Photo: Mickey Pauole

Grom Spotlight | Kali'a Alexiou

This originally appeared in our 2017 Spring Youth Issue as part of The Future of SUP feature which highlighted seven of the top groms in standup paddling. 

Age: 16

Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA

Kali'a Alexiou likes a good challenge. So when a group of Mavericks chargers invited her to join them on a downwind run along the Central California coastline when she was only 12 years old, she didn't hesitate. Alexiou started paddling in earnest, despite Santa Cruz's 50-degree seas, and now trains at home year-round in downwinding, racing and surfing. Her hard work paid off last year with division victories at two of the sport's flagship events–Molokai 2 Oahu (team) and the Pacific Paddle Games. We caught up with the high school sophomore to see what's next. —JH

How does a full-time high school sophomore make time to train as hard as you?

It can be tough! I just try to be really on top of my schoolwork and always make sure I'm getting assignments ahead of time. I was also able to substitute my PE class for paddling, so I have one less class and can spend more time on the water.

What are the perks for a standup paddler growing up in Santa Cruz?  

It's definitely a lot colder but there are so many places to paddle. We have really good surf, lots of flatwater and a great 12-mile downwind run from Davenport to Santa Cruz. Spring is my favorite time of the year up here because the winds turn on and we start doing that downwind run. It's perfect for paddling.

Are your parents supportive of you standup paddling?

We are a paddling family. My mom is from Hawaii and my dad is from Malibu, so I've been raised around the water. My dad found standup paddling and got me into it when I was 10. I paddle with him pretty regularly and we do downwind and long-distance runs together. We also go to Hawaii in the summer and do a bunch of races including the M2O.

What's it like to compete in one of the most revered crossing races—Molokai 2 Oahu—at such a young age?

I really like the water in Hawaii and how big it is. I just feel comfortable when the ocean gets rough. I also like distance races. I've done the Molokai 2 Oahu for the past three years and last year my friend Lara Claydon and I got first place for a women's two-person team. We just hope to inspire more youth to team up with each other. It's really good to paddle with kids your age.


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