Surfing: New Zealand's Saffi Vette relocates to Australia in hope of reaching World Surfing League

New Zealand's top female surfer has moved across the ditch in a bid to become the world's best.

Saffi Vette has her sights set on earning a spot in the World Surfing League and is now training and competing on the Gold Coast. 

Hard to believe that 18 months ago she was barely on her board and all but out of the surfing game.

"I'm doing this because I want to be a world champion," Vette tells Newshub. "That's the ultimate goal in surfing. That would be the pinnacle of my career."

She's already New Zealand's best. And at 20, Vette is now taking on the world.

Dedicated and determined.

"I've been training pretty hard, and I'm ready to conquer all these events," she adds.

To achieve this, Vette's had to leave behind her Gisbourne home, family and surfing community to move to the Gold Coast. 

She admits she's a wee bit homesick, but remains focused on an elusive spot in the World Surfing League through the Australasian qualifying series.

"My Australian coach over here is an absolute legend. And he knows this coastline like the back of his hand, so having access to that knowledge is very beneficial to my surfing and improving my surfing as well."

Life is tougher in Australian waters, it's more competitive and ruthless. But that wasn't her first battle when she arrived there last month - she was hit by a wave of COVID.

"I'm kind of glad I got it out of the way," she says.

"I spent seven days in isolation, I didn't get it too bad, it was pretty mild so I was pretty happy with that and now I feel quite invincible being here."

She now works out daily, strengthening and stretching her body and is in the surf up to three times a day, three hours at a time.

Fair to say, she lives and breathes surfing.

And it all began when she was just two. Her dad Andy, a legendary Gisbourne surfer, bought her a boogie board for Christmas.

They spent almost every day in the water together, as dad became her surfing coach, mentor and biggest champion

"Dad really helped with my mental health and making me believe in myself, that I can be a world champion. 

"That I can put my mind to it, I just have to put in all the effort and treat this sport like a job but have as much fun as possible and not take it too seriously."

Saffi Vette.
Saffi Vette. Photo credit: Image - Photosport

But 18 months ago, Andy passed away, following an intense battle with bowel cancer. He was 52.

Days later, on what would have been his birthday, Saffi joined a paddle-out in her dad's honour at the beach across from the family home. It was emotional and spiritual.

"Just the energy that was around the ocean and the emotion people had in the water was something I have never experienced before."

But without her dad, Vette struggled to face the sea and her board. Her head was no longer in the surfing game.

"It was almost when I surfed, I was missing a piece to my puzzle. It was quite hurtful at the start."

But slowly she got back into it, and soon after became the national women's champion. She was 19. It was an epic and emotional moment. 

She firmly believes dad was watching and will continue to do so.

"God I miss him," she continues.

"I'm sure he's smiling down on me, giving me all the waves that I need when it really counts."

And she plans to ride those waves all the way to world domination.