The Adventures of Katie McAnena
Taking a year out to travel to all of the best wavesailing spots in the world, is the dream for many. Soaking up the sun, in the company of the world’s best and taking your waveriding to a whole new level. You may think this lifestyle is only for the professional riders, who don’t have ‘proper’ jobs and have managed to make a living from the sport they love, but this is not the case.
Katie McAnena is a doctor by profession, working hard and saving her well earned pennies for the trip of a lifetime. Boardseeker will follow Katie all year as she takes a break from work and visits some of the most incredible wavesailing spots known to man.
Photos: Derek Mangan. Katie sailing shot courtesy of AWT.
First up Katie heads to PWA Tenerife and gets to know Godzilla, before travelling out to South America.
Hola amigos! Que tal? Una cerveza? Una mas? .......... and that's about the extent of the Spanish I have accumulated since I started my wee adventures. Gets me by most places, well that and a whole heap of hand signalling and speaking very loud English with a Spanish accent hoping it will substitute for my complete ignorance when it comes to articulating myself. Unfortunately, my glorious catholic Irish education imparted on me a particularly useless knowledge of French, which would be helpful if I were in France.
And so I embarked on my Paddy Wagon Windsurf extravaganza about 6 weeks ago, having finished a year working as an intern doctor at home in Ireland. Pretty gruelling, 70-80 hours a week type grind, 34 hour shifts etc, a real baptism of fire. But I survived......having probably windsurfed less than a dozen times in 12 months and now I have begun a year of windsurfing, competing, travelling and general adventuring. Oh and learning Spanish, naturally! Ha!
My travels began with a wee trip to the dusty, brown, windy rock that is Tenerife, to take part in my first PWA wave contest. Not going to say too much about it, mostly because I don't have any pictures from there, which may be a blessing, as I sailed like a kook and ended up making repeated love to a rock called Godzilla. Which then led to me being nicknamed Katie "Godzilla" McAnena. My mum heard this on the live webcast as Ben Proffitt coined the term and afterwards she was like, "Katie I'm not sure whether he meant it as a compliment or an insult"...... I assured her it was neither, just pure fact.
And so I left Tenerife and began the real version of the PWA...... The 'Paddy Windsurfing Adventure' Tour, woohoo!! The main aim of my year was to travel to places with sick waves, port or starboard tack, where I could experience different cultures and meet heaps of like minded people on the hunt for the same thing. Here's where the beautiful Sam Bittner, aka Miss AWT (American Windsurf Tour) comes in. I've known Sam for years, having lived with her on Maui and if any of you know her you'll know her enthusiasm, spirit and elated mood are infectious and completely endearing. I had seen coverage of the AWT from last year and when Sam told me about the events in San Carlos Baja and Pacasmayo Peru I was in, 100%!
Getting from Dublin to Baja then Baja to Peru and home again is quite the logistical nightmare. I reckon most of us windsurfers could moonlight as travel agents if we needed, because we all know the headaches involved in booking flights, to awkward places, with gear, and for cheap......all part of the adventure, or at least that's what I told my credit card company when they called to say some lunatic was booking flights to the back arse of nowhere and I was being robbed..... Nope Mr. Mastercard, that was all me.
I arrived in San Diego and met the 20 or so road tripping AWT crew who were cruising with me to Baja. We were a fairly motley crew, ageing from 15 to 40s, but the main difference was some of us were staying in Solosports and some were camping. As all road trip stories go......it was looooong. The usual 8 hour trip took 16 hours, stopping for basic supplies in Walmart and Costco and muchos muchos tacos. I could write a whole other article on my new found love for tacos, tacos and Pacificos, the local cerveza. Especially when they come in supersize bottles called Ballenas..... Which means whale in spanish (see I'm learning!), and by the rate I tucked into tacos and Ballenas while I was there the nickname Godzilla may actually start becoming more appropriate, sigh.
