Photos by: Jimmie Hepp
Last time Boardseeker caught up with the flying doctor she was enjoying the long waves of south america, but where is she now?
Aloooooooooha from the beautiful land of Mahi Mahi, Mai Tais and bomby shallow reef breaks! Yes compadres, I’ve ventured across the Americas to the depths of the pacific to the wee paradise isle of Maui, Hawaii. To be honest, having been here many times already the sense of adventure was slightly lessened compared to my last two trips to Peru and Mexico. The 50th state of America is almost like a second home at this stage and knowing what’s in store for me here comes almost as a relief in comparisson to the daunting unknown of my escapades in Central and South America. Maui is a unique place. As hospitable and welcoming as it can be, it can also come with equal measures of hostility and difficulty. It is after all an island, and island cultures and people tend to be extemely unique and slightly insular……. I should know, after all I come from one.
Cultural pride and heritage mean everything to island people and there are few if any other places I have ever been to where the people take as much pride in where they come from as they do here. Hawaiians are a proud people and rightfully so. They come from a tropical paradise, which is as rich environmentally as it is culturally and being here reminds me of how similarly, I take such pride in being from Ireland and being Irish. The more often I come here the more clarity and insight I gain on this place. Living on Maui’s Norh Shore as I have done for every visit I’ve made, I begin to appreciate more and more of what it has to offer considering it is such a diverse melting pot of cultures and societies. People come here from every corner of the world, from every possible demographic and every mix of backgrounds all in search of the same thing……. waves. Glorious, clean, heavy, punishing, beautiful, challenging, jaw-dropping waves. It honestly never gets old taking a look at the mottly crew who make up a line up. Whether surfing, windsurfing, SUPping or kiting, the stories you hear and the faces you meet rarely tell the same story. Everyone came here in their own way, from their own background and in their own time but all for the one common cause. The sea. Nature’s playground.
And so I suppose I have my own story to tell and reasons for being here…….. naturally working on my pasty Irish freckly tan is one……. eating my bodyweight in fresh Ahi Poki doused in wasabi and soy is another…….. of course my life-long dream of donning a coconut bra and grass skirt and taking to life as a professional hula girl is up there too…… but mostly so I can find someone who’s willing to take me for dinner to Mama’s Fishouse already!! What I wouldn’t do for a $50 plate of Mahi and a $20 cocktail….. hahahahaha!!! Oh yeah, and I suppose I wouldn’t be too averse to the idea of doing a bit of windsurfing here and there…… if I have to……. 😉
The sailing here has been epic, as always! There really is no need for me to go into the ins and outs of sailing Ho’okipa, you’ve heard it and seen it all before, so naturally you all know how incredible it can be. I first sailed Ho’okipa four years ago and coming back, having been limited since then to the waves of Ireland and Europe I was interested to see how all my training’ would pay off here…… hahahaha holy crap Ho’okipa can beat me up! It’s all about going for it here, the wave can often times be a one or two hit wonder and unless you’re willing to send it’ and boost a big aerial you can come away after a day’s sailing there with your tail between your legs , a rosy colour to your cheeks and some rock-mangled gear that looks like it spent some time in the ring with Tyson.
Ho’okipa sailing is Ho’okipa sailing. It’s a unique wave that takes years to fully tune in to and can be as punishing as it can be rewarding. A month into my stay here and I’m starting to tune into it…..I think…..and now at least I know what I want for Christmas….. “Dear Santa, I would greatly appreciate the magic skill of boosting a big aerial off the lip just like Mr.Polakow or Mr.Siver thank you please……… And if not, I suppose a voucher for Mama’s Fishouse wouldn’t go astray instead, ta very much”. Hahaha stop thinking about food Katie, focus on sailing.
So mixed into my personal battles with Ho’okipa (currently pretty good odds on Katie vs the Point with the wave coming in victor at about 200:1 ) hahaha!, I have been competing on the awesome American Windsurfing Tour. The Maui Makani Classic was the last stop on the six event tour for 2012 and was without a doubt, the best sailing I have seen in person in my life (and I’ve seen Koester in 50 knots Cabezo). I also feel it’s probably the best I have sailed on the tour too. I took the unique angle at this event of being media director which involved everything from writing daily press-releases to making videos and interviewing the competitors and dealing with the local press. Super fun considering my love of “the chat”, oh how I love “the chat”! Ha! But slightly challenging considering my only skills for the job on my CV include, 1) Loving the chat 2) Talking a lot 3) Loving the chat……. and 4) Being a doctor?! Hmmmmmm…. not quite media mogul credentials, pretty sure CNN won’t be banging down my door any time soon, but I did gain mad skills in using more than two fingers at a time to type and trying to sound a little less leprachaun and a little more uncle Sam…… got a real nice American twang going on right now, really helps break down the Paddy communication barriers over here!
The event was an insane success. 120 competitors from 24 countries (including two from Ireland, yours truly and 3rd place amateur fleet Neil Turpin from Dublin!) and a who’s who in the line up of the pro fleet. Watching heats with Stone vs Goya vs Siver vs Polakow vs Pritchard vs Katchadourian et al was mind blowing. I have written thousands of words about the heats on the AWT website so I won’t bore you with them now but all I can say is mix those names in with double mast high Ho’okipa and the recipe delivers probably the most memorable and successful event in recent times. From the ladies point of view we had a mackin’ fleet. Names like Junko Nagoshi, Anne-Marie Reichmann, Shawna Cropas, Tatiana Howard, Angela Cochran, Ingrid Larouche and so many more were all battling it out. I felt honoured and so unbelievably priviliged to be sailing both with and against those girls. Having 20 minutes of mast high Ho’okipa to yourself and three other women is absolutely priceless and I’ll never forget it. So proud to be representing Ireland at these events and really, really chuffed to have made it through to come 7th against 20 women for this event and 5th overall for the AWT year. My first heat was a toughy but I pulled through only to be pitted against last year’s winner and superstar Junko Nagoshi and last year’s runner-up Anne-Marie in my quarter finals. But I went into the heat with the only expectation of doing myself proud and having fun….. which I did! And caught some nice big bomby sets along the way and only narrowly lost on a 2:1 judges decision to Anne-Marie. Happy days! The win in the mens was taken by super nice, intelligent and talented 16 year old Bernd Roediger
And so from there it’s been a mix of sailing, SUPing, surfing, eating, partying and hanging out with some of the coolest people I know who I now consider very dear friends. I love the complete dichotomy in my life between Ireland and being a doctor and travelling and being a windsurfer. I’m so lucky to have the family and friends at home and away who all enrich my life so much regardless of what capacity it is in. Whether it’s my Mum, Dad, siblings and friends at home or my windsurfing family here on Maui and my sponsors in the Simmer team and Moo Custom team, I’m so grateful to be surrounded by such kindness, openess, happiness and support. Mahalo to you all!!
Previous adventures with katie and link to maui travel feature: