SUP Women | Suzie Cooney
Paddle and Fitness Coach / Maui Downwind Specialist
This is the second installment of a seven-part series that will be highlighting seven inspiring ladies who have made an impact in our sport. This is part of our feature, Real Talk, which originally ran in our 2016 Women’s Issue.
You’ve been standup paddling in Maui since the early days of the sport. How did SUP lure you in?
SUP wasn’t really thought of as competitive until a few years after it first caught on. People were doing it out of passion. It was a sport that wasn’t as intimidating as surfing was to women, especially on Maui. It was much more accessible for us.
How did you transition from a paddle enthusiast into a coach in the space?
I started doing clinics in 2009 and I’ve done about 28 since. The first year, I did seven clinics for women. The common thread was that all these women were so sweet. There was no competition for who had the best body in a bathing suit; no one cared. We were empowering each other. It’s a way for ladies to take time for themselves and say, “Here, watch my kids. I’m going paddling.”
What factor played has played the biggest role in expanding women’s paddling over the years?
I credit the brands. A lot of sport companies are so male dominated in terms of equipment. In SUP, the industry got smart early on and decided to make gear tailored to women. That really took away the edge. Even though it doesn’t really matter and may just be a different paint job, it gives women their own category and we don’t get mixed in with the guys.
What challenges have you faced as a female role model in the sport?
Early on, I had a career-threatening accident and had to prove to the world and especially to women that I could pull up my big-girl pants, get on a board and go. It wasn’t about making a statement, it was about empowering myself.
Part one of this series spotlights Standup for the Cure co-founder Shawneen Schweitzer.
Watch Cooney in action on the Maliko Run.