Skip 16 hours down the road with the usual roadtrip banter/multiple pee stops and at midnight we arrived at Punta San Carlos Baja, Mexico.
It's a pilgrimage most windsurfers have made and now I know why, I am converted to the church of SoloSports!! Solosports is run by the legends that are Kevin Trejo and Cathy, along with an incredible staff of Clarke 'El Chopotle', Joey and all the local men and women who make sure you live like kings during your stay. The food is completely epic, all cooked by local people and is all you can eat, all day long, and so is the beer. Ah the beer. Stocked in a bloody massive cooler, ice cold and there all day......well except when there's no wind, those days saw Kevin's pot o' gold stocks of delicious golden nectar disappear at a pretty speedy rate....... Nothing to do with the Paddy in camp, I blame the German!!
I should probably mention the Windsurfing at some stage, although the tacos are never far from my mind......ha! Punta San Carlos is a beautiful place, with the backdrop of mountainous Mexican Badlands (perfect for dirt biking if you're into that madness and Solosports provide the bikes, another perk!). There is a main break right in front of camp, with a heavy right point break called La Bombora which can link into the main wave and give you one of the funnest, longest rights ever. Windsurfing here is like Fischer Price Sailing, I don't mean that to take away from the wave but everyone from beginner wavesailor to pro can do something on it, whether it's a little wiggle wiggle wiggle (ala me), or goiter (ala Ezzy), or Taka (ala Browzhino) you feel like a hero when you're done, whatever your level.
Then there’s La Punta, downwind which ultimately links in with Chilli Bowl and on its day, I've been told, is one of the sickest rights in the world. For me we had it pretty darn good while I was there, maybe overhead sometimes but the guys were reminiscing about days when it fires mast high and I can only imagine how sick that would be. I sailed my 74L custom Moo quad board and either my 4.2 or 4.8 Simmer Blacktips, beauty combo!
As for the contest, epic organisation and altogether mighty Craic! Sponsored by Quatro and with head judge Matt Pritchard the event managed to squeeze in a single for pros, Levi winning, a double for amateurs, and millions of heats for the ladies, masters, juniors and grand masters. At night I'd typically get lost in a Baja Fog.....or 2, a little shot of tequila and lime in a Pacifico bottle, heaven!
After sailing, SUPing, surfing and partying my little Irish heart out it was time to go. I came 2nd in the ladies, behind the beautiful 15 year old Fiona Wylde, she absolutely rips and is possibly the most naturally talented windsurfer I've ever seen, guy or girl, busting out big aerials on the last day and the whole time beaming smiling with an energy level that'd power a small town, a proper little Duracell Bunny she is!!
And now for the road trip back to San diego...... Hahahahaha!! We bust our fuel pump 30kms into a 60km dirt track, splendid! Our 'local' guide (well might as well be local), Wyatt Miller was a man with a plan. So while he mixed up a cocktail of Dingstick, Fiberglass, Beer, Sweat and Toilet Paper and went at fixing the pump with the other boys, the girls let the desert heat, boredom and lack of food and water get to our heads and faffed around playing dress up and karaoke. Good times. Again, looooooong story short, 7 of the crew made their flights, while we hung out with some ingenious, super thrifty Mexicans who patched up the rental car and off we went. Then Josh, Wyatt and I had a sneaky 2 day stopover in Ensenada, (about 1 hour south of Tiajuana) for a wee 48 hour fiesta..... Well deserved, we rewarded ourselves with muchos Margaritas from Hussongs with a side of, yup, tacos baby!!
Many thanks to all the staff at Solosports, all the AWT crew, Quatro, my sponsors Moo Custom Boards, Simmer Sails and Huku Balance Boards and all my new amigos.
- For more on travelling to Baja check out the Sportif website www.sportif.travel
- To find out about the America Windsurfing Tour head to americanwindsurfingtour.com
Next month Katie will be reporting from her adventures in Peru.