NOWRA-CULBURRA SLSC product Kirsty Higgison has recently returned from Hawaii where she claimed a podium finish against international opposition.
The former St John’s student finished in second, to good mate Jordan Mercer, in the women’s open division at the 2018 Maui Jim Ocean Shootout.
“I decided to take part in this event after my sister [Ellie], who dates four-time shootout champion Jackson Maynard, raved non stop about it after attending last year,” Higgison.
“So after she convinced the whole family to make a trip of it, I thought why not throw my hat in the ring and race.”
Despite having competed in the Nutri-Grain/Ocean 6s for the past three season, this event was unlike anything Higgison had ever taken on – competing against world outrigger champion Amy Woodward, as well as a world champion stand up paddleboarder and Olympic swimmers.
The event involved five different disciplines – swim, paddle, ski, stand up paddleboard and outrigger – across two days.
“On the first day, we had individual races on all five disciplines,” Higgison said.
“Then we were forced to back up on the Sunday and do combination races.”
On day one, Higgison claimed four second place finishes (outrigger, paddle, ski and swim) and an 11th (SUP).
But day two was a much bigger test of her endurance.
The now Surfers Paradise Surf Lifesaving Club member won the Hawaiian ironman (swim-SUP-outrigger), finished second in the run-swim-run, Australian ironman (swim, paddle and ski) and waterman challenge (all five disciplines) and seventh in the run-SUP-run.
“There’s no doubt about it, this was one of the most physical challenges I’ve ever done,” she said.
“But during the event, you didn’t really feel the hurt, with the good vibes of the event keeping you going.
“I was stoked to finish second overall to Jordan [Mercer], with her having that slight edge on me in the run legs, which proved the difference in a number of races – especially in the flat conditions.
“It was very humbling considering the quality of field I was up against.”
This was despite Higgison wrapping up her 2017/18 season on the beach at the Australian Championships in Perth a couple of weeks previously.
“The fact that my surf season had just finished acted as perfect preparation for this Maui,” she said.
“All I had to concentrate on was teaching myself how to SUP – which I did in three weeks, with the help of the squad at Currumbin.
“On top of that, I rediscovered my love of paddling on the outrigger, as I have a history of kayaking in the past.”
On the back of this success, Higgison has already committed to attending next year’s event.
“I’m 100 per cent going every year – I just loved it,” she said.
“For so long, it’s just been about surf lifesaving for me but this whole challenge, of learning something new, has been great and gives me a different approach to the ocean.
“I’m even looking at doing the Molokai 2 Oahu race, as I enjoyed my time on the outrigger so much.”
Higgison has now re-joined her training squad at Surfers Paradise, ahead of the start of the Ocean 6s Series in October.
“With the way I ended last season, I feel as confidence as I did when I finished second overall three seasons ago,” she said.
“During my two injury-plagued years, I’ve learnt how to care for my body and became mentally stronger – I’m glad I’ve had those setbacks.
“It’s made me smarter in my approach and I think I’m in for my best season yet.”