If the Oceans of the World had to choose a standup paddler to hand a trident and send into battle, it’s be Catherine. From water quality to public water access, to reducing plastics, Cat is EVERYWHERE and she’s fighting. She doesn’t back down. She’s on the right side of the issues and quite honestly, without people like Catherine who are willing to stick their neck out there, to shine light on the leprous underbellies of politics and pollution, we’d be in a perpetual red tide, walking from plastic jug to styrofoam cooler—all while getting ticketed for being too close to shore and for being a danger on our rocketship-fast SUPs to rented personal watercrafts as they blast waverunners in and out of swim zones. And at the same time as she’s fighting for our water quality, she’s an ambassador for the sport and the water, inviting people to see and enjoy our resources, encouraging them in turn, to protect them.
Catherine, YOU INSPIRE US! —The Mullet
What are you paddling?
I mainly paddle for recreation these days. I have a variety of BOGA boards from racing to surf to inflatable to recreation. When racing, I’m on a 12’6, my favorite surf SUP is a 8’2″ BOGA Hipster, and my favorite rec board is my 11’6 BOGA El Rey.
Photo of your board, ski, OC, paddle
What other watercrafts do you paddle/enjoy?
Where is your favorite place to paddle?
My absolute favorite place to paddle is O’ahu. I love surfing the gentle long rides in Waikiki, and I love paddling the west side of O’ahu with the spinner dolphins. The green mountains on O’ahu are breathtaking, and at the beach, there are rainbows and sea turtles every day. Hawaiians respect and appreciate the ocean and everyone can enjoy their preferred method of water recreation. I have been lucky enough to spend a month at a time in Hawai’i, and hope to settle down there one day. I’ve enjoyed races there, like Da Hui’s 4th of July race, and paddled some really fun downwinders.
Here are some reasons why I love O’ahu:
Here where I live in Florida, I mostly paddle at my home beach (Hollywood Beach) because it’s just one mile from my house. I love when my family (husband and 2 boys) come to paddle with me. On offshore winds, it’s so flat and clear, and you can snorkel off of your board. Sometimes I paddle with manatees and manta rays. It’s beautiful.
What is your favorite event and why?
This past year, my favorite event was the Red Bull Privateers race near Marco Island, Florida. This race was so fun because it was a 3 day event on an otherwise deserted island. I love camping, and was able to camp on the island for the 3 days and paddle to the Cape Romano Dome Houses. (The Dome Houses are a complex of stilted concrete igloos slowly being reclaimed by the sea). The race organizers can help transport your board and belongings to the island. On the 2nd day, your team of 4 people get a treasure map, and you quickly decide with your team how you will collect 15 coins hidden around the islands in 15 different treasure boxes. Your team of 4 must be back on the finish line all together with all of the 15 coins in order to finish. I was even able to paddle with dolphins on the race course. In the evening, the race directors brought bands to the island, and the music made it a great party. I would definitely do it again. I hadn’t been racing much at all the past year, but I had such a fantastic time, and I’m glad I went.
If you’re thinking about racing in Florida, I would also suggest the Lazy Dog Key West Classic. It’s a challenging 12 mile race, and the Lazy Dogs do such a phenomenal job every year organizing it. Key West is a fun place to hang out, so celebrating after the race is always a good time.
What is your favorite paddling moment and why?
What a tough question. I have had so many great paddling moments, from triumphs with racing (finally making the podium for the elite race at Key West Classic) to encounters with wildlife. Lately, I haven’t been racing, just floating around and looking for marine life.
One of my favorite days paddling was on the west side of O’ahu. A group of spinner dolphins swam with me for about 2 hours. It was like a dream.
My favorite days here in Broward County are days that I encounter giant manta rays.
Do you have a bucket list event?
