World Champion longboarder Lindsey Steinriede-Engle to defend title in China, San Clemente’s Tory Gilkerson and Karina Rozunko will also compete
By Andrea Swayne
Dana Point professional longboard surfer Lindsey Steinriede-Engle is busy making preparations to travel to China for a second year in a row—last year to make history as a competitor in the first-ever Association of Surfing Professionals event there, and this year to defend her Women’s Longboard World Champion title she brought home in 2011.
Last year when the ASP announced it would be holding its women’s longboard world championship contest in China, it seemed a little strange. Surfing in China? Do they even have good waves?
Steinriede-Engle packed her bags and board bags and hopped on a plane not knowing what to expect.
She placed equal fifth in the event giving her enough points to return from the contest the Women’s Longboard World Champion, an honor forever cementing her place in surfing history.
A LOOK AT LINDSEY
Steinriede-Engle started surfing at the age of 6 at T Street in San Clemente. As an excited young surfer—or stoked grom in surf speak—she tried her hand at riding both shortboards and longboards. Soon she discovered a preference for the classic style of longboarding and spent her childhood and adolescence competing up and down the coast in Longboard Coalition Contests as part of the Doheny Longboard Surfing Association team.
“I found out I preferred the Coalition events because of the camaraderie,” she said. “They were more like venues for a great group of friends to meet up and surf once a month than other series.”
Steinriede-Engle went on to become one of the best professional female longboarders in the world and by her early 20s had two ASP North American Championship titles under her belt—2006 and 2010.
Becoming a professional athlete was something she dreamed of as a kid but she admits she wasn’t always focused on making it in the surfing world.
“I always wanted to be a pro athlete but I played a ton of sports growing up, so my dream jumped around a bit,” she said. “But, I always knew I wanted to be a champion in something.”
Her hard work and athleticism through the years paid off, but she also credits her success to a very supportive group of family—her dad, brothers and step-mom—and the tight-knit group of friends she grew up surfing with.
“I grew up with a group of jetty rats at Doheny and they, along with my dad and brothers, pretty much shaped my surfing from the beginning.”
Her dad, Bill Steinriede, who passed away in 2010, was possibly her biggest source of inspiration beyond surfing.
Bill Steinriede was a well-known teacher and sports coach at Dana Hills High School, Capo Valley High and Saddleback College and provided Steinriede-Engle an example of the kind of life she knew she wanted to lead.
“I saw how my dad enjoyed life, how he enjoyed teaching, coaching and surfing,” Steinriede-Engle said. “I particularly liked how he successfully combined work with play and knew I wanted something similar for myself.”
That inspiration, and a soccer scholarship, led her to her first two years of college at UC Santa Barbara. In her junior year she transferred to San Diego State University and graduated with a degree in kinesiology, then earned a masters degree in physical education from the University of South Florida.
She now teaches yoga and Pilates and coaches soccer and surf teams at Mira Costa and Saddleback Colleges.
She is also a relative newlywed, having married surfboard shaper and Nations Surfboards owner Ryan Engle four years ago. The two grew up together but reconnected at a surf event in Florida while she was in college. Although the couple is looking forward to starting a family, they are in no hurry.
“No babies for a couple years,” she said. “For now we are enjoying our time together and are on the move often. But when we do we will definitely try to share our passion for surfing with them.”
As for Steinriede-Engle’s plans for her surfing career, she is taking it day-by-day, she said.
“I’m going to do this until no one wants to help me travel to compete, or until teaching completely takes over,” she said. “I don’t think this will be my last year. I’m taking each year as it comes and I will jump at good opportunities as they present themselves.”
Steinriede-Engle is also looking forward to starting her own company—Salt and Soul Fitness—training competitive surfers and other athletes. She is hoping to open for business this winter.
THIS YEAR’S EVENT
The landmark event was such a success, the ASP, the Chinese government and event sponsor Swatch are making it an annual affair and have scheduled the SWATCH Girls Pro China 2012 for November 21 through 25 at Wanning, Hainan Island, China.
“I am super excited to go back to China,” said Steinriede-Engle when The Dana Point Times caught up with her at a recent dawn patrol practice session at San O. “It was a great event last year and life has gotten so busy I haven’t done any competitions since then. I’m looking forward to getting back into the water to compete.”
As defending world champion, Steinriede-Engle says she doesn’t feel a huge amount of pressure to repeat the victory she calls “the peak of her career, so far” but says she will be devoting more time to getting focused an training in the days leading up to her November 17 departure.
“Obviously I will do my best to win but if it doesn’t happen for me this year, I would like to see someone I respect as a surfer take it,” Steinriede-Engle said. “And it is nice to have a couple of other local surfers there with me to represent our area.”
The two surfers Steinriede-Engle, 27, is referring to are Tory Gilkerson, 19, and Karina Rozunko, 16, of San Clemente.
Both Gilkerson and Rozunko say they are feeling a mixture of excitement and nervousness about having qualified for their first ASP World Championship. And the fact that it is so far away, in unknown territory, adds to their trepidation.
“I’m sort of nervous but really excited to have earned a spot—via the qualifiers at Oceanside, Ventura, Oahu, Hawaii and Virginia Beach, Va.—and to be from the same area as the current world champion is pretty cool,” Gilkerson said. “Both Karina and I look up to Lindsey and she’s already been very helpful by walking us through the whole visa process. She’s been right there to answer questions.”
(Steinriede-Engle automatically re-qualified as last year’s champion.)
Rozunko, the youngest competitor representing the U.S., agreed.
“It’s crazy to get this opportunity to surf with the world champion and see what she and the other older girls are doing,” Rozunko said. “I’m nervous, but I’ve been practicing a lot and I plan to just give it everything I’ve got, choose my waves wisely.”
Gilkerson said her strategy is similar and she will try to quell the nerves by concentrating on practicing.
While Steinriede-Engle says she is happy to share her insights and experiences with the younger girls and knows just what they are feeling right now.
“Any guidance I can offer them I’m happy to give. I’d like to be someone they look up to but I think they are both experienced enough in their own right to do well,” she said.
Both Gilkerson and Rozunko admit part of their worry comes from facing the unknown in China. “Especially the food,” the two joked in near unison. They mentioned being a bit nervous about the language barrier as well.
“I was nervous last year too and really didn’t know what to expect. To be honest, I thought I’d see a polluted port with dirty water,” Steinriede-Engle said. “It wasn’t at all what I expected. The venue was awesome—beautiful island, beautiful ocean, relaxing, calming and some fun waves. I was pleasantly surprised.”
As for Steinriede-Engle’s game plan, she responded with the calm demeanor and focused answer of a true world champion and a sense of humor.
“My strategy is the most simple and basic one to have—be confident and do my best. Putting major pressure on oneself only forces mistakes,” she said. “And, as for the food; while everyone at home is enjoying Thanksgiving turkey, we’ll be eating chicken feet.”
The trio will depart for China on November 17 and are set to return November 27.