Annie Reickert isn’t your average teen. At just 18 years old, she’s already made history by being the first female to cross the 32-mile Ka’iwi Channel on a stand-up paddleboard. She finished 3rd in the 2019 Pe’ahi Challenge, riding some of the largest waves ever paddle-surfed by a woman, and now she’s currently competing in Red Bull Magnitude, an all-new women’s big-wave surfing contest.
Reickert started surfing when she was just a toddler, spending weekends with her family out on the ocean. “I’ve always grown up in the water as an active kid and I’ve always loved nature,” the Maui native tells STYLECASTER. “Being in Maui, where you’re surrounded by ocean, it’s like the biggest source of nature you can find, so it’s kind of like a natural progression to get to the water.”
In just a few short years, Annie has had many career highlights, including being able to surf in the Jaws Competition, a major honor for any serious surfer. “The fact that I was welcomed into that line-up and got to do that was really amazing,” she says, recalling the career-defining memory. “I still remember the feeling of taking off and looking down the face of the wave and pulling off into the channel And I couldn’t help but just start smiling.”
Smiling down the face of a giant, powerful wave? That’s how you know Reickert belongs on the ocean. She feels lucky to have experienced such major milestones in her career already—but of course, luck has nothing to do with it. Reickert’s success is the result of a salt water-covered combination of raw talent and hard work.
If her Jaws Competition triumph wasn’t impressive enough, Reickert also took on the unpredictable waters of the 32-mile Ka’iwi Channel on a stand-up paddleboard in the summer of 2019, making her the first woman to successfully do so. “It’s just a whole different kind of power out in the water when you’re out in the channel like that,” she explains, “where you can’t even see land on either side of you.”
As someone who loves the beach but is slightly terrified by the ocean myself, I’m pretty in awe of Reickert’s comfort out at sea. “I feel so at home and at peace when I’m on the water,” she says. “It’s a really special place.” In fact, when I ask how she mentally prepares for competitions, her mind goes straight to the waves.
“This might sound cheesy, but the ocean is kind of my sanctuary,” Reickert says with a laugh. “When I’m in the water, I feel like I’m OK and any problems that are on land, they just melt away. “Just being on the water is such great mental preparation.” Personally, my white noise machine is always set to beach mode, so I totally get it.
Annie’s love of the ocean extends beyond water sports too. “I was watching a movie called Chasing Coral and it said, in 30 years’ time, like 90 percent of the coral on the Earth will be dead,” she explains. “And I’m thinking, Well, I’ll still be surfing in 30 years, hopefully… and [thinking about] seeing lifeless dead coral on the bottom of the ocean. It just breaks my heart.”
Living near the water, Reickert has, of course, participated in many a beach cleanup—but at age 18, she is trying to figure out even more hands-on ways to actively help conserve the oceans she loves so much. “I really am kind of looking for a way to get more into it, just because it’s something that I care so much about,” she says. “And I really hope that I can find it, because when I talk about it, I always feel like the ocean gives so much to me and I owe it so much too.”
When she’s not out in the water, you might find Reickert on her phone. Like every teenager living on Planet Earth, she loves finding inspiration via social media. I told her about the crazy surfing videos that sometimes come up on my Instagram Explore Page, and of course, she instantly knew which ones I was referencing. “It’s crazy! I’d love to surf Nazaré or Mavericks one day, two big wave places that definitely stand out my head” she tells me.
“Nazaré is just a monster. It’s so crazy to even watch the videos when it makes you feel scared in a way,” she says. “You know the wave is a lot more powerful than you can even imagine.” The best surfers are definitely the ones who understand the strength of the ocean and work with it instead of against it, and Reickert is certainly proof.
As for her TikTok For You Page, it’s filled with extreme sports videos—granted, a little different from my Taylor Swift conspiracy theory-heavy FYP. “I see a lot of snowboarding and skiing and stuff,” she reveals, along with a myriad of surfing videos, of course. “But I always get like the random funny videos, you know, the stuff that you can’t help but laugh at.”
While I may not have much in common with a pro teen surfer, giggling about the comedic side of TikTok is something we can all relate to. “Also a lot of cat videos,” Reickert adds, laughing. Yep, it’s the cat videos for me, too.