Photo: Finn Mullen

Photo: Finn Mullen

Core Commentary | Katie McAnena

Age: 28 | Strandhill, County Sligo, Ireland

Katie McAnena doesn't just paddle standup boards. She competes on the American Windsurfing Tour, surfs big waves and is a practicing doctor. She's also very Irish. – Will Taylor

Sorry we missed each other yesterday.
I had to cover someone and it was a nightmare 24-hour shift but it's just part of my crazy life. I'm lucky I live right on the water so I just got out for a surf. It takes a lot of bullshit out of the equation. It's a small village with one pub, one church, one shop. And everyone surfs. I moved here from Galway, where I grew up, a year-and-a-half ago and it's littered with the best waves imaginable.

What are the seasons like?
The waves are best during the Caribbean hurricane season. Fall is the perfect time, while summer heats up and is more inconsistent. But the days are long, it's bright until 11 o'clock at night so we get lots and lots of water time. We keep going all through winter, just suit up and wear hoods and gloves.

Your accent is pretty easy to understand.
I've really learned how to tone it down. Wherever I go on the AWT people can understand me. I just know my audience.

How long have you been a doctor for?
I graduated in 2011. In 2008-9 I took a sabbatical from school. I just really, really wanted to push it on the AWT, in Australia, Maui, etc. I started standup paddling then. Windsurfing really embraced SUP and they have many dual events. That was always fun. I burnt a major hole in my school loan.

You seem to have different SUP goals than other women.
I've won the Irish national title the last three years and even won the ladies racing last year. I got into Sayulita (for ISA Worlds) but I can't swing it with work. Really though, I'm addicted to massive waves. That's my plan for next winter: Jaws, Aileen's, Mullaghmore. I windsurfed Jaws two years ago and I think I'm ready (for SUP) now. It's easy to say it's a guy's world but you have to stop listening to nay and go for it.

What's it like to be a paddler there?
My mom grew up in a small seaside village and everyone was in awe of the ocean. A great amount of fisherman don't know how to swim. It's taken people a long time for the sea change toward water sports. SUP has given them access like they haven't had before. Most people can just stand on a board on any waterway. That's the reason it's taken off in Ireland. It's a really happy scene.

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