Interviews by Rebecca Parsons

For the first time since the event's founding in 2016, nine women are officially registered to compete in this year's Red Bull Heavy Water event in Ocean Beach, San Francisco. The course runs 7.5 miles from San Francisco Bay to Ocean Beach and waves are expected to be at least 10 feet. With the waiting period officially open now, nerves and excitement are high as the competitors log their final training sessions before the big day. We caught up with eight of the women and asked their thoughts on competing in the heaviest race in SUP. –RP 

Izzi Gomez
I'm definitely both nervous and excited! The anticipation of waiting for a swell is pretty cool. I've never had the opportunity to compete in an event like this so I'm super stoked about that! I'm most nervous about being in bigger surf on a race board—the fact that race boards have no rocker makes it really hard to surf them, especially when it's 10 feet or more. You will never feel fully ready for a race like this (and I don't do much racing). It's basically survival of the fittest.

Now that the distance part of the race is first this year, my strategy is to try and save my energy. I don't think it's smart to go all out on the distance paddle and then be tired for the waves at Ocean Beach. It's going to be gnarly so strategy is key but it's also anyone's game!  

Fiona Wylde

I am really looking forward to having the opportunity to compete in Red Bull Heavy Water this year! Of course I'm nervous, but I also am really looking forward to the challenge. Who knows what's going to happen but I have been trying to prepare in as many ways as possible. It's not going to be easy, in fact, it's going to be an insane challenge but I'm going to give it my best!

Terrene Black

I'm really pumped that myself and other female athlete have been invited to participate in this year's Red Bull Heavy Water event. I can't wait to see all the girls who I know charge in the waves take this on and put on a good show for everyone.

I must admit, I'm pretty nervous. I've been preparing at home with a few big waves sessions while the swell has been up. Plus, I've had a couple breath, mind and body conditioning sessions with an experienced free diver. I'll also be relying on many years of experience as a professional lifeguard.

Terrence Black charging Sunset Beach. Photo: Iballa Moreno

But what also scares me is the cold water. One thing with the reversed course is that at least we'll be warmed up by the time we take on the waves but it'll also be very important to conserve energy. I've been talking to a bunch of the guys about what type of wetsuits to wear as it's going to be tricky going from being hot in the race to possibly spending a lot of time in the freezing water. Hopefully I'll get the chance to practice out there before the event.

Candice Appleby

I'm definitely nervous and excited but probably more nervous. How could I not be? The waves are big, the water is cold and there are many unknowns with how our bodies will handle the direction of the course this year. I'm not taking it lightly, that's for sure.

Hitting the cold water after paddling 6-7 miles is one of my biggest concerns—cold water takes your breath away. I've been doing a lot of swimming in the past few months, which has definitely helped my fitness and breathing. I'll continue to do more breath work leading up to the event. I'm also trying to dial in what I'm going to wear. It's tricky because the water is so cold but we do the distance portion of the race first and it's easy to overheat if you're wearing too much.

I think hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to the race because of the unknowns. I'm just grateful for the opportunity to participate and I hope that when race day comes it's within my limits. Going into this I have nothing to prove, so I'm just going to prepare, say my prayers and do what I can.

Annie Reickert

Growing up on Maui and spending my whole childhood surfing and being in the ocean I have always been attracted towards the races that incorporate surf into their courses. Red Bull Heavy Water will definitely check off that box. I spend almost everyday in the surf whether it is on a shortboard, longboard, foil board, SUP surfboard or raceboard, so I feel like every session has been preparing me for this race.

Annie Reickert knows a thing or two about big waves. Photo: Erik Aeder

Going into this race, part of me is nervous but at the end of the day I am going to rely on my training and take what the ocean gives me. Because RBHW isn't just a wave course there is going to be some strategy involved—before we have to battle monster surf there is seven miles of flat water. It will be interesting to see what everyone chooses to do, some people may hold back in the distance portion of the race to save energy and others may attempt to make a gap before the pack hits the surf. No matter what happens, it will be a huge day for everyone and a special race for all of the females as we will be the first women to race the course!

Manca Notar

This event is definitely the hardest, most challenging event of all. I think it's important to do all sorts of training that can prepare you for any kind of conditions—although I believe there can always be something you didn't expect. What I find really exciting is paddling in San Francisco and waves will definitely make a big challenge for everyone.

Shae Foudy
I am feeling pretty anxious but excited leading up to the Red Bull Heavy Water event. I am excited that women were invited this year and have the opportunity to compete amongst the amazing men that completed the race last year. It's hard to get out in big waves on a raceboard but I feel pretty comfortable that my ocean skills have prepared me for the event. I will be going into the race confident and will 100% be competing if I feel I can handle the conditions at the moment. I never want to put myself at risk if I don't feel like I should be out there, but I also really want to push myself outside of my comfort zone.

Nicole Pacelli

I'm kind of nervous about the competition because Red Bull Heavy Water is the first SUP race event of my life! I've never competed in a race before. All the girls are super good and have won a lot of events; it's going to be tough to beat them. Otherwise, I am super excited to compete because this event is unique, they wait for the biggest swell of the waiting period to put the competition ON! That's the reason why I want to compete—it's a race with big waves, it's crazy! I train to surf big waves but I don't train too much to compete in racing, so I hope the waves are big on the event so I can have a chance!