By Kyveli Sophia
“I think of a waterwoman as someone who is passionate about being on and in the ocean. She engages in a variety of water sports and is knowledgeable and confident in a range of conditions. She gets out there regardless because she doesn’t want to miss a day in the water. She has a deep respect for and love of the ocean and that passion pretty much shapes who she is.”
Annie Reickert was not necessarily referring to herself when she gave this answer after we asked how she would define a waterwoman. Most likely, the humble 17-year-old was picturing the multifaceted oceanic talents who inspire her daily, particularly two legends of women on the water she shares her home island of Maui with, Paige Alms and Andrea Moller. But her description is exactly how most people would refer to the Pukalani native, whose prowess for watercraft spans boards of all lengths, with or without paddles, cutting through the water or flying over it with the help of a foil. You can catch her charging monstrous oversized surf on classic guns, or maximizing flat days on the latest foil technology. Hers is a name that’s on the lips of many across all corners of the surf industry, and in the history books: Annie Starr Reickert became the first woman to ever foil across the 26-mile Ka’iwi Channel that separates Molokai and O’ahu last year at just 16 years old. And judging from the way she speaks about the sports she loves and the future of waterwomen everywhere, we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. (Case in point: just before this printing Reickert ticked “Charge XXL Jaws” off her bucket list when she paddled out with Paige Alms during an early January swell.)
Do you remember your first wave? How and when did you start surfing?
I started surfing when I was about 3 years old on the front of my parents’ boards. Most weekends we headed to Puamana Beach Park on the west side of Maui. I would spend hours catching waves and had to be dragged from the water when it was time to leave. Although I don’t remember my first wave specifically, I remember feeling butterflies every time we pulled into the beach park excited for a day in the surf. My first board was a bright yellow old beater called the Banana. I loved that board!
How old were you when you knew you wanted to be a waterwoman?
It wasn’t really a conscious decision to become a waterwoman, but over time I started trying out different water sports, mostly so that I could do something on the water regardless of the conditions. Before I knew it, I was heading to the beach with three or four options loaded in the truck — foil surf board, SUP race board, short board — so I could get in the water no matter what!
What is your preferred watercraft?
I honestly don’t know if I can choose a favorite watercraft because I enjoy them all so much in different conditions! If the wind’s blowing, I’ll downwind on either my 5’8 SUP foil board or 14’ race SUP. When the waves are big, I’ll use my 9’4” gun. But I also spend a lot of time on my shortboard — I love my 4’3 foil surf board, and my SUP surfboard.
Who was your first sponsor? How old were you and how did it feel when they approached you?
My first sponsor was Naish. I used to see Robby Naish in the lineup and at school because his daughter went to school with me. At that time, I was using a huge SUP board that was way too big for me. Robby created a line of high performance SUP surf boards for keiki and offered me one. I remember the day I got it and I slept with it that night. I was beyond excited! It’s still a highlight moment for me as it was the beginning of my path to becoming a waterwoman.
Who are all your current sponsors?
NSP, The Hydrofoil Company, Pakaloha, MFC, Maui Jim, and Honolulu Surf Company.
Who do you look up to in surfing, SUP, and other water activities and why?
I’d have to say that Kai Lenny is the gold standard for watermen/multi-water sport athlete! He’s one of the most talented athletes in the world and happens to do all of the sports that I love. He pushes boundaries in everything he does and inspires others along the way — me included! There are also so many amazing and inspiring waterwomen these days. I’m so fortunate to live on Maui where I’m surrounded by them. Two of my biggest heroes are Paige Alms and Andrea Moller. They’ve inspired me to surf big waves and set my sights on the WSL Big Wave Tour.
How do you like to train and stay fit for water sports?
I’m extremely lucky to work with an amazing trainer, Sam Campbell of Deep Relief. She trains big wave surfers including Ian Walsh and Paige Alms and other watermen/women. We do functional strength training and activation workouts to prepare us for doing what we love. I also run several times a week and train at altitude on Haleakala.
Where are your favorite surf spots at home?
My home surf spot is Ho’okipa. Currently, my favorite surf spot is Outer Sprecks, an outer reef break off Maui’s North Shore. In the winter months, the waves get big and fun and I’m often out there with only a few friends.
What makes Maui such a special place to live?
The sights, the sounds, the smells…just about everything! The physical beauty of Maui takes my breath away almost daily. And I can literally do every water sport that I want to do — in my own backyard. There’s no place I’d rather live. Thanks Mom and Dad!
Have you ever been faced with a scary challenge while surfing? And how did you overcome it?
Not yet! But I know that being calm and mindful is key.
What recent achievements have been most meaningful to you and why?
In July 2018 during the M2O channel crossing, I became the first female to cross the Ka’iwi Channel on my SUP foil. The power that body of water holds is incredible and being able to introduce such an innovative sport into that race was special to say the least. Although I’ve competed in Hawaiian channel crossings before on my 14ft SUP, I will remember this specific race for years to come. The sport of downwind foiling is so new and I can’t wait to see its progression over the next few years. It was an amazing experience to fly 32 miles from Molokai to O’ahu. It was an honor to take part in this foil race and to pave the way for more women to come! I also paddled 25 miles around Manhattan in August for the SEAPaddle NYC, a fundraiser for autism charities that introduce kids to the ocean. It was an incredible event!
Where do you go to school and what career would you be interested in pursuing if you weren’t an athlete?
I’m enrolled in an online high school. My favorite subject is Science and I am really interested in doing something with conservation and marine biology one day.
Where are your favorite places that you’ve traveled to, and where is somewhere you’re dying to visit someday?
I’ve gone to some amazing places the last few years. I especially liked Japan, Fiji, Nicaragua, and France. As far as places I’d like to visit, I want to go to the “three M’s:” the Marshalls, Mentawais, and Maldives!
What are your favorite breaks outside of Hawaii?
Colorados in Nicaragua and Swimming Pools in Fiji.
What always makes you smile?
My pets always make me smile — Lulu my three-legged dog and Oscar my cat are the best! I also smile whenever I come home from a trip — coming back to Maui always puts a huge smile on my face regardless of where I’ve been.
What are your goals in water sports?
I want to continue to improve in all the sports I currently do and become the ultimate waterwoman.
What do you wish for the future generations of surfer girls?
I want the ocean to be the place where we all feel empowered, whether we’re riding giants or waist-high surf. I want future generations of female surfers to feel strong and capable, and continue to push the limits of what’s possible.