Fenn and Ocean Paddlesports are so excited to announce the sponsorship of 16 year old, Bellingham Paddler Ana Swetish.  Recently at the Gorge Downwind Champs, Ana earned a third place podium finish among  the world’s best female paddlers.  This incredible performance catapulted Ana into the spotlight;  she’s the future of female paddling in the USA.  With Shaw and Partners commitment of equal prize money and equality for female paddlers, Ana hits the sport at just the right time.  Ocean Paddlesports, along with Fenn and Vaikobi are looking to help Ana on her journey into international paddling.

Photo by Michael Lampi

We caught up with Ana, as she starts her Junior year of High School, with a few questions…….

1.  When did you start paddling and why?

I started paddling 5 years ago when I was 11. My dad paddled a little bit and when the sprint team started he signed me up and I really enjoyed it. After a few months of sprint paddling my dad started taking me out in waves on the bay.  After that, I was hooked!

2.  Who is your mentor or person you admire in the sport?

Well, I’m not sure anyone can meet Austin Kieffer and not be inspired by his spirit and passion for paddling, as well as his willingness to help and encourage other paddlers.  But I also have to call out the Bellingham paddling community. As the largest paddling community in North America, I always have someone who is willing to push me, encourage me, and share their stoke for paddling with me.

3.  What are your future athletic plans?

I want to continue paddling surfski and going to more international races. I’m also a junior in high school this year, so pretty soon I will have to go to college or something, but I will always keep paddling.

4.  What is your favorite race so far and why?

My favorite race so far was the Gorge Downwind Champs this year because the conditions were incredible. I waited the whole year for a race with waves.  I think Canadian Downwind champs was the 7th race in a row for me where the wind didn’t show up. But the Gorge made up for it and more!

5.  What was it like to stand on the podium with champions like Naomi Flood and Teneale Hatton?  

It was so amazing to be on an international podium!  I still have to pinch myself every now and then. I didn’t expect to do as well as I did, so when I found myself sharing waves with some of the top women in the world it was absolutely unreal!

6.  What’s your favorite thing to do besides surfski paddle?

I like hanging out with my friends and my sister. I also enjoy playing with my dog and swimming.

7.  What advice do you have for your friends or others who want to get started in this sport?

It might be hard at first, but find some people to paddle with you and help you learn, or learn with you. Before you know it, you’ll all be pushing each other to new highs.  And of course, make sure you are always having fun!

Ana and her dog Nixie