Movin' and Goovin' With @itskiristen. We profile one of our favorite SUP ambassadors.
Let’s start this interview by showcasing the fact that you are a very active woman with knowledge and skill across a variety of athletic activities. Can you give us a rundown of the fitness activities you participate in? How do the activities complement each other? How do they satisfy different needs for you?I enjoy paddleboarding, Kitesurfing, longboarding, snowboarding, surfing, wakeboarding, strength/weight training, yoga, spinning and the occasional run. The yoga increases my ability to perform in all of these activities: from the balance, the body control, breath work. The strength training and the cardio increase my endurance and allow me to engage in these activities longer. Who doesn’t love a longer session? These activities satisfy the needs to move my body and really focus and get a thrill but they also can help me to chill out and practice mindfulness. There is something for any condition and any mood!
I’ve been interested in your journey both as an athlete and, more tangibly, to your current place of residence. Can you tell us where you currently are and what you are doing? How did you end up there?
I’m currently living in the Cayman Islands. I have been here for 10 years. I started visiting the island for vacation when I lived in Florida as it’s an easy 1 hour flight to get here. After about 5 trips and enjoying the lifestyle that the island offers, I realized it was where I wanted to be. From there, I left the mortgage banking industry and made the move. When I first moved here, I started working at a SUP/Kite/Surf shop. After 3 years there, I started my own business; Vitamin Sea Cayman Islands where I am teaching paddling and doing yoga on almost a daily basis.The company that specializes in wellness on water. We offer PaddleFit, Paddle Yoga, Intro to Paddle classes, Full Moon Paddles and more.
What does an average day look like for you in the Cayman Islands?
An average day consists of me waking up and heading to the beach to check conditions before my classes. If everything looks good for flat water paddling, I will usually head out to teach some SUP yoga. Sometimes there are up to 5 classes in a day, mixed between land and water based yoga, private coaching and more. On the lighter days, depending on the weather I try my best to enjoy most of my time outside. With the ever changing weather conditions, the island becomes a playground. It gives me the option to go for a long distance downwind paddle, paddle surf, kitesurfing or a chilled out sunset paddle.
How has your life been/continue to be affected since the pandemic?
When the pandemic began, the borders were closed, and we went into a lockdown with a curfew. I immediately began to teach yoga on zoom in my living room. I was fortunate enough to work with clients in Cayman, the UK and all the way out to Singapore. I also collaborated with people within my genre on Instagram where we chatted mental health and I taught a short yoga session afterwards. I did Instagram lives with large yoga companies and started working for an on demand fitness app. Once we were allowed to go back to the beach and paddle, I started renting boards and offering private sessions. From there more locals started to join for classes. Almost every class I hold is outdoors, so people felt safer in those times.
At this time we are still being affected. Not all of the airlines that used to fly here are back yet; but they plan to be back soon. With the surges happening in other countries, we are seeing lots of flight cancellations which in turn trickle down to my company as a result. There are also still lots of rules to follow before and during the trip which has also affected people’s decision to visit. We are slowly seeing the tourists trickle back in however and it has been amazing to see new faces in my classes!
As an Instructor, you see many people who have never paddled for experience paddleboarding for the first time. Can you explain what that experience is like for them and you? I often see clients walk in with preconceived notions, fear and anxiety before the lesson even begins. It is up to me as an instructor to create a safe space for them to help ease those feelings. That means making sure that the conditions are great for beginners, listening to their needs, and making sure they understand exactly what they are getting into by being clear with my instruction. Before we hit the water we talk equipment, safety, paddle technique, turns, and how to fall so they have a clearer vision. When we get into the water, we put it all together, but at the client’s pace. Seeing them light up after they realize that they can stand and paddle means so much to me. It’s a new found confidence that they never knew they had. As an instructor it is extremely gratifying.
Do you have goals, SUP-related or other for the upcoming year?
I’d love to do more collaborations to increase awareness of the sport, adventure travel, collaborate on yoga festivals, and start to plan some retreats.
Tell me about your photography/modeling. You’ve been sharing some very inspirational content lately on your social channel.
I’ve been involved in modeling since I was a teenager but I really enjoy the other side of the camera as well. If I’m not working with a professional photographer, I will set up my camera and work with friends who want to practice shooting. Then I will handle all of the post processing and edits. It’s so much fun bringing a photo to life and using that to market my business or inspire people to try SUP on their journey.
If you could take your SUP to any place in the world to paddle where would it be?
Iceland - Bucket list paddle is Under the Northern lights.
Who do you look to for inspiration in the SUP world? Who in your opinion is the best paddler to ever paddle? I look up to Kai Lenny for the fact that he is such an all-around waterman; from Nazare to a mellow wave under a kite he is always pushing himself to go bigger and bigger. I also have always been a fan of Candice Appleby. I remember seeing her back in the BOP days and her paddle skills, speed and wave riding were always amazing.
Ok,let’s wrap up by sharing your favorite Surftech stand-up paddleboards and why?
For all around/touring - Surftech Chameleon 11’4. This board is light and super durable and can paddle almost any body of water. It’s stable enough for SUP yoga, but also so much fun in mellow surf. It’s the perfect board for adventure!
For speed: Bark x Surftech Vapor Ghost Carbon 12’6 x 26. I love how light and fast this board is. As a race board it is amazing for long long distance and speed.
SUP Yoga - Surftech Lido - The board for literally anyone, beginner or advanced. This board provides so much stability for Sup Yoga and recreational paddling. This is the board that I shoot on the most and also have in my rental fleet. I love going for a chill sunset paddle or snorkel off of these boards.