Queen of the SUP wins her third world title in China
SURF SCENE with ANDREW McKINNON
THE day before Stephanie Gilmore claimed her seventh world title, Tugun's Shakira Westdorp won her third consecutive SUP (stand-up paddle board) world women's title at Hainan, China.
Despite an early stumble in round two, the "Shak attack” battled back through five repechage rounds to qualify for the final and win her third title.
It all began back in 2006, thanks to Gold Coast lifeguard Jamie Mitchell and James Watson.
"They had been to Hawaii, had a go and raved about it,” Westdorp said.
"They made a 12-inch aircraft carrier, that took two of us to lug it down the beach and we would take turns and spend hours out there. It was fun at Currumbin Alley.”
Originally from Manly, Sydney, the family moved to the Tweed Coast when Westdorp was young to have a better life by the beach, which her parents loved, and her dad was an avid surfer.
Shakira has travelled extensively to compete and free surf in some of the dreamiest locations such as the Maldives, Nias, Hawaii, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Canary Islands and Teahupoo.
Westdorp is fearless, riding 15-18ft waves at Hawaii's Waimea Bay and a 15ft day at Fiji's Cloudbreak.
"It can be a bit nerve-racking at times but it's so exhilarating dropping into a bomb and flying down the face of a mountain,” she said.
"The 20ft-plus stuff though is next level. I'll leave that to the experts.”
She survived a scary wipe-out at Teahupoo earlier this year: "My bikini got ripped off and I got washed into the lagoon,” she said.
But her worst wipeout was at Waimea Bay when nose diving on the take-off: "I got pushed super deep and just came up before the next wave hit, when I dived under again, I came up seeing stars and my body copped a flogging”.
But her worst sporting injury was on land, breaking a leg on her skateboard.
Westdorp is an all-round water woman, who surfs shortboards probably more than her SUPs,
"I love riding twinnies at the points and feeling the difference in that type of surfing,” she said.
But riding SUPs in the ocean is totally different than flat water.
"The ocean is more difficult with water moving in all different directions, with wind, white-water, swells,” Westdorp said.
"Equipment has changed heaps.
"Boards are now specially made for all types of condition - performance surfing, fun surfing, racing, flat water, fishing, rapids, you name it.
"For me it's all about the performance SUPs.”
Her first SUP was a 12-foot tanker weighing 20kg, but she now rides a 7.0 surfboard shape weighing only 2kg.
Westdorp has always been highly motivated from her early nipper days and has a sticker on her board saying "second place is the first loser”.
Her final words of advice: "Get out there and give it a go, be respectful to others and have fun”.