14 QUESTIONS FOR
In Marin / CURRENTS
1If you weren’t born into the Heineken family, what would you be doing? I’d probably spend more time in the moun-tains. Backpacking, camping and snowboarding.
2How often do you train? During the windy season (April to October), four to six days a week.
3Do you ever worry about losing a finger? Not really. The sketchiest experiences I’ve had are kiteboarding in the
waves at Ocean Beach, not while course racing. Surprisingly, I
nearly lost my finger ice-skating in San Francisco a few weeks
after the world championships in December.
4Any traction with a Heineken beer sponsorship? They only sponsor events, not athletes. They don’t want to give
off the impression that alcohol enhances performance.
5Is this your job? Nope, I work at the San Francisco Department of Public Works as a mechanical engineer. I
do want to thank my sponsors, however: Silicon Valley Bank,
St. Francis Sailing Foundation, Ozone Kites, MikesLab (board)
and Tectonics Maui (fins).
6Longevity of your kiting career? As long as I’m still hav- ing fun and my job allows me to balance both.
7Compared to windsurfing, learning to kitesurf is … The learning curve for kiting is much steeper than windsurf-ing. I spent an entire summer swimming with a windsurfer while
learning. After a week of kiting I was able to sail upwind and
jump 10 feet into the air. Landing the jump was another story.
8Compared to windsurfing is kitesurfing safer or more dangerous? Kitesurfing is more dangerous, but the safety
mechanisms on the gear have developed significantly in
recent years. It’s important to make conservative decisions
sometimes so as to not put yourself in a dangerous situation.
9Where would you suggest a beginner learn? Take a trip to a warm windy place for a week and take lessons.
I learned in Playa Copal, Costa Rica, where I went for a few
days and ended up staying for a month.
10What do you do/use for sunscreen? Whatever is “madre approved” as we call it. At least 10 percent
zinc and some titanium dioxide for broad-spectrum protec-tion. Mom has even ordered a gallon of Australian sunscreen
and stuffed our family’s sailing bags with small bottles of it.
11Best yacht club food? St. Francis Burger and Lagunitas IPA, best consumed after sailing.
12Favorite pizza in Marin? Stefano’s chicken pesto pizza.
13Favorite dinner spot with your boyfriend, and why? My parents’ house, because they do the cooking
and clean up.
14Will there ever be a Team Heineken racing school? I like teaching the juniors to race, but other than intermittent clinics, I don’t think there’s a school in our future. M
Heineken’s name, blond hair and status as Kiteboard Course Racing World Champion might
seem familiar if you have been reading our magazine. We featured her brother Johnny back
in October 2011, soon after he won his first world championship in Germany. He’s had
another one since, and Erika has earned two more, her latest in China. There are plenty of
other people competing to be the best kitesurfer on the planet — hundreds
of überathletes from all over the world strive for the title — but the
Heinekens, apparently, are just that good. The secret? Erika’s childhood
seemed pretty typical. She went to St. Patrick’s, Hall Middle School and then Marin
Academy, where she played volleyball and loved skiing and snowboarding. The tooth
fairy found her in her home in Larkspur (though sometimes a month late), she liked ice
cream and loved listening to music from her parents’ generation. What wasn’t typical
was the amount of time the family spent on the water, both in the bay and on their
boat at Tinsley Island. We caught up with her shortly after she moved into
a home (near her parents) in Larkspur with her boyfriend John. MIMI TOWLE