Photo: Janalyn Rose
Photo: Janalyn Rose

Carter Graves’ Aquatic Journey From Swim to SUP

Interview by Rebecca Parsons

Carter Graves's athletic resume is an impressive one.

She won the Molokai to Oahu prone race at her debut crossing in 2014, holds the women's course record for the Catalina Classic Paddleboard Race, and earned a bronze and silver medal at the 2015 ISAs–helping Team USA bring home the gold.

Never far from the water, Graves works as a lifeguard, an active lifestyle model and a fitness instructor. A fierce competitor, the Coronado Island local always strives to do her best but recognizes the importance of sharing the joy of paddling with others. After her rookie year of SUP racing, Graves is ready to enter the competitive scene full-force and smash a few records while she's at it.–RP

Everyday on the water is a good day for Carter. Photo: Janalyn Rose

Tell us about your background.

I used to be a competitive swimmer in Arizona, so I was land-locked for a lot of my life. We started coming to the beach when I was young and I instantly fell in love with it. After 14 years, I was getting over pool swimming so I started lifeguarding [in Coronado] at age twenty. Several of the guys prone paddled at the beach, so they got me into that. There was something about it that I was drawn to—the challenge, being in the ocean versus the pool, and how it correlated with the job.

After prone paddling for five years, I needed a new challenge and SUP just seemed like the natural progression. It's been about a year since I've been racing and I really love it. It's important for me to be well-rounded in ocean sports, so I want to keep prone paddling, swimming and surfing, but my main focus is standup paddling now.

What is your favorite event to race?

My favorite race has been the Molokai to Oahu race in prone. It's an adventure and you never know what to expect. I love that channel, it's definitely shaped me as a person and as a paddler. To be one of the few to cross it on a SUP and prone is definitely one of my goals—doing it solo on a SUP is my three-year goal.

Carter Graves is looking forward to getting more people on the water. Photo: Janalyn Rose

What are your strengths?

In SUP, my strengths are anything that's long and not really technical. I'm working on the technical aspect—waves, turns and racing in packs–all of those things are really new to me. I feel like my best qualities are the grit and just going for a long time.

Tell us about your modeling career.

One of my friends who used to be a lifeguard in San Diego has an active lifestyle modeling agency. It's cool because she gets a lot of gigs with brands that want models that actually do an activity; not just a pretty face. I really enjoy doing it and want to keep doing it in conjunction with athletics.

How do you pay the bills?

I work as a fitness instructor at the local gym and I'm a lifeguard at the beach. I've worked at the gym for a year and have my personal training certification. I also teach group classes including spin, boot camp TRX and stretching. My goal is to teach SUP fitness and SUP yoga in San Diego.

I want to be the best I can at everything and be at the top, but it's also about sharing my passion and inspiring others to get on the water. So for me, teaching is just as important as the racing aspect in paddling.

She also wants to begin teaching SUP yoga classes. Photo: Janalyn Rose

Do you have a big focus on eating healthy?

Nutrition is everything to me, my food is my medicine. I'm cognizant of what I put in my body and I’m really into trying new things and experimenting. What works for one person doesn't necessarily work for someone else. It's all about figuring out what works best for you. For me, it's all about eating real foods that are one ingredient.

How do you stay motivated?

Sometimes it's hard when it's cold and you don't want to get out of bed and train. I think what motivates me is that I just love this lifestyle and what I do. I'm really passionate about it and I want to get in the ocean every single day.

Even if I'm not training for a race, I just really enjoy the process of training. I live with my best friend/roommate and she does triathlons, so she and I motivate each other to work hard, get up early, do our sessions and eat healthy.

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