Katie McConnell sat down to chat with FanSided about her participation in the all-female big wave competition, the Red Bull Magnitude contest.
The history of surfing is a long one. The love and respect these athletes have for the power and wonder of the ocean is unmatched. By definition, a “Waterman” is someone who is skilled in multiple aquatic sports disciplines, such as surfing, bodysurfing, undersea diving, canoe paddling, fishing, etc. By this definition, Katie McConnell is a true “Waterwoman.”
McConnell is one of a handful of athletes competing in this year’s Red Bull Magnitude contest. She, along with the other ladies competing, will have their chance at some of the biggest waves in Hawaii. We are talking about waves measuring a minimum of 15 feet tall. Although her big wave experience may not be as deep as some of her competitors, McConnell has spent her life on the water in some regard or another. Sitting down exclusively with FanSided, McConnell gave a brief rundown of her life on the water.
“When I was at UC Santa Cruz, I got my bachelor’s in Marine Biology and I became a scientific diver, which took me all over the world and I always kind of snuck away at some point and was able to catch a couple of waves here and there,” McConnell explained.
“Like in Tahiti, I worked for a guy who studied clownfish recruitment across murraya, coral reefs. I went and lived in Chile after that for five years, and I managed the remote field station in the far south, and we were cataloging marine invertebrates throughout the fjords of Patagonia. And then after that, I returned to grad school at Oregon State and I studied reef microbiomes in murraya. I was about to start a Ph.D. in kelp forest ecology in Baja with an old friend who’s now a professor but I started teaching surf lessons and people started taking photos of me surfing and I started gaining some momentum and then this crazy Maverick season happened and here we are. I can’t believe it after a year, I consider earlier this month like my big waves birthday.”
The Red Bull Magnitude is the first of its kind in the fact that is inclusive to women riders only. Last year was the inaugural event and it was a great success. Because the contest is virtual, it gives the athletes a little more freedom with another approach. McConnell is now based out of California but is able to hop over to Hawaii when the big swells approach. She has already caught a few rides that could be eligible for the event, but with three months to go there is the possibility for many more.
This event is also about showing that the women of the surf community can ride just as well, if not better than their male counterparts. The opportunities that women in surfing are getting now are miles ahead of years past. Equal pay, equal conditions in the water, and equal opportunity is just a start for these women. Women only make up about 20 to 30 percent of the surfers in the world, but with McConnell and the other women in the Red Bull Magnitude contest the next generation of girls will have a road to follow.
“Because with the virtual competition, it’s kind of this awesome opportunity where it gives you a lot of flexibility to maximize your time and surfing,” McConnell explained.
“I think that’s one of the coolest things about the Magnitude to me because on one hand there’s a prize purse, and somebody will emerge a winner. And I think, of course, I want to emerge the best and so does everybody else. We’re all going to do our best. But I think really, at the end of the day, the contest isn’t really about any one of us specifically, it’s really just about normalizing that women can do it too. With the Magnitude last year, I was watching the clips from the women last year and I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I could do that too.’ So I hope that it spreads to other girls because it’s really important that they also have the opportunity to follow their dreams.”
After a short chat with McConnell, it was clear that she loves the ocean. Getting to spend her days surfing and making the ocean a better place for everyone is like a dream come true. The Magnitude contest winners will be announced the first week in March but regardless of placing, McConnell is enjoying the ride, quite literally.
“Really, I’m the ocean, like I love the ocean so much and there’s so much change going on and so it’s really important to me to continue giving back to the ocean because it’s given me so much,” McConnell said.
Stay up to date with all things Red Bull Magnitude, from interviews to updates, and results right here on FanSided.com and RedBull.com.