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Surfer’s colourful coast life

Image: Andrew Carruthers, @andrewcarruthersphotography

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Surfer’s colourful coast life

Moffat Beach champion longboarder Kathryn Hughes has become known for her colourful board designs.

Sunshine Coast longborder Kathryn Hughes lives her life in full colour. Her creative senses – both in and out of the water – drive her success, this in spite of living with a hearing impairment.

Australia’s current number two longboarder, known for her signature “drop knee” move and colourful handpainted surfboards, is creating waves on land with her artistically designed surfboards.

“I was always creative when I was a very little girl. Apparently, I would draw in my mum’s books and draw on the walls and I think I realised that I wanted to do art on surfboards at around age of 10,” the Moffat Beach local says.

Using markers known as Posca pens, Ms Hughes prepares the board, draws her designs and seals the finished product – inspired entirely by the environment.

“It’s inspired by the environment. If I go out to Moffats, I’ll look back and I’ll look at the trees and all of a sudden I’ll just get this idea in my head.

“I don’t know, it just comes to me and I guess that’s really special.”

Ms Hughes was introduced to surfing at the age of seven when she would watch her father Mark take on the waves.

“I started to say, ‘hey dad I want to have a go’,” she recalls.

Like a duck to water, Ms Hughes found her feet and remembered back when she would skip out on school just to catch a few waves. “I remember, I was like 16 [and] surfing every day, skipping school. My dad would just come to school and get me out of school and take me surfing.”

Ms Hughes first joined the World Surfing League World Longboard Tour in 2015 and finished second in the competition in 2016 and 2017.

She is also known for mastering the typically difficult drop knee manoeuvre, where the back knee is bent inward and lowered throughout a cutback turn, with the kneecap sometimes dropping all the way to the deck of the board, just behind the front foot.

“It’s quite a hard manoeuvre to do but somehow I just click in with it.

“I also do the reverse cutback as well – with the left leg over the back of your right foot and then switching back into normal regular foot stand.”

It hasn’t always been an easy ride for the young surfer who grew up learning to navigate the world with very limited hearing. Ms Hughes is completely deaf in her left ear and only has 60 per cent hearing in her right ear, believed to be cause by meningitis, which she contracted at just nine days old.

Today, Ms Hughes uses an inner ear hearing aid that gives her 80 per cent hearing in her right ear. Regardless of her adversity, Ms Hughes says she had never let her hearing interfere with her surfing.

Having won back-to-back Queensland titles and the recent Winter Classic at Alexandra Headland, Ms Hughes is yet to decide her future plans with international competitions still on hold.

“At the moment I’m just cruising and surfing every day. I’m currently deciding whether to go back to competition next year or not.”

In the meantime, Ms Hughes is doing gardening work and sells her boards on Facebook Marketplace, by word of mouth and through her sponsor, Classic Malibu.

Find her on Instagram @kat_hughes

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