Girl overboard Sabre Norris.
Nanjing Night Net

Sabre Norris.

Sabre Norris.

TweetFacebookWHEN the surf is good, she surfs. When it’s not so good, she skates. And when the weather’s foul, she hits the books to do her homework.

Until it’s time to hit the ring, where she boxes with Jeff Fenech’s former right-hand man, Rob Fogarty.

This is the life of 10-year-old Sabre Norris: the Newcastle East girl whose surfing and skating clips have attracted more than 46,000 followers on social media site Instagram, and turned the heads of some of the country’s best surfers.

If you’ve seen her carving up the waves at the Cowrie Hole with her siblings – Sockie, Biggy and Naz – you may understand why Australian pro surfer Mick Fanning has taken Sabre under his wing, and why six-time world surfing champ Stephanie Gilmore told Surfing World magazine: “I just hope I’m not on tour when Sabre Norris qualifies, because she is incredible.”

But while Sabre has ambitions of competing on a world scale one day, for now, she just wants to learn as much as she can from her heroes, and have fun.

“I haven’t really competed much yet,” she says.

“I’d like to compete. But Mum and Dad have put me off it a bit. They just want me to keep it fun at this age rather than worrying about winning or losing.

“I feel like if I’m going to be a world champion one day, I’ll have to do lots of comps then, so I may as well just keep it simple now and when I really want to compete I’ll go for it.”

The Merewether Boardriders invited her to surf on their team in the Boardriders Battle last year.

“I was the junior girl in it,” Sabre says.

“But I fully stung out in it. I didn’t even land a floater, and I got stuck in a rip for so long. I was in a tag team – which is 40 minutes – and I was wasting so much time.

“But they made me feel like I won the contest for them, they were such a supportive team.”

When you see Sabre in action, you can’t help but feel she is destined for big things.

She bears more than a passing resemblance to her father, former Olympic swimmer and bronze medallist Justin Norris, and she has also inherited his determination to succeed at elite level.

And while you might assume having an Olympic medallist as a role model might have impressed her, Sabre is way more proud of her Dad’s record of eating almost 100 chicken nuggets in one sitting.

“I don’t get to hear too much about what Dad’s done at all,” she says. “He doesn’t brag about it.

“But he did try to eat 100 chicken nuggets after he competed at the Olympics in Greece, because he fully just stung out.

“He thought he may as well do something amazing while he was there.”

Although she has been in the water since she was four months old – her family owns a swim school – Sabre has no interest in swimming. At all.

“Swimming sucks, so bad,” she says, emphatically. “My Dad has always wanted me to swim, but I am just so not into it.

“The only bad part about surfing is the paddling, which is swimming, pretty much.”

It was a video of Sabre landing her first 540 – a full circle and a half – on her skateboard that put her on the map.

It attracted the attention of professional American skateboarder and director Steve Berra, who posted it on his popular website, The Berricks.

The video went viral and Sabre garnered thousands of followers on Instagram and appeared on Channel Seven’s Sunrise.

Sabre had practised the trick 100 times a day for more than a month.

And on the 75th attempt on May 18, 2014, she became the first Australian female to officially land a 540.

“I knew I had to get belted a couple of times to land it,” she says. “What’s the point of skating if you’re not going learn a new trick? That’s the best part.

“I worked so hard at it. When I got it I was just so excited.”

The story was immortalised in a Kid Mac music video for the song Higher, where Sabre can be seen practising the trick over and over until she finally lands it.

Her elation is palpable.

Kid Mac, or Macario De Souza, is also one of the Bra Boys – a surf gang from Maroubra Beach in Sydney. He is one of Sabre’s favourite musicians.

She loves music, and busks occasionally to raise money for wetsuits.

Another Bra Boy – Koby Abberton – has invited Sabre to “charge” onto some waves with them at the break they’ve dubbed “Ours”.

“Koby said whenever the swell is good next at Ours I should come and sit on the jet ski with him, and if I want to, I could get towed in, but I’m like, ‘Nah!’

“I don’t know how those guys can take off on a wave that heavy and expect they are going to survive.

“I think it would be a good experience just to watch them charging in real life instead of just on video though.”

Sabre was “really young” when she started skateboarding.

“I actually wanted a bike, but we didn’t have a garage, so mum bought us skateboards because we could just put them in the car,” she says.

“I still can’t ride a bike, though. But I’d much rather be a skater.”

There have been some good times and bad times in the skate bowl and on the ramps.

But Sabre hasn’t had any serious injuries.

She can’t say the same for little brother Biggy, who broke his femur last year.

“Biggy is such a freak, he is gnarly as,” she laughs. “He is trying to be the best skater he can. If I say to him, [professional skateboarder] ‘Danny Way wouldn’t do that, Danny Way would land this trick’, he would just go for it until he did it, and Mum is always like, ‘Don’t say that to him, Sabre!’

“Mum worries.

“And Sockie has always pushed me along and been by my side.

“I haven’t really had anybody saying, ‘You need to skateboard or you need to surf’ – it has all been things I’ve wanted to do.

“But surfing is my main passion.”

Mick Fanning is Sabre’s favourite surfer.

