Sarah Hauser: GoPro Girl On a Wave
See the petite blonde charging that 40-foot Jaws swell? Say hello to Sarah Hauser – an amazing female athlete who has an incredible story to tell. With a background in computer science and classical piano (true story), Sarah has spent the last few years competing internationally as a windsurfer and stand up paddler in the surfing and racing disciplines. She most recently earned first place ranks as the 2016 American Windsurfing Tour champion, 2016 Female Windsurfer of the Year and 2016 Aloha Classic Vice-Champion.
Sarah is the subject of the upcoming film, “Girl on Wave,” which documents Sarah’s journey as a professional athlete. We met Sarah in 2016 as filming was underway and outfitted her with GoPros to help capture points of view from - and below - the water that weren’t possible with traditional production gear.
We got a sneak peek at the final film and were blown away by what we saw! Sarah is busy preparing for the April 21 premiere of “Girl on Wave” on Maui, but we stole a few minutes of her time to talk about the movie, learn more about her background and understand what motivates her to chase big waves.
GoPro: What was the genesis for "Girl on Wave"? How did the project get started?
Sarah: In 2015 I was living on Maui and supporting my athlete career by working part time as a programmer/research scientist doing ocean data analysis with wearable motion sensors. During this time I met producer Steven Esparza who runs EchoHouse Films and we became fast friends. Steven is from Phoenix and really fell for the island life. He kept saying, “Sarah, one day I will make a film about you,” but I thought he was just being cheerful and joking around.
Later that year I quit my job to focus full time on competing. The day before I won the 2015 IWT windsurfing finals in Pistol River, Oregon I got a call from Steven saying that he was ready to start filming. I never thought he was serious! But I said yes and it’s been an amazing journey ever since.
GoPro: You mentioned your job as a computer programmer and we understand you have a masters degree in Computer Science. How does what you learned in this field apply to your experience in windsurfing and SUP?
Sarah: Before motion tracking devices became more available and used in sports, the only way to evaluate performance or equipment was through sensation and gut feeling. But now, I can go out and test equipment – especially my different fins - and gather lots of data on speed, turn angles, g-force. This data allows me to use my scientific mind and add more objectivity to my evaluations.
GoPro: You charge the same big waves as the best male surfers in the world. Do you feel like you have something to prove when you’re the only girl in the lineup? Do you think being a female in dominantly male sports has some advantages?
Sarah: I ride big waves for what it makes me feel. It’s hard to explain but, out on a big day, I feel like us - humans - have no business being out there and therefore there are no rules, and so it makes me feel free and at peace.
But I’m not just out there to chase good sensations. I want to have a positive impact on my community and contribute to proving that women can do what men do. The advantage of being a female in a male dominated sport today is that we’re given the opportunity to influence and change the way women do those sports - for fun or as professionals. I think it’s a very important mission and I hope the next generations of women will feel more and more aligned with their strength, bravery, bodies and their competitiveness.
GoPro: You grew up in the South Pacific, went to college in France, live on Maui and have traveled all over the world to compete. Is there any place you haven’t been that you really want to go?
Sarah: So many! I’d love to ride waves in Cape Verde, Chile and Fiji, hike in Nepal, windsurf in Japan… And for all the places that I’ve already visited there is still so much more to discover, so many unexplored reef passes and virgin waves… life is too short!
GoPro: Surfing big waves seems like an adrenaline pumping sport. Do you seek high-thrill activities out of the water? How else do you spend your free time?
Sarah: I’ve always had a taste for adrenaline, even when I was a little girl. I would always climb up trees and jump off cliffs. My parents gave me the opportunity to learn the piano and I played classical music for 12 years at the New Caledonia conservatory. This could be the “yang” of the adrenaline seeking side of me. Right now I don’t own a piano but I have a guitar and a ukulele. I love music! In French we say “la musique adoucit les moeurs” which basically means “music soothes the mind” and I believe it’s very true.
GoPro: What are your go-to GoPro cameras, mounts and accessories?
Sarah: I love the HERO5 camera because it’s waterproof without any housing so I can just grab it and go do any of my water activities. I also use the GPS and telemetry feature on the Quik editing app so I can gather all kinds of data about my sessions. It’s so fun to see my fastest waves, the g-force of my bottom turns – it helps me train and also makes my videos more fun to watch!
For mounts, the 3-Way mount is amazing for all my lifestyle filming. It has a little foldable-retractable tripod so I can set it up anywhere very quickly (at the beach, in airports, at the gym…) but is still compact for traveling. And for windsurfing I’ve been using the iSHOXS Cero Rollbar Mount for GoPro which is solid and works for the boom, the mast and is easy to adjust while I’m on the water. I also use the Jaws: Flex Clamp a lot, especially for driving shots!
GoPro: How, when, where can people watch Girl on Wave? What do you hope people will get out of watching it?
Sarah: Our premiere is on April 21 at the Maui Art & Cultural Center! We’re also going to premiere the film on the mainland in Arizona and California in the summer 2017 and look for distribution as well. We’re an indie film with a limited budget so we’re going one step at a time. But the goal is to show the film to as many people as possible.
I hope it will give people a boost of motivation in their quest toward their dreams, like when I’m training and my coach says, “Come on Sarah!!!” and it makes me dig the best out of my deeper self. I hope it will inspire people to nourish their passion no matter what path they chose in life, no matter how old they are, no matter if they are a man or a woman. And I hope it will help the sport of windsurfing to become more popular in America.