Entering her Waikiki apartment the afternoon of the interview, I am greeted with the customary kiss on the cheek and huge welcoming hug. Immediately, the intensity and energy radiating from her muscular 5’9” frame is contagious… electric.
A subtle hint of Hawaiian ‘pigeon’ comes through in her voice, an accent this SoCal native has acquired after seven years of living on Oahu. A recent graduate from the University of Hawaii, where she specialized in tropical plants and soil science, I am impressed that she stayed out of the ocean long enough to go to school.
When we hit the water to paddle together I wanted to check this gifted ocean athlete for gills – she immediately comes even more alive with an ultimate strength, power, skill, grace, and fearlessness.
Her reputation as being driven and fiercely competitive precedes her, yet under this tough powerhouse exterior is a generous and genuinely kind young woman who would do almost anything for those she cares about. Meet Candice Appleby, Standup Journal’s Woman of the Year.
Having personally admired Candice from the beginning of my standup paddling career, there is no uncertainty in my mind that she has earned this. She caught our attention by beating ALL the pro men at the 2008 Duke’s Oceanfest – something I’m not sure has ever happened in the history of surf contests of that caliber. Candice was victorious over the likes of Noah Shimabukuro, Brian Keaulana and Noland Martin – sup icons that she looks up to and highly respects.
She has been out there at several surf competitions as the only female charging big waves, such as in last winter’s Sunset Pro Sup World Tour, where she caught and adeptly rode a wave with a 25-foot face. And she flies on a raceboard, often finishing in the top ten with the men. The freckle-faced redhead placed second in the women’s grueling solo standup division at last year’s Rainbow Sandals’ Molokai to Oahu crossing.
A Sisterhood of Honorable Mentions
Of course, there are other leaders in the women’s sup movement who deserve an honorary mention here: female runner ups who are establishing a well-respected name, paving the way for other female sup fledglings getting into the sport – all while kicking butt and taking names but also exhibiting the Aloha spirit, a mandatory element of the Journal’s “of the year” acknowledgement.
“If I can help someone else be successful then I have truly been a success”
Applause must go to Morgan Hoesterey of Oahu for being the first woman to paddle across the Molokai Channel solo on a standup board. Morgan and the Big Island’s Jenny Kalmbach have blown everyone away with their Destination 3 Degree mission in which they crossed all the Hawaiian Island Channels – almost 300 miles of open ocean – to bring awareness and raise funds to help protect the oceans from the impact of plastics contamination.
Also, no one will forget Jenny’s huge win in the women’s elite division at the first Battle of the Paddle that solidified her in the top rankings of female standup paddlers.
In addition, we need to keep an eye on Southern Cal’s Brandi Baksic, who is currently dusting the women and most of the men on the race scene there. And of course Australia’s Shakira Westdorp, who showed up and annihilated the women at the second BoP, and who is also a stylish sup surfer and great role model for young women Down Under and beyond!
These are only a few names on a list of a budding cadre of amazing wahine role models that Candice feels are so empowering and make sup more exciting and accessible, as well as easier on the eyes. She notes, “Female athletes can be feminine, beautiful and graceful as well as strong.”
Early Years: Just Add Water
Candice, 25, has roots that lie deep in the ocean and in surfing, so it’s not surprising that she has emerged a well-respected waterwoman. “I was ALWAYS in the water since I was a baby. My whole family surfed together. It was great!”
Her mother decided it was time to introduce Candice to a surfboard after she saw her nine-year-old daughter begin standing up to ride waves on her bodyboard. Only a year after her mother taught her to surf, Candice’s competitive career began. She recalls her first local surf competition while laughing, “It was called Kids for Clean Waves at Bolsa Chica, but there was a huge dead whale floating around and the water was filthy!”
Not only did her mother give Candice the gift of surfing, but she also instilled a strong work ethic into her daughter that has paid off. Candice says, “I wasn’t given everything in life growing up.
My Mom would always explain to me, ‘Some things are only worth as hard as you’re willing to work for them.’ My parents could have easily purchased all my surfboards and given me money, but thought it would be of considerable value to make me work and earn it for myself. I saved birthday, Christmas, and babysitting money to buy my surfboards and pay for contest entry fees when I was a kid.”
