From Phoenix to Waikiki and beyond…
An interview with the young woman who just loves to surf – so much so, she persuaded her parents to move to the World’s surf capital – Hawaii!
Interview by Peter Tranter
Photos by Jim Walsh and Ben Thouard
Aloha, I’m Vanina Walsh, I was born in Phoenix, Arizona and spent a lot of time in Mexico when I was younger. I grew up speaking both Spanish and German since my mom is from Germany and my dad spent many years in Mexico. When I was about seven or eight years old, my mom got a job for the airline and we began traveling to Hawaii and I fell in love with surfing. Within a year I convinced my parents to move to Hawaii and my surfing career had begun!
Firstly, what boards are you using?
I am riding Starboard Standup Paddle boards, these are some of the most high performance carbon fibre boards on the market right now. I’m using a 6’9 and a 7’1 stand up paddle board for surfing and a 12’6 turtle bay model race board for racing.
Where and what was your first surf and what got you hooked?
My first time surfing was at my home break at Waikiki Beach. My dad pushed me into my first wave and once I caught my first wave I was hooked! There is no feeling in the world like surfing – it was the best experience.
What and where was your first competition?
My first surf competition was the China Uemura Classic at Waikiki Beach, where I won my very first surf board.
How does SUP give you satisfaction?
I love SUP because I can do it anywhere, On a lake, a river, the ocean, as long as there is a body of water I can paddle on it! Sup is fun for me when the waves are big or even if there are no waves. I think this is why it is the fastest growing sport in the world.
Only early doors but what is the biggest accomplishment in your career to date?
Last year I came in second in the world for stand up paddling on the world tour.
Are you naturally competitive?
I’m actually not very competitive. In contests I just surf my best and let my surfing do the talking!
Can you talk about your training? Greatest inspiration? Who/what keeps you motivated?
I don’t have a set training schedule but I make sure that I’m always active every day. I love to be outdoors and on the ocean. When I’m surfing and standup paddling it doesn’t even feel like I’m training because I’m having so much fun doing it! I also love to go swimming, running, and hiking. My greatest inspirations are my parents for always encouraging me and looking out for my best interest. I am pretty self motivated to surf and train to stay healthy and in good shape.
What would a typical food day be for you from breakfast to supper?
I usually have a big breakfast such as an omelette with avocado and vegetables or sometimes just eggs, bacon and toast. For lunch I like to make green smoothies, acai bowls, or quesadillas, quesadillas are my weakness! For dinner I love to have fish and rice, chicken and salad, pasta, or whatever my mom is cooking.
What advantages are there to being a Starboard rider?
Being a Starboard rider is great because they have some of the best equipment! Their boards are the lightest, strongest boards I’ve ridden and they make a board for every condition and experience level. I also love being apart of the Starboard team, I get along great with the other team riders and I feel like the team really help and support each other.
Apart from SUP what other one main interest do you have in life?
I have always loved art and design, when I’m not surfing I’m usually painting or sewing. Some day I would love to start my own clothing/bikini company.
Have you ever been scared and if not – what would it take?
I have been scared a couple times surfing in big waves, it is important to know your comfort zone and always respect the ocean.
What has been your best ever day on the water?
I have had so many perfect days out on the water its hard to choose just one! But one of my favourite surf sessions has been In Mexico at a spot called El Rancho, I’ll never forget surfing fun waves and eating tacos on the beach with friends!
You’ve been doing a lot of travelling in the past year – what’s been your favourite experience?
I love every place I go to, but this past year I went to France and I loved seeing Paris and surfing the waves in La Torche. I also achieved second place at the Standup World Tour that really made the trip exciting!
Where do you see yourself in 20 years?
Hopefully I’ll have a successful clothing/bikini company and I’ll still be surfing and doing what I love most!
I’m into SUP and going on vacation, where would you recommend?
If you are a beginner I would recommend Waikiki Beach on Oahu, there are usually fun waves and it’s a great place to start! What’s the most courageous thing you have done in life? Selling our home in Arizona to pursue my surfing career in Hawaii.
OK Vanina let’s finish with something short and snappy…
If you could paddle with anyone in the world dead or alive who would it be?
Pick two celebrities to be your parents
Angelina Jolie and Brad Pit.
Which famous person would you most like to see play you in a film?
My best friend Kaleia Deal (not famous yet but soon to be).
Favourite iPod track?
Way too many to choose from!
The Endless Summer.
If you won $20 million on the lottery, what would you do with it?
Make sure all my friends and family are well taken care of, and invest in real-estate.
Cats or dogs?
Facebook or Twitter?
Facebook, but I’m more of an Instagram kinda girl!
What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
You will always find tortillas.
What’s the biggest creature you’ve seen whilst surfing?
What one luxury item would you take with you on a desert island?
My phone or camera to take pictures.
A bad personality.
If you could be a superhero for one day, what superpower would you choose and why?
A shape shifter, I would have the ability to change my physical form to anything at any time.
If you could be a wild animal – what would it be?
Fill in the blanks: I am ______?
I am fortunate to be able to travel and do what I love.
Thank you Vanina for your time.