You must definitely be aware of the fact that Samantha Bittner is not just an AWT rider, but also the AWT Tour Director. We caught up with Sam during the first AWT event in Santa Cruz, to catch a glimpse of how the American Windsurfing Tour has grown bigger and better year after year.
Started Windsurfing: At 22 years old. I took a beginning windsurfing class during college. I had never even heard of the sport until 2007 when I was on the sailboat racing team and saw that the windsurfing class was offered through the same venue.
Favorite Gear: I’m lucky to ride Naish because they make everything I need for windsurfing. \My primary discipline is wave sailing so I ride the 74-liter Naish Wave Board and I love my medium Chopper!
Home: Haiku, Maui. I grew up in Enumclaw, Washington, which is a small farm town, but have been on Maui for five years and that is where I call home.
Favorite Spot: Kuau/Mama’s just downwind from Ho’okipa.
Favorite Move: Sailing with my friends! My favorite sessions are going out in big waves and making it back to the beach in one piece.
Best Session Ever: Pacasmayo, Peru with Kevin Pritchard after the contest last summer. We sailed from the point, two miles downwind, riding the longest waves of my life and then ended in the town and had some cocktails and a moto taxi ride back up to El Faro Resort with our gear. You can read about the trip in the current issue of Windsport Magazine. My first published article in a magazine ever.
Sam: I took a windsurfing class at Western Washington University and fell in love with the sport. I also was obsessed with the ocean and the idea of surfing. When I first picked up a Windsurfing Magazine and saw all the amazing pictures from Maui of wave sailing, it combined the two sports I loved, so I bought a one-way ticket to Maui by myself. Once there I began windsurfing everyday and realized there were no contests, so I began organizing them. The American Windsurfing Tour has been a hit for the past three years and I am looking forward to continually improving the tour.
Sam: There is so much to prepare before a contest: the sponsors, competitor registrations, beach permits, beach set up, parties, staff, volunteers, judges, website, press releases, event shirts, prizes, and more. I prepare as much as I can before the contest starts so I can concentrate on last minute hick ups. I love competing at the events because I think it encourages more girls to participate as well. I am lucky to usually have a friend be my caddy and rig my gear for me. My mind is not one hundred percent on competing, but I have a lot of fun!
Weendy: What does a typical day of your life on Maui look like?
Sam: First thing is checking emails and answering emails through the morning. I usually have meetings with sponsors or volunteers/staff most days and always make time to go to the beach! Sometimes organizing the events can be quite overwhelming but I make it a priority to go to the beach at least once a day. There are so many people coming and going from Maui that its difficult to get stuck in a rut/routine.
Sam: Those are full of action. Wake up 5 a.m., check emails, prepare for the day, confirm brackets are set for contest. Then head to the beach to be first to relieve the overnight security and check on flags/banners/overall look of the beach. Then checking conditions and meeting with head judge to make a call for the day. Skipper’s meeting, then monitoring the event. I have a great group of volunteers/crew so once heats start for the day, it typically runs itself. When a contest is done for the day there is a mad rush to pick up the beach and make sure a press release is being written with results, video, and photos from the day. Then its party and dinnertime and crash before doing it all again!
Weendy: What do you think is the main reason that there are less girls on tour, as compared to the guys on tour? (Monetary reasons, lack of motivation, girls wanting to travel/be in a group as opposed to boys who like to be more independent… or?)
Sam: I don’t think it is any of those reasons. I look at the beach on a typical day and the ratio of girls to guys windsurfing is the same as how many compete in events. I am impressed with the amount of girls we get on the AWT and always am encouraging more to participate. The question is why don’t more girls windsurf period? Well, maybe because of the amount of upper body strength it takes, but that’s just my guess. It really is a male-dominated sport and that’s the way it is. I enjoy encouraging more girls to participate.
Sam: Growing up in rainy cold Washington I always dreamed of living in a warm place on the ocean. I was always thinking California, but when discovered windsurfing and Maui, it was a dream come true and I just booked a one-way ticket. I’ve been in love with the island ever since and cannot imagine living any place else.
Weendy: What’s your favorite spot on Maui and why?
Sam: For windsurfing, my favorite spot is Kuau. For towns it is a close tie between Paia and Haiku. I love the small town feeling of both places. It’s kind of like Cheers where “everybody knows your name.”
Weendy: We guess you love wave sailing. What do you do when there’s no wind or waves?
Sam: I love surfing! I don’t always feel as confident in bigger waves on my surf board as on my windsurfer but I’m working on that. When the waves are down and the wind is up my favorite activity is stand up paddling downwind from Maliko Gulch to Kanaha. It’s a seven-mile run that takes an hour to two hours. Fun group activity!
Sam: I have thought about that before. I honestly would vacation in Maui. The vacation part for me would be loosing my phone and computer: No work. Just windsurfing and surfing! I have so many great friends. Katie McAnena was just staying with me on Maui for six weeks and we had the time of our lives! We know how to have a lot of fun and we push and encourage each other in the water as well. Maui with no phone or computer with Katie would be my dream windsurfing vacation!