You know you’ve made it when Ash Barty hangs your memorabilia in her house.
But then Molly “Pickles” Picklum has long had some of Australia’s finest sportswomen in her corner.
Layne Beachley, the seven-time world champion and godmother of women’s surfing, was among the first to congratulate Picklum on conquering the Pipeline Masters last month – an event “non-Hawaiians just aren’t meant to win.”
Beachley was also the first to push 20-year-old Picklum into a wave that has good judges tipping her as the big thing in Australian surfing.
“Layne’s incredible, she’s done so much for the sport,” Picklum gushes down the line from Hawaii’s North Shore.
“I went to one of her camps when I was 14 and I guess I was the most enthusiastic kid there. Layne picked me for a rising star award at the end of it and I turned to my parents afterwards and we said, ‘Maybe I should follow this sport and see where it can take me’.
“She put up with a lot to create the pathway for women to have a career in surfing. I’m so honoured to take the torch a little bit and run with it now.”
Picklum has taken that enthusiasm, talent and Barty/Beachley-esque outlook on life and sporting loves to the World Championship Tour at the age of 19.
Then after falling victim to the Tour’s controversial mid-year cut-off, back to the off-Broadway Qualifying Tour. By November, back to the top level for 2023.
And then to Pipeline, the world’s true maker of boardriding men and women, where she emerged with a finals triumph over five-time world champ and local expert Carissa Moore, $100,000 in prize money and “the greatest moment of my career… so far.”
All the while, three-time grand slam winner Barty has become an increasingly regular sounding board for Picklum, and a longtime inspiration.
Molly Picklum and Ash Barty at Bells Beach last year.Credit:Beatriz Ryder
Even if the Central Coast product can’t coax Barty onto a board. And refuses to play for cash when they go for a round of golf.
“Ash is such a legend,” Picklum says. “She’s inspired me a lot and still does. I chat to her about bits and pieces but I try not to bother her too much.
“Whenever I have time to go to the Gold Coast we’ll play golf but she sweeps the floor with us. She won’t even hear about going surfing either, she just shuts down the convo straight away.
Ash Barty at home with the competition rash vests worn by Australian surfers Molly Picklum, Bronte Macaulay and Isabella Nichols in Portugal.Credit:Instagram
“But the way she just owned her own story and did her own thing on the court and off the court, and just stuck with whatever she felt was right, no matter the external factors, she’s been my inspiration for a long time.”
Asked by the WSL to wear the name of a female influence when they hit the water on International Women’s Day last year in Portugal, Picklum and fellow Australians Bronte Macaulay and Isabella Nichols opted for Barty on their backs.
“And then she hung them up at her new house,” Picklum laughs, “it was a bit of a pinch yourself moment.”
If being mates with Barty is cause for a pinch, then claiming Pipeline honours is a five-finger slap to the face.
Not least because Picklum copped similar treatment from the infamous break for weeks leading into her upset victory, becoming the first non-Hawaiian winner in their Banzai backyard.
She rightly concedes that Moore jagged the best wave of the event when Pipeline heaved early on at 12-foot, and that a sudden wind change played into her hands when she prevailed a few days later in 4-6 foot waves in the final.
But that’s surfing, and Picklum earned her good fortune.
“Oh the amount of wipe-outs and beatings that I took just to get comfortable out there, it’s just stupid,” she says, having discovered one of Pipeline’s underwater caves at close quarters in the process.
“I never even knew helmets existed for surfers until I got to Hawaii, but I got one pretty quickly.
Molly Picklum in the eye of a Pipeline storm.Credit:Tony Heff
“There’s a bunch of holes and creases in the reef out there and there was one of the double-up waves where I got held down the bottom. It wasn’t like a full-blown cave and my leash wasn’t getting wrapped up or anything.
“But you do feel claustrophobic under water suddenly surrounded by rocks and not able to come up straight away.”
Now as the 2023 Tour kicks off again in the same waters, Picklum is comfortable chasing the world’s best and yet another inspiration, eight-time defending world champion Steph Gilmore.
“Surfing-wise, I do feel like I can compete with the best in the world,” Picklum says.
“It’s the rest of it, and how you shift when you’re up against your idols. I could be qualifying for the Olympics, or I could be cut from the tour again if it goes the other way. Either way, it gets me excited.”
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