Do you think when you walk down the famous stairs, and paddle out and look at the cliffs while Hells Bells plays and you surf your first ever event in Australia, it might be a bit of a 'pinch me' moment?

Oh yeah, for sure. Even now I don’t think it’s really sunk in that much but down at Bells? So many people talk about how special it is, and I really hope that I can see and feel that for myself, and have a moment that really resonates with me.

This is the first time the women have competed at Pipe, and it’s also the opening event for the season. So your first ever event on the Championship Tour is going to be the Pipe Masters. That’s unbelievable.

Isn’t it crazy? It’s definitely nerve-wracking and humbling, but it also excites me to get out of my comfort zone. Hopefully, because it’s Pipe it will take away some of the nerves because the wave requires so much attention I won’t be able to overthink the rest, but I also think there will be more noise than I ever could have imagined with it being my first CT event. I know that there’ll be a lot of people’s opinions coming into it but I’ll stay on my program and do my best.

Tahiti is on the women’s programme for the first time this year too, are you keen to have a crack at Teahupo'o?

Definitely. Tahiti looks like the most beautiful place on the planet, but it’s definitely nerve-wracking, Chopes looks like a very scary wave, but again, if I’m prepared and have the right equipment and right headgear I should be fine. I’m someone who puts my head down and gives it my all, even if I am a bit scared. I feel that being tentative out there will be far more consequential anyway.

So you’re going to be wearing a helmet?

I don’t see why not, unless it hinders my performance, but I can’t see that happening. Out there you just have to paddle and pull in, you don’t have to do turns. I’ve worn one a few times around home too and it feels fine.

You’ve been chasing solid waves around home for a while now, who with?

Naturally, I surf with [Billabong Tahiti Pro winner] Ace Buchan a bit, and [Red Bull Cape Fear competitor] Justen Allport gives me a call when some of the local reefs start firing. I always make sure to put myself in a position to watch those guys, and I think sitting in the channel taking it all in and watching them navigate tricky waves explains where a lot of my barrel riding has come from, and a lot of my inspiration is drawn from.

What’s your goal for 2022?

It’s very light-hearted. I just want to give my all and find my feet. I tend to have really high expectations, so after last year on the Challenger Series where everything was new and a bit intimidating, I have to know that it’s going to be the same again on the Tour, and I need to embrace it all and just smash it.

Do we call you Molly, Mol, Pickles, Pickle... anything else?

Ahhh, my name is Pickles now. Nobody knows me as anything else anymore. I had a little celebration the other day and everyone had shirts with Pickles and my number on the back.

What is your number going to be?

Number 26. It’s a funny one, but it says a bit about my relationship with Glenn. He was number 25 when he was on tour, and I want to be just that little bit better. It’s also my birthday, but it’s mainly about Glenn. He’s done so much for me over the years and helped shape who I am, so he’ll be in the back of my mind whenever I put on the jersey. Hopefully I do him proud.

Well we’re all pretty proud of you too, congratulations again!

Awww thank you, I’m thrilled. Thanks so much.