SUP Women: Halie Harrison

Photo: Steve Pieria
Photo: Steve Pieria

Halie Harrison is the definition of an island girl. Born and raised on Oahu, she’s tan, blonde, lives on a marina and grew up in a family of surfers. When Harrison started SUP at age 14, she never dreamed she’d be traveling and competing like she is today. At age 19, she is already making a name for herself in the world of standup paddling.-Rebecca Parsons

Tell us about your athletic background.
My whole family is water oriented. They all love the water and I just grew up around it. My brother, sister and dad surf, so when I was younger I was always surfing. My dad paddles six-man (canoes). I just grew up around the ocean, being a little water baby. I was comfortable with the ocean but didn’t get into surfing until I was 13. A year later, I got into standup paddling. My uncle is Robin Johnston and that is where I first saw it. He was always SUP surfing. I live on a marina on Oahu, so he gave us a board and my family, friends and I would just go paddle. I never thought I’d be where I am today, racing and traveling.

What’s it like surfing on the first year of the Women’s World Tour?
It was super fun. I traveled to Huntington and I did the one at Turtle Bay. I traveled more places for racing. But the surfing part is super cool. It’s cool to see so many girls that are getting super good, all the competition, and just more and more girls are getting interested and showing up.

There are fewer events on the Women’s World Tour than on the Men’s. Do you think that’s fair?
I don’t think it’s that unfair. People argue about how money-wise about guys will get paid more than girls but there are more guys than girls that are doing it, so there should be more events. I know it’s building more and more and one day it will be even because there’s going to be just as many girls.

Do you like the surfing side or the racing side more?
That’s really hard. I just love the sport. Racing is super fun, but after awhile I just need a break from racing. The surfing part is the fun side of it.

Photo: Tom English
Photo: Tom English

What’s the female SUP scene like on Oahu? Who do you train with?
There are some girls here, but probably not as many as California. When I go to California there’s so many girls, its crazy. When I train I don’t really have any girls I train with. Sometimes I train alone and I have guy friends who race so I train with them. Training with them makes me try to push harder and keep up.

What does a typical week of training look like for you?
I try to paddle a few days a week. I usually just go in my marina and do some distance there. I’ll paddle from Molakai where I live to Kaimana Beach, about eight miles once a week. I also do a lot of on-land training like Crossfit, hiking and running. People think it’s your arms, but really it’s a lot of your lower half, your leg strength when you paddle. And then on my off time, just for fun, I’ll go surf.

Photo: Nitzan
Photo: Nitzan

What are your goals for this upcoming year?
I’m doing pretty good with racing, but I also want get better for the surfing part. In March the Standup World Tour starts again. I want to try to do more surfing because it’s winter and the waves are big right now. That’s my main focus right now because racing just ended. But when racing does start again I just try to do well in every race.

So this is kind of a weird question, but … we’ve noticed that a lot of girls on the island wear really small bikini bottoms. Is that a Hawaii thing?
(Laughs.) Yeah, that’s definitely a Hawaii thing. I don’t know why it’s a Hawaii thing, but when I go to California I notice that girls don’t wear thong bikinis, people kind of look at me weird. But whatever, I don’t care. We just grew up with it, seeing my older sister wear thong bikinis. That is a funny question. Here it’s just normal.