“Try not to compare yourself to other paddlers”: SIC Maui Rider Alex Ostrowski on SUP racing life at 16

What’s truly compelling in our conversations with young SUP athletes is not only how psyched they are about stand-up paddleboarding, ready to push the limits of the sport but also how grounded and mature they are when it comes to their professional SUP journeys, where each day they are digging deep and working hard for their dreams. TotalSUP caught up with the 16-year old SIC Maui Rider and Youth Development Team rep, Alex Ostrowski, to chat about motivations and inspirations that drive her SUP racing life.

Hi Alex, welcome to TotalSUP and congratulations on your Grom of the Year nomination! Where are you based and how did you get into stand-up paddleboarding?

I was born in Park City, Utah but when I was six years old my family moved to Sayulita, Mexico, a small beach town home to many well-known Mexican surfers and paddlers. I grew up learning Spanish and am now fully fluent. I am a very creative person and like to think outside of the box when it comes to solving problems, some might even say I’m an overachiever. I am no stranger to afterschool activities as since I have been in Mexico, I always had something to do as an extracurricular, whether that be martial arts, horseback riding, or other interesting things.

During my time in Sayulita, I had paddled and surfed on my own, but it wasn’t until 2016 when we joined a paddling team that I became serious about the sport. I started paddling as a casual afterschool activity but quickly became one of the strongest girls on the team. And since then, I have been paddling competitively. I love paddling because I love the ocean! I love catching waves and gliding on the surface. As well as seeing all of the sea animals below the surface. In regards to my SUP discipline, I only do SUP racing. I definitely prefer it more than any other SUP discipline and I have so much fun with it. I specifically enjoy technical races where you have to catch waves and do a lot of turns. It keeps me focused and there is always something interesting happening.

Photo credit: SIC Maui Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge

What’s your local SUP racing scene and the SUP community like?

I train with a small group of four people in Sayulita. We are coached by Fernando Amaral Lorenzo, the current Mexico National Champion. We call ourselves the Sayulita SUP Society. The small number of people makes it perfect for us to get the most out of our training and everyone is close to the same level so we are constantly pushing each other to be better. And I am constantly surrounded by some of the top paddlers and surfers in Mexico. They always support me in my paddling career so I always try to surround myself with the most positive people in the paddling community.


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A post shared by Sayulita SUP Society (@sayulitasupsociety)

Who inspires you in the world of stand-up paddleboarding?

I would have to say that if there was one person I look up to the most it would definitely have to be my younger brother, Trace Ostrowski. No matter how he feels that day he always puts 110% effort into his training. He works hard for what he earns and I really admire that, especially since there are so many other boys his age that paddle and are just as good as him.

I sometimes go to him asking questions about how I can get better and if there is anything he sees that I can improve on and he tells me! We have that sibling rivalry that gets us motivated during each training session and I’d like to say we have both motivated each other to work harder and improve as athletes.

Alex with brother, Trace and dad,  Christopher Ozzy Ostrowski

How do you prepare for SUP racing competitions?

The night before a race, I want to ensure I get enough sleep and eat the proper nutrients to sustain myself during my race. When a race is about to start, I make sure I am warmed up and try to keep myself calm and collected. I normally have a strategy ready for the race so I go over it in my head to make sure I remember it. I can easily psych myself out if I think about the race too much, so I like to distract myself by talking to people or going out for a quick warm-up paddle.

Photo credit: SIC Maui Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge

It must be hard to juggle school, training and time you’d like to spend with your friends. How do you stay motivated to train and compete?

I have to admit, I struggle a lot with motivation and discipline. But the biggest thing that gets me motivated is when there is a competition coming up. Nothing motivates you more than the nerves slowly starting to kick in as the race day gets closer. During a week in my life, I understand that I have to fulfil my school and family responsibilities before I even think about paddling. But generally, my training does not get in the way of my social life and school work, so I have as much time as I need to get on the water or go to the gym.

Your 3 top tips for young, aspiring SUP racers

The first tip I could give is at the beginning of learning how to paddle, strengthening your technique should be the most important thing to tackle. Good technique is the basis of good paddling and without it you can find yourself struggling with speed and possible injuries.

Photo credit: SIC Maui Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge

The second is to try not to compare yourself to other paddlers. There is a difference between positive and negative comparisons. You can look up to people and push yourself to be as strong as those that are faster than you, but when you let it consume how you view yourself as a paddler, it can be harmful for your mental health and love for the sport.

Lastly, meet as many people as you can! The SUP sport is a strong community and everyone is super supportive and friendly. It’s an amazing feeling to go to a competition and see people you know when I am far from home.


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A post shared by Alex Ostrowski (@alex.o_sup)

Could you tell us more about your collaboration with SIC Maui?

My collaboration with SIC Maui was a total surprise to me! I remember my parents sat me down and I was super nervous, thinking I had failed one of my classes in school, only to be told I was offered a spot on the SIC Youth Development Team! With this new opportunity, I feel like I am part of a strong community with a lot of support! And I hope I can be a contributing member myself.

What’s your SIC Maui set up?

When I train for races that are located in Mexico, I use my RS 12’6 x 23.5” race board. I’ve had it since 2018 and it has definitely been through a lot and traveled to so many different places. However, when I am training for international races, I train on my RS 14′ x 21.5” race board. It feels weird switching back and forth, but over time you get used to the sudden change and learn what works on each board.

What are your professional SUP plans and dreams?

My biggest dream when it comes to becoming a professional paddling athlete is to travel around the world and meet new people! I want to become good enough where I have to travel to new places for competitions. It is so awesome to think about how you can travel the world and see new places while also practicing your favourite sport!

Thank you for your time Alex and good luck with the rest of the SUP racing season and your pro plans!

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*Images courtesy of Alex Ostrowski 

About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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