When he invited her along to his Rip Curl Camp on North Stradbroke Island in February, she was beside herself with excitement.

“He picked me up in his big black Audi and he answered so many of my questions,” she says.

“We did a lot of surfing. Mick pushed me onto such good waves – he has got the strongest push.”

Sabre has been surfing since she was four.

“I was just always around the beach. My Dad couldn’t just come out and swim with me, though, because he had to look after Sockie and Biggy too.

“So I just went out by myself trying to get waves and I was nose-diving heaps.

“I couldn’t duck dive or anything because I was on this big foam board surfing in the shore of Stockton Beach.

“But I’ve just always liked being around the water. Our whole family likes being around the water. We are heaps happier just going to Seaworld than Dreamworld, because you get to swim at Seaworld.”

Clearly, water flows through Sabre’s veins.

Her dad’s success aside, her great-grandfather Les “Sharkie” Iredale used to swim across the harbour from Stockton to get to work in Newcastle.

“I skate when the surf is no good, and then surf when it is really, really good – when it’s worth staying out there for the whole day.

“I’ll just come in for little breaks and snacks. Sometimes I’ll be out there so long I’ll get a rash from my wetsuit. I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have Sockie and Biggy out there though, because they keep it fun.”

Sabre is close to her siblings, and calls them her best friends.

“We’re just a big team.”

They share a bedroom, each with their own little area and bunk bed, and they do everything together.

They began boxing after Richie “Vas” Vaculik – another Bra Boy and mixed martial artist – told them about trainer Rob Fogarty, at One World Boxing in Newcastle.

“It was mainly Biggy and Sockie that wanted to do boxing, but I just thought I’d go along too,” Sabre says.

“Rob, my boxing coach, believes in me.

“He thinks I might even be able to go to the Olympics one day.”

Fogarty is a man not easily impressed.

He needed a lot of convincing to take on the Norris kids.

“I don’t really take anyone below 14,” Fogarty says.

“Their mum, Brooke, rang two or three times – she said she had a six-year-old, an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old who wanted to box – and I tried to put her off.

“But she was persistent.”

Fogarty reluctantly agreed, but when he saw all of them in action, he was struck by their attitude, discipline and determination.

“There was just something about all three of them; I’ve never seen it before in kids so young,” Fogarty says.

“I put them to work on the first day. I started them off on footwork, and it was just amazing how quickly they picked everything up.

“Then I put them on the bags and showed them a few combinations, and they are just naturals.

“Sabre is just the most determined young girl I’ve ever seen in my life.

“She’ll throw a combination, and she’ll hurt her right hand, and I’ll see it in her eyes how much it’s hurting her. I’ll say, ‘Is your hand OK?’ And she’ll say, ‘It’s OK, it’s OK.’

“She’ll never admit to being sore or hurt or tired. She just wants to push through.

“Not everyone who walks in the door gets to fight under me.

“I’ve had fighters here for six months and I still haven’t held a pad for them.

“We’re a new gym, but we are old-school. You’ve got to put in the work to earn respect at this gym.

“For me to take on a 10-year-old girl is unheard of.”

Fogarty says it remains to be seen whether Sabre can go the distance in boxing, but it looks promising.

“It’s hard to say, because she hasn’t had a fight yet – she can’t fight in NSW until she’s 14,” he says.

“It takes a special person to be able to get in there and get punched in the face, and then want to punch someone else back in the face.

“I don’t know if she has got that, but what I do know is they beg me to spar after every session.

“They are already getting knocked around a bit now. If she has that drive and she doesn’t mind copping a few, then I have no doubt she’ll go all the way.

“She is only 10. Give me another four years with her and she’ll be a machine.

“I love the kids – the whole family.

“They are so kind-hearted, so respectful, so smart. They are the whole package.”

Between the surfing, the skateboarding, and now the boxing, Sabre works up a big appetite.

She talks of her ambition to get her “name on the wall” at Newy Burger Co if she successfully eats a burger stuffed with 10 meat patties, and how the only sponsorship she is really interested in attracting at the moment is from Pizza Hut.

She is sponsored by DHD Surfboards and its owner, Darren Handley, has become something of a mentor.

“I feel like I’ve got a really good team behind me,” she says. “Like DH – he is my boardshaper, and he is the best in the world.

“I can’t believe he picked me. He has Steph [Gilmore] and Mick [Fanning] on his team and a whole heap of other groms.

“He is kind of like a coach, because I don’t really have one.

“He doesn’t just tell me I’m doing great, he actually tells me what I’m doing wrong and how to fix it.

“One time he spent three hours on the shore of Snapper Rocks with me, just working out heat strategies.”

Handley has given her a couple of boards, including a couple of shiny ones that looked a little too much like a fish for the shark-wary Sabre. So she sprayed it pink.

“They looked fully like a fishing lure – because when you put them in the sun, they reflect,” she says.

“If a shark came past, it’d probably think, ‘Dinner!”‘

Meeting so many of her heroes – Fanning, Gilmore and our own Mark Richards – has inspired Sabre to keep going. To dig a little deeper. To keep practising; keep striving for greatness.

“They are just like any other people. They’ve just decided to work hard,” she says.

It seem only a matter of time before Sabre Norris becomes a household name too.