Photo: Tracy Kraft Leboe

Photo: Tracy Kraft Leboe

SUP Women: Brit Oliphant

You moved to Maui before you finished high school, right?
I wanted to focus on training and spend time hanging out with watermen and waterwomen. I come from a river background and decided that to take paddling to the next level I needed to learn about downwinders and surfing. I did online school so I finished early. It's time to put in the hours.

How'd a girl from Bend, Oregon get surf skills?
My family was neighbors with Gerry (Lopez) growing up. We went to the Oregon coast in the summer and on surf vacations to Mexico. I never really took the time to get surfing down but I tandem surfed with Gerry a lot. It wasn't until I moved to Maui that I started to learn it well. My dad owns a river rafting company and I grew up rafting. I'm comfortable in the water; it all goes together.

How did you start SUPing in Bend?
Laird Hamilton and Ron House were sending Gerry boards and he was taking them out on the river when no one really knew what it was. Then my dad started and got me into it. I began working for my dad, teaching lessons for his company. Teaching people and seeing how psyched they were fostered my love for it. I started racing because I was in shape from spending five hours a day on the river. It was me and 50-year-old guys for a while.

What area of paddling are you most focused on now?
I think my specialty will probably always be flatwater. I've always been an endurance athlete and have a background in long distance running. I trained myself from a young age to put my head down and push through the pain. I like whitewater races as well. I'm doing downwinders everyday but they're not my strongest discipline. I live on the Maliko run so I can do it everyday. I should be good at it.

What's your take on the current state of women's SUP?
There are a lot of good women to look up to. Karen Wrenn and Brandi Baksic have kids and they're still pursuing SUP like pro athletes. I'm in the next generation and we have such a head start in terms of age. As far as women's paddling, it can be such an intense sport but it can also be a mellow paddle with friends. That said, girls can do it just the same as guys. I always try to get girls, especially my age, to start competing.

How'd Gerry's guidance affect your life?
He's the ultimate man of aloha and he is the most humble person I've ever met. With all the success, at the end of the day he's just another guy. He's focused on how much you can love what you're doing, enjoy what you're doing and just having fun, not how many sponsors you can have. He helped me realize no matter what, you just need to do it for yourself. –WT

This article originally ran in our Winter 2013 issue.

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