Life in San Clemente was not the easiest for Candice while growing up. She never felt like she fit in, and was always made fun of because of her red hair and freckles. “I was a strong surfer and athlete and did not resemble a typical ‘OC’ kind of girl. I think some of my competitiveness stems from being made fun of in my childhood. Not that I gain self worth from winning an event, but I always strive to better myself.”
Candice kept her focus on school sports, excelling in surfing. She became a member – and captain – of the San Clemente High School Surf Team and continued competing in inter-school club and NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) meets. Her experience and skills landed her on the US Amateur Team by the time she graduated high school.
In grade school, Candice traveled to Hawaii to compete in a tournament with her water polo team. She remembers having a series of miserable experiences. The coach benched her the entire time and her teammates locked her outside on the hotel’s balcony.
Despite the bummer situation, Candice took a look around, and what she saw changed the direction of the 12-year-old’s life. “I saw people with different shades of skin. They weren’t the richest people in the world as far as material goods go,” Candice recalls, “but they all had a smile and seemed so happy.
“The Hawaiians shared aloha with me and were very kind. At that point I made a decision that I would come back someday to stay.” When she was seventeen she left California to attend the University of Hawaii and pursue a career in surfing. That was seven years ago.
Great things began to happen for Candice in Hawaii. While attending college, she also began competing in the HASA (Hawaiian Amateur Surfing Association) in both the shortboard and longboard divisions, winning the state title on her shortboard and placing second in longboarding. She then journeyed back to California to compete – representing Hawaii – where she won the national title for longboarding and made the finals for shortboarding.
Makaha and Discovering Her Calling as an Athlete
Around 2006, Candice began spending time in Oahu’s west side Makaha waters with many inspirational watermen – legends such as the Keaulana family, Bonga Perkins and Duane Desoto, and Mel Pu’u – who inspired and taught her more about the ocean and believing in herself.
Right up there with her mother teaching her how to surf, Candice says her experiences in Makaha were the most valuable gifts she has been given. “Everyone out there has respect for any piece of equipment you can paddle out on, all with the goal of being in the ocean and enjoying the creation.”
Four years ago, while training in Makaha to compete in the Women’s Pipeline Pro, Candice got her first glimpse of standup surfers catching waves. Inspired, she couldn’t wait to try it.
Rusty Keaulana gave her a paddle and from that day on Candice borrowed standup boards from the beach boys in Waikiki and paddled out every chance she got for what she calls her ‘secret practice’ sessions.
By the end of that first summer she was ready to debut her sup skills, competing in two local competitions in Waikiki and placing in the top ranks with the men on an 11-foot Mickey Munoz paddleboard.
Then she began racing. Candice took first at DaHui’s 30th Annual Fourth of July Sunset to Waimea Race, breaking an old record by three minutes. She also took first at Hennessey’s International Paddleboard Championships in Hawaii later that year.
Candice says she’s fallen in love with standup because it allows her to reach her full athletic potential. Not only does standup combine all the components of the sports Candice loves into one discipline, but it also helps her utilize all of her strengths at once. The versatility of standup allows her to challenge herself and continually set new goals.
Negativity in the Lineup: Kill ‘em with Kindness
How does Candice handle any negativity in the lineup while surfing her sup?
“Basically, it comes down to being a positive representative of the sport and being respectful to other surfers at all times.”
She recalls a humorous story, though, when she was out in the water on the North Shore and a surfer began grumbling at her, giving her a hard time about how easy it is to catch waves on a standup board.
Apparently this guy was having a hard time in the surf that day so he thought he would take it out on Candice. She said to him, “I can catch just as many waves on my shortboard or my longboard.” When he asked her to prove it she paddled in, grabbed her shortboard and paddled circles around him, surfing waves with no problem. Candice said he quieted down after that.
‘Auntie Candice’ and the Next Generation
Candice believes that standup paddling is inspiring the next generation of ocean phenoms – several of whom Candice is taking under her wing and passing her knowledge to. “What sup has done for the whole surf culture is breed a generation of kids who want to become watermen/women, not just surfers.”
Take surfers Vanina Walsh, 12, and Teniah Richardson, 8, who have begun standup paddling. When Candice asked the girls what aspect of surfing they prefer, each of their responses were, “Auntie Candice, I want to be a waterwoman!”