I would love to challenge myself with some type of long downwinder or crossing, preferably somewhere warm and beautiful with clear water. Next year, I’m thinking about doing the Painkiller Cup in the Virgin Islands. I also hear that the 8 mile Maliko Run on Maui is a must-do downwinder, so I’d love to try that one day. After doing downwind races in Hawai’i, it was hard to come back to flat water and do really hot races with lots of boring laps in Florida. I prefer a race that feels more like an adventure. The messiest races in Florida were the most memorable, and you really felt like you accomplished something at the end. I also love races with scenery. One year, I did the Race the Lake of the Sky in Lake Tahoe, and it was my first time at Lake Tahoe. I believe it was about 14 miles, and it was incredibly beautiful. Some paddle travel destinations on my list would be Tahiti, Fiji, Indonesia, and the Maldives. I’d also love to paddle with some whale sharks and orcas. My request to race directors would be to organize events that feel like a team travel adventure.
What are you grateful for?
I am so grateful all the time that I started paddling and that I was lucky enough to be sponsored by BOGA Paddleboards. Dave and Trish at BOGA changed my life. SUP gives me peace and joy, and my family has had so many fun bonding experiences on the water. I would never have characterized myself as an athlete before I started SUP racing, and I became so much more healthy and strong because of it. It also sparked a desire to save the waters where I paddle. I would end up cleaning so much plastic out of the water when I paddled. I would have a mountain of trash on my board, and I felt the need to do something about it.
I started volunteering for Surfrider Foundation, becoming so active in my chapter that I served as Chair for 2 years. I started an Ocean Friendly Restaurants program in Broward, a Blue Water Task Force water testing program, hosted cleanups and education events, and helped to pass half a dozen plastics ordinances in Broward County.
I travel to Tallahassee for Oceans and Coasts Advocacy Day to speak with our elected officials about issues affecting our waters and the access to our waters. I was doing so much to fight plastic pollution and offshore drilling that I left my job teaching for the Broward County school system and got a job as a Campaign Organizer for Oceana, the world’s largest international nonprofit ocean conservation organization dedicated solely to protecting the world’s oceans. I work to fight the federal proposed offshore drilling plan, work to pass a federal ban on the sale and trade of shark fins, help protect our nation’s fishery laws, and work to reduce plastic. I feel so lucky that I get to fight for the waters where I paddle. Every time I paddle and see a manatee or a manta ray or a dolphin, it gives me even more motivation to protect our oceans. Everything happens for a reason, and getting hooked on stand up paddling led me to this career in ocean conservation with Oceana. Because I have two children, Bodhi and Jack, ages 18 and 10, it’s very important to me to give healthy oceans and a healthy planet to our future generations.
Advice or tips for paddlers?
I urge all people involved in water recreation to help join the fight to protect the waters where you paddle. This involves a combination of personal responsibility and also advocacy for policy change. Ask your local chamber of commerce and your city to pass a resolution opposing offshore drilling.
If you own an east coast business that would be affected by offshore drilling, join: BAPAC (Business Alliance for Protecting the Atlantic Coast). https://protectingtheatlanticcoast.org/
Paddle businesses on the Gulf Coast can join: GCBC (Gulf Coast Business Coalition). http://www.protectthegulfcoast.org/
Businesses on the Pacific Coast can join: BAPPC (Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast). https://defendthepacific.org/about/
I also urge paddlers to get more people into paddling. A whole new world opens up for people when they become connected to the water. I personally believe that it is good for physical health, mental well being, and helps people develop a connection with nature.
If there are places near you that don’t allow paddling, fight for it. I am currently working with my city to open up more of the beach to stand up paddling. I recently took my mayor for a paddle and he loved it.
My last piece of advice is along the lines of “stop to smell the roses” every now and then. Don’t be so obsessed with workouts and training and data on every single paddle. Take the time to look down in the water, jump in, swim with a sea turtle, notice the sea stars.
Do you have a favorite charity?
You can find out more about our offshore drilling campaign here:
Grassroots Opposition to Offshore Drilling and Exploration in the Atlantic Ocean and off Florida’s Gulf Coast
If you are a business owner that would like to sign our offshore drilling petition on behalf of your business, the form is here: www.oceana.org/signon
Oceana’s facebook page is here: https://www.facebook.com/oceana/
You can follow my campaign to open up Hollywood Beach to more SUP here:
You can follow Catherine on Instagram here: @flipflops365
Thank you! Aloha