Saturday, December 16, 2017

Growing Up With The Schweitzers

Zane and Shelby Schweitzer Master of the Ocean Cabarete Dominican Republic HawaiiIts 9 am in Cabarete and the Belgium Bakery is packed with tourists. Everyone is busy ordering fruit bowls, pastries or even mangu, a famous Dominican style breakfast of mashed plantains served with onions accompanied by eggs or salami. The two youngest Schweitzer’s can be seen walking in and doing their line along with the rest, while their eyes scan the display of goodies. Afterwards they sit down, all smiles, and join me in a table with a small mountain of food.

“You guys hungry?”

“Oh yeah! We usually try and eat whenever we get a chance, especially during contests.” 

As you might know from movies and culture, in Hawaiian Ohana means family, and family means nobody gets left behind. Same thing happens with the Schweitzer’s.
The two youngest, Zane and Shelby, are in town for a few days. They are both competing in this year’s local watersport championship, Master of the Ocean. However, it isn’t all that new to them, or at least to Zane since he’s been crowned overall winner for the last two years in a row, and this year doesn’t seem any different to him.
“Growing up in Maui has been the best. I’ve been to over 40 countries, travel for about 8 months a year (during the last 6 years), and I compete in over 25 events a year, and still Maui is the best. It’s my home.”

Zane and Shelby Schweitzer Master of the Ocean Cabarete Dominican Republic HawaiiZane and Shelby Schweitzer Master of the Ocean Cabarete Dominican Republic HawaiiZane and Shelby Schweitzer Master of the Ocean Cabarete Dominican Republic Hawaii

It would make sense, considering Hawaii is famous for its big waves and idyllic postcard views. Also for its athletes, most of which are pioneers of the big wave surfing movement at JAWS aka Peahi in Maui, names such as David Hamilton, Dave Kalama, and of course his very own father and mentor Matt Schweitzer, 18 time World Champion and windsurfer.

“My Dad is definitely a superhero, he’s just the complete legend in my eyes. He’s a pro dirt biker, pro surfer, pro windsurfer (did we mention he’s an 18 time World Champion?) and experienced fisher man, it’s pretty awesome to see him catch fresh fish every day and bring it home for dinner. He and my older brother have taught me everything I need to know about sports, and not just that, but also about being a man.”

Big question: Do you feel like you have a big responsibility when it comes to following your parent’s steps?
“My parents met while travelling on tour, they’re both recognized watersports athletes, my grandparents and siblings as well, and so for me it’s easy to make my life around the ocean. I guess you could say it’s my church, office and playground, all at the same time.”

We talk about the importance of family and Zane’s eyes just light up. It’s like he just tapped into an inner source of life and joy when the subject pops up. With a family trajectory in windsurf, his grandparents creating the sport, creating magazines and running the first events and World Tours, Zane and Shelby have a lot to look up to. In his hobbies he also mentions SUP, dirt biking, surfing and just about any watersport.

“The only moment I feel stress on my shoulders is when I’m away from my family. We all live together: My sister Shelby, my older brother Matty, my parents, Matt and Shawneen, grandma Carolyn, grandma Diane and grandpa Hoyle. And we’re always together, we’re all very family oriented.”

Zane Schweitzer ripping in the Cabarete Dominican republic windsurfing conditions at Master of the Ocean eventZane Schweitzer StandUp Paddleboarding Encuentro Cabarete during Master of the Ocean 2016

In despite of wishing he could spend more time with them, Zane is very aware that his current lifestyle is privileged and is more than thankful for it.
“My sister and I are very fortunate to be able to travel and do all these things. We understand that too and know that, so we always try to give back wherever we go.”
Considered in leaving a positive footprint, Zane and Shelby think that most pro athletes just focus on taking when they should stop and think about the communities they are impacting. “Luckily our mom and grandmother taught us the importance of leaving a good name.”

Zane and Shelby Schweitzer Cabarete Dominican Republic podium Master of the Ocean 2016Shelby Schweitzer Cabarete Dominican republic Playa Encuentro Surfing

That’s why they generally try and get together of group of kids and give free clinics wherever they go, teaching them how to swim, surf or stand up paddle. Maybe that’s why Zane gave away part of his equipment to young locals by the beach.

“I’ve done over 200 nonprofit clinics in the last 10 years. We’ve started a foundation called Stand Up For The Cure, which is the world’s largest SUP event, we’ve raised over US$550,000 for breast cancer awareness and saved over 13 lives in the last 5 years with our onsite screening and onsite testing. We’ve broken the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest Stand Up Paddle lesson ever taught with this event. We are fortunate, and feel the only way to happily continue doing this is sharing the Aloha.”

At the same time, “I am very excited with it all! Any 22 year old would love to be in this position, globetrotting, meeting new cultures and trying different food! Tasting every flavor that life has to offer. Not only that but also being supported by my family, friends and sponsors.”
By Sponsors he’s referring to Star Board and Maui Jim Sunglasses, his main sponsors since he was 11 years old who have given him complete support since he started the World Tour and his travels. Along with Vitargo, Cobian, Dakine Honolua Surf Co., FCS and Hi-Tech, amongst others.
Zane is all about sharing his knowledge and experiences.

