Q&A: Olympian Nikola Girke

December 6, 2008.

Each week, Scout poses 60 questions to a local who has made life in BC that much more interesting. They pick and choose. The minimum response is 20 answers. A Rorschach test, for sure…

This week, we talk to Vancouverite Nikola Girke, one of only a handful of athletes who has made the transition from one sport to another to compete in two different events at two different Olympic Games (470 Sailing at the 2004 Games in Athens and Windsurfing in Beijing this past summer). She is a five time Canadian Women’s Windsurf Champion, an avid surfer, and a wonderful dining companion.

The scariest situation you’ve ever been in: I used to live in Maui and became quite a proficient surfer. On this particular day my friend and I decided to go out at Ho’okipa to surf at Lanes, which is just left of the point of Ho’okipa and a bit less full-on. It was fairly big that day but not out of our league…yet. We paddled out and decided that we’d catch the shoulders of the waves as the peaks were scary and there were too many people trying to catch the peak. Both of us were on long boards which meant that we weren’t able to duck-dive through the wave, and that we were waiting to catch the waves a little further out than the guys on the short boards. This alone, put us the the position to be further outside and in prime position for the larger sets that would come through. I was getting pretty anxious, hoping and praying that I’d just catch the next wave in, all the way to shore, and then call it a day. Luckily, I caught a nice wave that took me right to the beach – what a relief but at the same time that ride was so incredibly exciting. The adrenaline of it all made me want to do it all over again. My friend caught the next wave and together we decided to go out for just one more wave. I was paddling back out in front of him, and was paddling at speed when I saw an “outside” set. Already in waves that seemed like the size of houses, the waves that were coming in the distance were enormous. There was nowhere to go but keep paddling out to sea. If I stayed where I was then, I would have been in the impact zone and just been pounded. I paddled in a fury. I made it over the first wave, pfewf, was able to look back and see that my friend had made it too. Then I looked ahead – in front of me was the biggest wave I have ever faced and it was nearing it’s breaking point. My paddling stepped into the next gear – turbo overdrive. I was now paddling up the wave as it was already starting to feather and all I needed to do was get over it….The top of the wave broke over me, my board and I went through the wave, my leash got pulled tugging me back and I thought I was going to get taken by the wave backwards, but luckily the surge stopped and I landed hard on the other side. I looked around in relief to see only one other guy had made it over this wave. Both of us were absolutely exhausted and relieved. My friend did not get through, along with about 30 others that got absolutely worked. Spooked beyond belief, he went in. Now it was my turn to make it in….but that meant I had to catch a wave in. I chose well and was able to ride a wave almost all the way in. Once in, we took pictures and continued to watch as monstrous waves continues to crash, glad we weren’t out there anymore. We reckoned that the wave that almost took me down had an 18 foot face at least, something I never want to experience again….!

Three things about your neighbourhood that make you want to live there: diverse, convenient, great food.

The thing that you eat that is bad for you that you will never stop eating: cinnamon buns

Favourite Vancouver bridge: Lions Gate Bridge.

One thing you’d like to change about Vancouver: less rain.

Cheap place for dinner: Kam’s Place on Davie. They have great food and with the Georgia
Straight coupon it’s a 2 for 1 deal.

Book you’re reading: Jan Wong’s China.

Last place traveled: China.

Biggest fear: failure.

Your ancestry: German.

Dumbest purchase ever: I buy things that are too small for me thinking that I’ll fit into them soon.

What are you proud of: I don’t quit – my ability to stick with projects to the end.

The thing that makes you the angriest: having people put words into my mouth.

Saddest thing about Vancouver: the downtown east side.

Food your mom makes better than anyone: Our traditional Christmas dinner: goose or duck, potato dumplings, red cabbage, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, gravy. She makes it for Thanksgiving and Easter too!

Talent you wish you possessed: the ability to sing.

Mac or PC: Mac.

Three things of no value that you will keep until you die: my teddy bear Felix, pictures, my late father’s journal.

Biggest hope: to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games in 2012.

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Visit Nikola’s website at NikolaGirke.com


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