Kathryn Hughes, meet an amazing australian surfer

Text and photographies by Andrew Carruthers

Elegant and graceful with a killer drop knee turn, stylish to the core. These are some of the accolades levelled at Kathryn Hughes.

Tall and fit, bronzed from the sun and a sharp gleam in here eyes Kathryn is a fantastic surfer and a competitor on the rise. Currently the highest ranked longboarder on the WSL Australasia tour (no 1) and No 13 in the world. An amazing effort for her first attempt at the world tour level of competition (2017) (competitions in PNG and Taiwan).

Living on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia, Kathryn is surrounded by pristine beaches and waves perfect for her chosen wave riding art form, longboarding. With Noosa’s famed points to the north, Caloundra at the southern end and so many places in between. No wonder a number of great surfers call the Sunshine Coast their home. it’s in this magical place that Kathryn grew up following her father’s foot steps into the ocean. At around 8 years of age she ventured onto a surf board before eventually settling on 9ft longboards 2 years later. “I loved the feel and flow of those longer boards. “When I started I was always asking my dad if I could go longer with my boards”. Mark, Kathryn’s dad was a member of the local Caloundra Longboard club and she grew up at the beach contests. “I pretty much had over 12 uncles at the beach.” Days were spent at the beach surfing, cruising and then competing in the local board club events. These local clubs have been competitive spawning grounds for many champions over the years. “I was surfing with dad every day until I moved out of home at around 20 something…”

Her achievements are even more amazing when you discover that Kathryn has a hearing impairment. Profoundly deaf in one ear and with hearing limited to 60% in the other. Kathryn contracted Meningitis when she was 9 days old and has suffered impaired hearing ever since. Growing up with this, Kathryn has learnt to overcome and adapt to any issues that may arise. In competition it is often hard to hear scores and heat times. Her father would hold up towels and she would ask other competitors her scores and other information. This is a great indication of the internal strength and will of this talented young woman. To others this may be frustrating but Kathryn’s approach is “I just go out and surf how I normally surf and hope for the best”. I get the impression that Kathryn’s best is yet to come.

She’s training harder and looks fit and feisty, ready for surf and competitive success, her goals are simple… win. A world title is on her list as well as a ranking inside the top 10. As for any great athlete, this is achieved one heat at a time, one training session at a time, day after day. Her choice of boards are both single fin logs and a 2 + 1 setup. Classic Malibu has been a longterm sponsor providing the refined longboards that Kathryn rides.

Kathryn is also a talented artist, hand drawing exquisite artwork involving an  intricate geometric mandala style art. Her surferboards are each adorned with art and in her house she has hung several pieces. The inside of her surf van is also decorated with art pieces, each telling a story of her life’s journey. She has always been drawing journalling sketching capturing life and thoughts in images.

I get the feeling that there must be many more pieces to add to this tapestry of intimate art.

Flow has been a word that many have mentioned about Kathryn’s surfing and art. Its a great word when I think of Kathryn. Her art flows out of her as does her surfing. It took her 6 hours to carefully adorn the entire length of her last board with a flower of life pattern.

For Kathryn surfing and art are an outlet for her creative expression, “the more you draw the more you have flow”. These pieces of art are a result of an inspiration drawn from Kathryn’s creative mind that flows onto the paper or resin. Similarly her surfing is drawn out of her creative mind and the wave becomes a liquid canvas awaiting the art. Limited or impaired hearing is not a factor that holds her back, it’s a strength that brings out her best and helps her to rise above.