Annabel Anderson riding atop the SUP wave

Annabel Anderson
Annabel Anderson; photo by Georgia Schofield

New Zealand native Annabel Anderson recently won the “Double Double” of standup paddleboard racing, taking back-to-back Rainbow Sandals Battle of the Paddle elite and distance races in 2012 and 2013. “All I was concentrating on was each race as it was happening,” she says. “It was not until later that someone announced I’d done something that had not been done before.” Anderson then went on to win back-to-back World Series Championships, securing the “Double Double, Double Double” for the sport. We caught up with Anderson to see what she’s been up to since then.

How did you get to the top of this emerging sport?  

Annabel Anderson
Annabel Anderson; photo by Distressed Mullet

I traveled to many places in the world in 2011 as part of a sabbatical. I used events to set the itinerary for my journey through Europe, Hawaii, North America, and Australasia. By the end of the year, I was making solid podium results at major events. The year 2012 would be my breakthrough where I put everything I learned the previous year into action and came out on top (to the surprise of myself and everyone else).

You rip—and are ripped. Do you cross-train outside of paddling? Tell us how!

Paddling trains me for things off the water and my cross training benefits my ability to do things on the water. It’s a really important part of my preparation and something I really enjoy as it adds a lot of variety into my routine. I run, do circuits, ride bikes, and do yoga. It all changes depending what time of the year it is, where I am, and what I have access to. It may be a kid’s playground; it may be the beach; it could be a gym.

Do you stick to a strict diet? If so, what do you splurge on?

I try to maintain a pretty constant approach to diet—If anything is too extreme or requires too much discipline, it would be very hard to stick to with my travel schedule. My main objective is to eat for health and performance. I have had major troubles with IBS and it’s something I’ve learned to manage through diet. My diet is based around avoiding inflammatory foods and eating “cleanly,” including lots of good quality fats, proteins, and leafy greens. Sometimes I have to improvise and take jars of “greens” powder on the road, but I know that if I eat this way, my body loves me for it and I can ask a lot more of it in training and competition. As for splurging, a couple of spoonfuls of desert to celebrate with friends is never going to hurt, so it’s about keeping it all in balance and enjoying important moments.

Annabel Anderson
Annabel Anderson on the podium; photo by Erik Nordskog

What’s the future of women in SUP?

The future of women’s SUP is really exciting. From a participation level, we know that the number of women out enjoying our sport is at least 50/50, if not a little higher. Female-specific products are being designed, from hardware to soft goods, and girls are buying their own gear, rather than being reliant on their husbands, brothers, or boyfriends. On the performance side, it’s the women who have really made the big charge in 2013. People such as myself who have won events outright over male counterparts are demonstrating women’s athleticism. Seeing their role models duking it out with the boys and charging waves with them is inspiring the younger generation of girls.

Annabel Anderson
Annabel Anderson; photo by Xavier Wallach

What other women athletes inspire you? Why?

The women who inspire me most are your everyday “super moms.” They’re managing families, holding down jobs, running households, and training to achieve their personal goals, whether that’s starting to run again, competing in a triathlon, doing an ocean swim, or paddling into their first wave. How they manage to fit everything into their day continues to inspire me, and if I can be half the person these women are I’ll be a happy person!

You’ve traveled the world. What is your favorite place to SUP and why?

My favorite place to SUP is Tahiti. It’s paradise in every sense—the water, the people, the culture. It’s got it all: amazing waves, beautiful lagoons, and open ocean. It’s by far my No. 1 destination.

Picture your perfect outdoor day. Take us from morning to night.

A perfect day starts with a dawn surf at an un-crowded break with good friends. We’ll catch the odd “party wave” together and leave the water feeling energized and ready for the day ahead. With an appetite worked up, we’ll refuel on local delicacies—fruit or fresh raw fish overlooking the ocean. A bit of rest to recharge the body and we’ll be out for session number two. Later on in the afternoon the wind has started to build and we’ll hunt ocean swells to surf the white caps with the wind howling at our backs. If we’ve got any energy left it’s a toss up between another session in the waves or running a hilly trail to see the sun setting on the horizon before finally celebrating the day around a fire and dropping off to sleep to do it all over again the next day.

What does paddling have to teach the world?

The biggest thing paddling has to teach the world is to care for the ocean around us. When you’re on the water, you’re experiencing first-hand the impact that the human race is having on the planet, especially the ocean. With more people getting on the water and seeing the impact of pollution in our coastal and inland waterways they’ll hopefully make better choices about using cleaner products, recycling, and picking up rubbish if they see it. It’s the little things that we can each affect daily that will help make a difference.

Annabel Anderson
Annabel Anderson; photo by Ben Thouard

You are a world champion. Where do you go from here?  

The results of the past two years are the things that dreams are made of. I never expected it when I set out on this journey and it’s what I have experienced and am learning along the way that keeps me coming back for more. I’m looking forward to spending some time with friends and family, challenging myself to try new things, and resetting the goals I’ll work toward both on a performance and personal level. Results are simply moments on a much bigger journey, and there’s a lot that I can learn from the journey of life to come that keeps me hungry.

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