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Queen of the 'Quicks'

Although she's better-known in these parts as a pretty stylish (and go-for-it) wavesailor Caloundra's Kellie Tusler has become yet another committed convert to the ranks the GPS Team Challenge.

And over the course of 2008 the thirty-something mother or two managed to juggle her duties at work and home (and cope with a broken ankle) on the way to being crowned Australia's "Queen of the Quicks".

Given that Kellie achieved the milestone during her maiden year in "the Challenge" I was keen to learn more.

Are you getting this ? - Pic: Photo: Dylan Tusler Snr.
What's your background in windsurfing?

I started windsurfing in Victoria in the early nineties, and decided to move to Queensland to start my own windsurfing school. I can say windsurfing changed my life as I was hooked from day one. Not sure where life might have taken me otherwise!

I ran my windsurfing school and hire business for 2 years on the Maroochy River, also did some part time work in a windsurfing shop. I became involved in Windsurfing Queensland and did a lot of slalom racing. I also travelled to WA in 1999 and 2000 to compete in the Ledge to Lancelin and had various trips to Maui and Fiji.

Started my family in 2001 and moved to the UK. I got to sail some great locations like Rhodes, Fuerteventura, Lake Garda and my home spot of Shoreham by Sea with some top windsurfers like Nick Baker.

Moved back to Australia in 2003 and only had wave kit for the next few years. (My biggest sail was a 5.5m) Started getting some slalom gear in 2006 and then started with the GPS team challenge in Jan 2008.

Clocking up the K's - Pic: Photo: Dylan Tusler Snr.
What motivated you to get involved in the GPS Team Challenge?

When I opened my Christmas present from my husband (Xmas 2007) and found a Navilink BGT-11. (I was very surprised as I had no idea he was going to get me one.) I had previously only borrowed Al Green's GPS and had a few runs on his speed board in early 2007 and thought "ok, that was fun", but never thought of buying one or getting into speed sailing. I had very little knowledge about the GPS team challenge and what it involved as I was more interested in wave sailing.

Now owning my own GPS I thought I might as well get involved in the challenge. I posted on Seabreeze to see if there were any girls on the Sunshine Coast who would like to form a team with me, wasn't too hopeful as I know there are only a few who sail. Jason (Captain) of Sunshine Coast Sailboards Vikings welcomed me to join their small team so I did. The hardest part was thinking up my Viking name - Astrid!

I was soon hooked and love the team atmosphere you get from what is normally such an individual sport.

Final checks - Pic: Photo: Dylan Tusler Snr.
I gather you sustained an injury early in the year, what happened, how long were you off the water for, and how is it (ankle?) now?

On 1 March 2008, I was trying a speed run over the bank in shallow water at Golden Beach and hit the bottom. My left foot didn't come out of the strap and I was thrown over the front and twisted my ankle very badly. After 2 x-rays, 1 bone scan, 1 MRI and then 1 CT scan my specialist said I had broken my talus bone and said it was one of the slowest bones in the body to heal. I had 12 weeks of total non-weight bearing and was told it would probably take up to 1 year to be completely healed.

I had my first session back on the board in very light winds in July. After that I took it easy, only sailing in reasonable flat water and gradually started to get more movement back.

I had my first session at Mooloolaba in December and then another session on my wave board at Redcliffe and tried out some jumps. Ankle felt fine the next day, although I still get a bit of aching if I try to sail fast in very choppy conditions.

Despite the injury, I still managed to clock up over 1200kms of sailing during 2008 (by GPS.)

Hi Guys - Pic: Photo: Dylan Tusler Snr.
What exactly did you win, and what were your figures/results?

I won first place in the GPS Team Challenge Women's division for 2008 - a medallion. I finished up six points ahead from a field of 23 women from Australia and New Zealand.

There are six divisions in the event covering a range of speed disciplines, and I came first in three of them, second in two, and fourth in the last one, so you can see the competition is very strong.

The divisions cover a range of sailing styles, it is not just about going as fast as you can any more (though there is a division for that.)

The full women's results are Here

Out there - Pic: Photo: Dylan Tusler Snr.
Were you surprised at how well you went?

Somewhat, although I knew I would be able to go faster with the right conditions (I missed some good winds in March/April) and then had to wait until 30 December to get my best 2sec. I am sure my new JP slalom board helped heaps with this, before that I was using a freestyle board and a Lorch slalom board that was very fast, but just too big for me. Also, I've been really impressed with the performance of the KA Koyote sails I've been using, especially the 5.3m. They have definitely helped. It has been great to be able to compete against so many girls. The most I have ever competed with is about 10 in the Lancelin Ocean Classic.

Many folk have raved about the "networking" element of the GPSTC, how have you found it?

The networking and sense of camaraderie with the challenge is fantastic. Also the encouragement and positive feedback you get. I was amazed at the comments I have gotten when I get a PB (Personal Best), not only from my own team members, but from others in other states who I have never even met before. It feels like one big community and I look forward to hopefully meeting some of these windsurfers one day.

With Charley and Dylan Jnr. - Pic: Photo: Dylan Tusler Snr.
How supportive are your husband and kids, and do you think they appreciate the magnitude of your achievement?

My husband has been very supportive, as I said earlier he is the one who bought me the GPS. He knows how much I love windsurfing and nothing has really changed. I am still sailing about the same as I ever have, (although chasing out more flat water locations) only now I just strap on my GPS so hasn't made any difference to our family life. My 7 year old son has had a few goes at windsurfing and now wants to wear the GPS to see where he has been sailing. He likes to check out the Google earth images. My 4 year old daughter is a bit too young to understand it all yet.

My husband likes the technical aspect of the event, and is writing some software to make it easier for people to submit their GPS data files. Actually working with the data files is still a bit of a barrier for some people to get involved in the competition, so anything that makes that easier is good.

Oz's golden girl at Golden Beach - Pic: Photo: Dylan Tusler Snr.
You mentioned earlier that you once ran a hire business on the Coast, are you still involved in the windsurfing industry?

Sadly not. These days I work at the Sunshine Coast Private Hospital in Buderim as a secretary for a General Surgeon 5 days per fortnight. And also work in a weight-loss centre at the Hospital as the Manager, Webmaster (for ), as well as editing the quarterly newsletter for our patients

Drag racing Dylan Snr. - Pic: Photo: Dylan Tusler Snr.
What's next on your agenda?

Hopefully more PB's for 2009. Will be heading to Burrum Heads in March for the KA speed event and then I plan to go to Green Island for the speed week in June.

What, if anything else, would you like to add?

I would just like to encourage more women to join. It is great fun and is just such a terrific way to improve your windsurfing. I find as a mum it works better for me than scheduled races on the weekends where you may have to drive long distances and then sit around all day hoping for some wind. I love the fact that every time I go for a sail I am competing and so I can fit it in around the kids and the wind.

KT Logging a bit of air-time - Pic: Photographer: Justin B

Many thanks for your time KT, congratulations on your win, and we wish you all the very best in your quest to retain your crown.

Oz Windsurf E-Zine Issue #9 - Queen of the 'Quicks' - All Pics: Dylan Tusler Snr.