Now, Candice coaches the girls and teaches them about the ocean, from tandem surfing to underwater rock running. Her goal is to help them enjoy it, be happy, have fun and appreciate the ocean and what it has to offer.
And Candice’s helping attitude is not just local. This past spring she got a phone call from top Florida sup racer Helga Goebel, with whom Candice happily shared tips about getting sponsors, training and improving herself. “She was so nice and she gave me a lot advice,” Helga said, after the call.
A New Breed of Waterwoman
“Training is a full-time job for Candice and it shows”
The influence and coaching of some of the most inspiring and legendary surfers and watermen of our time, combined with an entire childhood of competing and surfing, has helped Appleby emerge as one of the most respected women on the water.
Veteran ASP surf judge Jack Shipley wrote this about Candice: “One of the biggest honors in the Hawaiian Islands is to be known as a ‘waterman.’ This tribute acknowledges a surfer’s all-around versatility in the ocean; shortboard, longboard, canoe, and standup paddle. Personally, I can only think of about five women who would be recognized in this category. At the top of my list is Candice Appleby.”
Candice is driven to win, but she says the biggest competition is found within herself. As far as her competitiveness with others goes she says, “I’m very serious in the water because I’m out there to do a job. However, when we hit the beach, business is over and I’m mellow.”
Candice wants to share what she’s learned with others: “If I can help someone be successful then I have truly been a success.” She strongly believes that she gets her strength from a power much greater than herself. “I feel like I have been given a gift from God in athletics and ocean sports. I have a platform to share where I get my strength from with other people. I want to be an example to others, someone people can relate to and not make them feel like they can never reach the same level of skill.”
Day in the Life: Training with Candice
A typical day for Candice Appleby begins the night before when she fills her coffeemaker with a bold espresso roast and sets the timer to go off at 4:45 a.m.
She pours a cup of ‘mud,’ (as she calls it) and sits on her Waikiki apartment’s lanai, steps from her local Honolulu surf break – Queens. Candice then begins a routine of stretching, core workouts, pilates, medicine ball routines, and exercises using handheld weights while balancing on her Indo Board…all this she completes before 6 a.m.
Some people might be ready to call it a day at this point, but it’s barely begun for Candice. Training is a full-time job and it shows. Her regimen consists of ideas she absorbs from other athletes such as Laird Hamilton and Brian Keaulana, or programs she makes up on her own.
For example, if running in soft sand for five miles on the North Shore isn’t difficult enough, she came up with the idea of filling two five-gallon milk jugs with sand and running with one jug in each hand.
On top of that she adds five-pound weights around each ankle. She laughingly agrees that she “looks like a freak” running down the beach – people do double takes – but Candice loves to run in the sand and feels that the added challenge of extra weight enhances her performance and gets her legs significantly stronger for handling the compression of big wave bottom turns and overall performance.
What’s Next? The Olympics!
Candice’s short term plans are to keep charging bigger waves – like Teahupoo – on her sup board, to train for faster times in races, and to travel as much as possible as an ambassador for sup and what women can achieve in the planet’s coolest new sport.
She is also excited about developing her announcing and commentating skills at events – she adeptly added so much color on the microphone during last winter’s Sunset Pro and also at the finals of the Malfunction event in Australia.
As a professional ocean athlete, Candice will continue to stoke out her sponsors and is grateful to be supported by quality companies who help her reach her goals – including her new relationship with Surftech, with whom she is designing her own signature Candice Appleby board. Of her many sponsors, Ocean Minded has been supporting her surfing endeavors since she was 13. Candice proudly represents Maui Jim Sunglasses, Oxbow, Pu’alani Swimwear, and Chicago Surf Shop.
“Paddle monster. Training freak. Whatever you want to call me. I just want to be the best I can be.” She says, “The future for me includes bigger waves, faster times, and remote locations.”
And looking down the road a few more years, Candice has a strong desire to sup in the Olympics, which she realizes will not even be possible for several years since for a sport to be eligible for Olympic consideration, it must have had a series of world championships. But when sup does make it into the Summer Games Candice Appleby will be ready to win gold… and she will do it with a smile on her face, asking how she can help those around her along the way. And that is why she is Standup Journal’s Woman of the Year.