“I know its expensive flying out for more than half of the year. It’s definitely a life experience and I want to share it. So right now, I’m focused in taking it all in by documenting in any way I can. I’ve accumulated 10 years of journals and I’m planning on converting it into a book. ”

In Hawaii, Aloha means a lot more than Hello and Goodbye, it’s the giving and receiving of love. In order to get, you have to give. The Schweitzer family has grown in Hawaii, a special place where everything there revolves around respect for the environment and helping each other at the same time. Over there, the first impression is the most important, so Shelby and Zane are the first to say Aloha and always treat everyone, whether it’s the president or a bum on the street, with the same attitude “’cus you never know who you’re talking to.”

When asked how they can keep up with all they have in their plate they both laugh it off:
“It’s a juggle! Staying genuine, while being considered a celebrity and an athlete. A lot of athletes have to be selfish and make time for themselves to train, to eat, and to sleep, and that might mean you end up revolving in your own world. We never want to be seen as high maka maka or conceited. We would rather be remembered as a people of Aloha, rather than champion athletes. At the end of the day you won’t remember which contest was won, but rather the good times we shared. All we can do is try to inspire other kids to follow this path.”

The Future:
Zane was literally a point off this past year, winning second in the World. Finished off really close:

“It was my best finish yet for SUP Overall. I have 9 Championship Wins, but for me it was bittersweet, since it was so close. The last even was cancelled, so we finished off with small waves, it wasn’t in my plans. My biggest goal is to become 2016 World Champion, and just continue my life, continue to innovate and inspire. Go out and push the limit with the sport I am passionate about. If you know how to safely play, you’re good to go.”

When conversing on youth, he stays pensive for a minute.

“I want to put up a new standard of cool. Kids growing up think it’s cool to get drunk and do drugs. But I want to get to the point of awareness and do a difference. We can change for the better. Watersports is the perfect way to connect. When you catch your first wave surfing, assuming you lived in the city, you might just have one of the most amazing experiences with nature, might feel so connected, so present, you’re gonna remember that the rest your life. You might then double think before you throw trash on the beach, you might then create or have appreciation for something, You might not see the beach as a big pool of water, you might see it as a place of refuge, and in return you won’t trash it… might keep it in good place.”

We turn to Shelby who is usually very diplomatic in her ways but also very vocal about the environment:

“The biggest piles of trash end up on our ocean, we respect our beaches, and people will literally fight someone off if they see cigarette buds being thrown away. If a turtle washes up and it’s dead because it ate a bottle cap or got trapped with plastic around its neck, we’re pissed. No matter where you trash in the world, it’s going to end up in the ocean, and most likely in Hawaii. One generation ago, people were completely surviving off the water with the trading system, and now you can’t farm or can’t fish half as much. Hawaiians believe the land and the ocean are gods, we believe the first humans came from the earth, a plant. So mother nature is a big deal for us.”

When talking about athlete’s power to change the world Zane says:

“I think athletes that have connections with nature can and should share this passion, it burns bright. You want to feed it, with dirt, snow, fire, wind, water, that is why I feel really connected with this gateway of sports and I’m grateful for sure.”

Hold on, can I brag about my little sister?
Runner up National Champion for Longboard in the United States, 2 time Regional Champion in Hawaii, talented windsurfer and water woman. But all in all her several achievements, Shelby seems like a very sweet and loving person.

“I grew up with the dream of being a pro surfer, and I was well on my way but I got off track for a bit. Stayed a year out of the water due to a mix of emotions that at some point got the best of me. Thankfully my brothers helped me to get back up in surfing. I used to compete every weekend, and travel but it takes a toll. Now i wanna soul surf more and be less competitive. Such a happy sport! The feeling of quiet and serenity, floating above the water, feeling the wind, gives me such peace of mind. Nothing like it.”

Cabarete Zane Shelby Schweitzer Brandon Sanford Master of the Ocean 2016Shelby Schweitzer Cabarete Dominican Republic Master of the Ocean 2016 Windsurfing

However, her future plans might get her off water again for some time:

“I’m moving off island soon, going to Oregon, got accepted in Southern Oregon University, it’s one of the best environmental science courses. I’m majoring in graphic design, would like to eventually work with surf brands like Volcom, Billabong or Ripcurl... and do my own thing from there. I’d like to do my own clothing line!” 
When asked what he thinks about his sister Shelby, “she is an inspiration, my siblings and I are very different. My brother is our protector, he cleared the path for us in Hawaii. I consider myself the Aloha, infectious vibration, and Shelby just pure inspiration. I’ve seen her struggle and blossom into the amazing person she is now. So proud!”

Entering a delicate subject, Shelby talks about her issues dealing with depression, body image and loss of close friends. All of this around the age of 15.

“You have to find natural ways to cope. At some point I had so much stuff locked up inside, and thanks to my brothers, I managed to get through. I’m very outdoorsy, and it took me a while to stick to that reality. People need to know that if you are miserable in an office, you can make yourself happy in another environment. Be vocal about your emotions! That’s the only way you can grow into your skin and fully accept who you are and who you are meant to be.”

At this point, our plates are empty but our eyes are full of water.
We all hug, say Aloha and give thanks, while they pick up their equipment and walk side by side back to the beach. They have a competition to win, not only against others, but within themselves. Growing up as a public persona can be hard, but the Schweitzer’s seem to have it under control.

Visit Zane "InZane" Schweitzers website

Shelby Schweitzers Fanpage on Facebook 

Check out our video with interviews of Shelby and Zane:



Hot Deal in Cabarete!