Sarah Thornely of SUPjunkie spoke to Kate Baker on behalf of the GB SUP National Series. Kate is a British paddler living in Australia, who at the time of writing is currently lying 10th in The Paddle League world rankings table.
Credit for all colour photos @_12foto_
Kate, we are guessing you were born in the UK? When did you move to Australia?
I was born and grew up in Milton Keynes. I never intended to move to Australia, I headed over there to visit one of my friends from University on the way to going hiking round New Zealand in December 2012. However, after hiking around New Zealand, I returned to Australia and ended up meeting my now boyfriend and stayed.
How old are you Kate and what do you do for a living?
I am 29 years old, I’m an environmental scientist and currently work for the Queensland government’s environment department. Our team is working on some really exciting projects at the moment in relation to rehabilitation of mines that are at the end of life.
How long have you been paddling? Have you always done other sports/been sporty? Do you SUPsurf?
I have always been involved in and enjoyed sport. From 7-17 I did judo, going all over England with my club competing. Although I enjoyed my degree, my favourite bit about Uni was all the different sports you could do!
I dabbled in some korfball, tennis, triathlon and got into water polo.
I started paddling just under four years ago. My boyfriend paddled when I met him and I got into it from there. I have SUP surfed a handful of times, I am not very good, but I really enjoy it and hopefully will get better with more practise and time. I do enjoy surfing my race board though and pretty much every weekend after my training session I can be found in the surf catching some waves on that.
Are you a sponsored rider and by whom? Can you give us some more information about your board sponsor?
I am not sponsored but I am an international team rider for ONE Stand Up Paddle Boards. I absolutely love the ONE boards. The owners Paul and Angela Jackson and Steve Walker, combined with designer Ben Tardrew have spent years developing and testing prototypes to deliver high quality boards for all occasions. The passion they all have for developing the best boards possible is infectious and their commitment to the brand and the sport is unrivalled.
Are you an ambassador for any other brand?
I am an ambassador athlete for Inspire Health and Fitness. I went in to see a physio there due to a shoulder injury from paddling and then started working with an exercise physiologist to try and work on strengthening the muscles I needed to stop my shoulder pain. Three years on and I am still training there. It is such a friendly and fun environment, everyone is so supportive and I love training and being surrounded by a whole range of abilities and ages, all working towards their own goals. Some of the goals the people training there have are super inspiring.
Inspire has exercise physiologists, physiotherapists and dieticians, all in one place. This allows for integrated support for injury rehab or achieving your sporting goal. I am lucky enough to work with James Nightingale, head of sport science, Flic Moore for physio who does a great job of keeping me together and Sally Baumann head of dietetics.
Do you have a SUP specific trainer or training programme?
The biggest change I made this year was integrating all my training and James (head of sport science) does all my programming, on and off water. Integrating all my training, as well as my diet and physio has made such a difference and I am incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to work with James and all the Inspire team.
As for my paddling technique, that is all down to my boyfriend. He has taught me everything I know and worked tirelessly over the years on helping me refine my technique, iron out inefficiencies and work on trying new things to make me faster.
Do you have a healthy diet?
I enjoy healthy food, but my major downfall is my sweet tooth. I would skip savoury and go straight to dessert every meal if I could!
I work with Sally for my dietetics. When training for a race, we sit down with my training program for the month and work out my diet. I have learnt so much from working with Sally and wish I had had access to her through my years of sport when I was younger!
Have you ever raced in the UK? Have you thought about racing here? Do you know about the GB SUP National Series?
I haven’t raced in the UK. I do know about many of the races that go on in the UK, including the GB SUP National Series and follow some of the groups on facebook. If teleportation comes about in the next few years I would love to pop over for the evening and race and then go out to dinner with my family and friends!
Where have you competed around the world? Do you compete in a specific series i.e. ISA/ICF/APP/PPG? Were you aware of the APP Race in London and did you see that Ginnie Odetayo and Ryan James competed in the PPG this last weekend?
Working full time and not being sponsored means I generally choose one international race a year to train and focus on. I have competed in Japan, Hood River, Hong Kong and this year did three races in Europe.
I have always wanted to represent GB at ISA and contacted the GB organisers many times over the years. Last year I did get told when the qualifying races were, but I already had other overseas commitments and a trip to the UK to qualify and then a trip to Denmark to compete, all self funded, was just more than I could afford unfortunately. Hopefully I will have a chance in future years though.
I did see that Ginnie Odetayo and Ryan James competed in the PPG this last weekend. Ginnie put on a cracking performance all weekend. It was super exciting to see some fellow GB paddlers out there in the big international races. Great work guys!
Are you aware of other UK paddlers?
I know of Marie as she has represented GB many times at the ISA and major international races, even competing in Western Australia a few years ago. I also met some of the Jersey crew this year when I was in Europe. It was great to meet some fellow GB paddlers in person. I follow some others on Instagram as well. I always find it very inspiring, seeing from their social media posts that they still go out a train when it is cold and unfavourable weather!
You paddle for Great Britain and are currently 10th in the Paddle League World rankings – that is an incredible achievement bearing in mind you have not competed in many events on that list?
I just try and do my best in all the races that I go to. Most years I only get two or three races that count on the rankings, but this year, going to Europe and doing some of the majors, combined with a few local ones, I have managed to get to five races that count.
Do you have paddlers whom you look up to/admire or who have been influential to you?
We spend our weekends on the Gold Coast, home to quite a few amazing paddlers, past and present. I am incredibly lucky to be able to train alongside some of these amazing paddlers. Paddlers who have been especially influential for me are Angela and Paul Jackson and Steve Walker. I would not be where I am today without their guidance and support, they have spent a lot of time and energy in helping my paddling as well as inviting me to overseas races with them.
What has been your most positive moment in your SUP career?
There are so many moments, it’s hard to choose. Coming fifth in the stacked international field in the Bilboa EuroTour race this summer was a massive highlight for me. I exceeded my own expectations of where I would place by a fair amount and It was made even more special because my dad and step mum were in the crowd cheering me on, and it’s the first time they have ever seen me race.