Gillian Gibree has been in the water most of her life. And her athleticism allows her to play in it a million different ways––from lifeguarding and the competitions associated with it, to surfing to traditional paddleboarding to standup. She’s also a practicing yogi and has been at the forefront of the SUP yoga movement. Gillian Gibree is part of our SUP Women series. ––-Shari Coble

Tell us about your 2011.
2011 was really busy, but a lot of fun. I started my Paddle Into Fitness clinics last winter in Huntington Harbor and San Diego, then in June I went to Tahiti for a week with Morgan [Hoestrey]. Tahiti was so awesome because we spent the entire week training not just on SUP, but also outriggers and prone paddleboards. In August I went back home to Massachusetts and did the 36-mile charity race to benefit Boston Children's Hospital and some SUP clinics and I've kind of been on the road since. The Catalina SUP Festival was an awesome weekend and I was really impressed with how much they hooked up all of the competitors. In September I competed in the SurfRace to Victory [in Huntington Beach, Calif.], which was the best because so many top paddlers, like Chuck Patterson, were getting destroyed in the surf. After that Morgan and I went on a surf trip from San Diego up to San Francisco and I did the Halloween race up in SF, then went down to Cabo for the Los Cabos Classic, which was a world-class event.

What's the biggest challenge you faced last year?
Paddle Into Fitness was by far my biggest challenge this year. I was setting it up on my own, with no real direction to follow. First I held classes in San Diego, but now I have three locations with 15 instructors between them. It was a lot of work hiring and training the instructors because everyone needed to be certified in CPR and water safety, but also be able to teach proper paddling technique. Coming from a lifeguard background, I won't just put anyone out there, so luckily I was able to hire a lot of Huntington Beach and San Diego lifeguards.

Do you have a favorite memory from 2011?
The charity paddle I did back home [in Massachusetts] is definitely my favorite memory from 2011. It was awesome to give back and raise money by paddling. Also, seeing more girls standup paddling back in my home state was really cool. Probably 85 percent of the people at that race were on raceboards, which I hadn't seen there before. It's awesome to see the sport progressing there and people getting more into it while still giving back.

What are your plans for this year?
I need to take time off during winter to rest, so I won’t be competing for a few months and I’m just having fun enjoying winter surf. I’m going to focus on my yoga retreat and I really want to do more SUP clinics wherever I travel or compete, just to show people something new and introduce more people to SUP yoga. I want to do the Sayulita race hopefully and go on some lifestyle trips- travel is definitely high on the list. I also want to compete in more surf and flatwater races and do some lifeguard competitions. I’m really going to try to get involved with more humanitarian and environmental endeavors too.

Photo by Chris Bishow