Stab Magazine | Professional Surfer Kaleigh Gilchrist Wins Gold For Team USA Waterpolo

Professional Surfer Kaleigh Gilchrist Wins Gold For Team USA Waterpolo

Add it to the tally. 

news // Aug 21, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Lot’s been made of surfing and the Olympics lately, and California’s Kaleigh Gilchrist just advanced that conversation. A two-time U.S. amateur champ—who’s notched victories against Courtney Conlogue and Lakey Peterson—she’s also an integral member of the U.S. Women’s Water Polo team that just won Olympic gold with a win over Italy.

“Best day of my life,” a beaming Gilchrist posted on Instagram.

All through the team’s Olympic run, Gilchrist’s wave-riding acumen was a hot topic of conversation, who noted that she’s eager to pull a jersey back on sometime soon. When she was 14 years old Peter “PT” Townend selected her to the U.S. Surf Team, the same year she was recruited by Newport Harbor High’s varsity water polo.

By her senior year she was dominating both sports and was forced to take a break from water polo to surfing in the ISA World Junior Championships in New Zealand. She finished ninth in the comp, headed home to California and jumped head first back into the pool.


Yeah, it’s safe to say Ms Gilchrist is good in the water. Photo: @kaleighgilchrist

Studying and playing ball at USC, Gilchrist continued to surf as much as time would allow, but her success on the international water polo level was too alluring to pass up, and she kept pushing forward.

“October my freshman year, I’m sitting in my dorm room watching Lakey, Courtney and Sage Erickson pursuing a professional surfing career, traveling the world for free, winning contests, living this lavish lifestyle with sponsorships. And here I am: hating water polo, struggling, knowing that I could be if not exactly where they were, then close,” Gilchrist recently told ESPN. “That was probably the toughest time I had to deal with both of my sports. I was miserable.”

But all the pain and suffering paid off. Gilchrist and the U.S. girls are now gold medalists. Mission accomplished. And maybe best of all, now she can get her head back in the surf game.

“I am definitely a little nervous to see if all the years I’ve put surfing on the back burner will bite me in the butt on the world tour—or if I can still bounce back and be at the level I want to be. Hopefully, everything goes as planned,” continued Gilchrist.

Don’t be surprised if you see her atop a podium or two this time next year.


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