For Tatiana Howard, it’s all about being on the water. The refreshing breath of new life that she enjoys every time she jumps in the ocean. She’s spent half her life surfing, and virtually all of her adult life organizing the non-competitive Butterfly Effect event for women on Maui. The first one took place on the North Shore and involved 10 women. Last year’s event brought out more than 400, and dozens of similar events have since taken place around the world.
On the afternoon of Friday, Apr. 10, I sat down with Howard at Paia Pay Coffee on the North Shore to find out why non-competitive events are so important to her, and where she gets the energy and inspiration to do the incredible amount of work required to put them on:
MAUITIME: How long have you been surfing?
TATIANA HOWARD: When I was 14, I got into surfing and wind surfing. Then kite board surfing. Stand up paddling wasn’t even around. I love to do it all–when it’s windy, not windy; when there’s surf, or no surf. I’m not like a professional standup paddler, but I’m more like a water girl. I’m a sponsored windsurfer.
The ocean makes me feel so good to be out there: rejuvenated, refreshed. You can restart whenever you jump in the water. All these sports are good for that.
MT: Who inspires you? Why?
TH: Many people inspire me. I’m inspired by people doing what they love, doing what they love with a good kind attitude, doing what they love that gives back to the world. My family is supportive and inspires me by their love, kindness, health and experience. My yoga and dance teachers inspire me and remind me of how important it is to take care of myself so that I can best live and offer my dreams to the world without getting drained and exhausted. Everyday is practice. My water sport friends inspire me as well from Ho‘okipa Beach and all across the world, always keeping each other motivated to be out in the water having fun and progressing.
MT: How did the name “Butterfly Effect” come about?
TH: When we first came up with the name, the scientific theory wasn’t part of it. It was about windsurfing sails, kite sails–I always thought they looked like butterfly wings. I’ve always called them butterfly wings.
Ten of us did a non-competitive event in 2007. What do we call it? we asked. We were sitting there in Ho’okipa, and a butterfly flew by us. So we called it the Butterfly Effect.
MT: How old are you ?
MT: So that means back in 2007 you were…
TH: I was 19 when I started. I grew up in Kula and now live on the North Shore. My dad originally came out here. I have three older brothers. They’re all into sports, but it’s funny that out of my family, I was the one to take windsurfing serious and go out on the world tour.
MT: Why do non-competitive events?
TH: A non-competitive event? It was unheard of in 2007, especially for girls. People said, “Girls don’t even do these sports.” Yes, they do.
I think that’s why it’s grown so much–windsurfing. People come here from all around the world to windsurf. It’s such a tight little community. I was doing this windsurfing tour but I didn’t like the competitive side. But no one would sponsor me if I wasn’t in a contest.
I do sports for enjoyment. If I’ve had a stressful day, I go windsurf and my mind is clear. I’m totally submerged in nature, and I don’t have to worry about being judged. Sure, it feels good to win, but if I lost I didn’t really care. I like how contests bring people together, so why not have an event that still brings everyone together but doesn’t bring anyone down?
MT: Were you ever under pressure to compete and win?
TH: In the past competitions, sometimes I won, sometimes I lost, but either way it wasn’t 100 percent satisfying to me. I wasn’t raised to be competitive with surfing or other sports but that seems to be a normal route most athletes take when they start improving. When I became a professional rider, I was stoked and the competition part was new to me. When I started traveling internationally to compete and saw many people do these sports just for competition, it was a whole new serious concept that I didn’t really get into. It isn’t that I didn’t care because who doesn’t want to do good and win, but it was a short lived thrill and wasn’t a long lasting reward for me.
Competitions are hard because you have to go out when conditions might not be the best and it is luck if you get a nice wave in the short amount of time you are given. When I go out and free-sail or surf, and the conditions just happened to be perfect, catching waves and being encouraged and to be able to share the awesome conditions with friends on that water, that’s fulfilling to me. I leave the beach with a smile from the inside out and go into town with a fresh, fun energy to share with others.
The Butterfly Effect event is like this for me, too. It’s a time to be together as group, encourage one another, leave all competition or comparison out, and just enjoy nature and community. We are all winners! Not only are we all winners, but when we support each other to accomplish a goal, a lot of confidence, appreciation and smiles come out from it.
Back in 2007 when I started this non-competitive water sport event, many people and sponsors didn’t know what to think of it, but it quickly caught on and now there are many non-competitive events that help fundraise for needed causes. I love to see events and gatherings that celebrate and help each other instead of compete against one another.
MT: Tell me about the first event, back in 2007.
TH: It didn’t start as a standup paddling event. It started as a down-winder, from Ho’okipa to Kanaha. And whatever sport we wanted – windsurf, kite. There was one stand-up paddler. It was a big, old tandem board. We were like, “What are you doing?”
MT: It certainly seems to be growing.
TH: There were like 25 girls in 2008. Every year it kept doubling. In 2008, it went to Brazil. Now it’s 30 events in 18 countries. The year before last, we kept saying there was no way there would be more than 250 girls paddling. Last year on Maui, we had over 400 girls. We’ll see what happens this year.
MT: Now I suppose putting these things on requires a lot of work…
TH: A lot of work is required. Permitting, organizing, getting sponsors, getting supplies… Permitting is so hard. You turn in the application in October and you don’t get it back until a month before. You need one for Baldwin, one for Kanaha and a water permit. To get those I have to turn in a bunch of different plans, with maps. I do all that stuff.
In the past, it’s all been me and my family and friends. So much work. And there were days when I’d say, “Oh my God, I can’t do it,” but then something happens that shows me it wants to happen. I’m not forming it, I’m just guiding it. It’s naturally just getting bigger. Every day I learn tons of stuff. And it’s not just this one, but seven other international events, too: Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Dominican Republic, Lake Tahoe, Brazil. I’m trying to do one in Tahiti. Then there’s International Day…
MT: What’s that?
TH: June 21. People can sign up online. It’s a benefit for Boarding for Breast Cancer. All people who’ve contacted me to do an event that I’ve had to say no to can be a part of this. It will cover the globe and take place on the summer solstice. Hopefully we’ll have girls in Hookipa stand up paddling and surfing on the Southside. There will be different levels to inspire and teach and ride together. It might take a little while for it to take off.
It’s about inspiring women to get together and give back for a cause. Last year we did native tree planting with the Plant A Wish Foundation. They planted a native tree for every participant. It just keeps building and expanding into different places.
MT: What do you think women who take part get out of these events?
TH: Everyone kind of takes something different. Many girls are inspired to do better in the sport, or pick up a new sport. Or train harder. Some pro riders come back to share their passion. Some women paddle for those who can’t paddle. Some just want to do something community-minded. Everyone has their own take on it.
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THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT
Apr. 25, 2015
$40 registration fee. This includes event entry, lei, goodie bag, lunch, drinks by Sporting Club of the Pacific and entry to Aloha Beach Festival (registering at Adventure Sports Maui gets you 15 percent off store purchases).
To register online or get more info, go to Betheeffect.com.
For Twitter and Instagram, hashtag your photos #bemaui2015 and #betheeffect
8am: Check-in at Baldwin Beach Park
9am: Opening ceremony and start
10:30am: Arrival at Kanaha Beach Park
11am-3pm: Aloha Beach Festival at Kanaha Beach Park
Cover photo: Fish Bowl Diaries
Cover design: Darris Hurst