Island Native – Mariko Strickland-Lum

Mariko Strickland-Lum

When it comes to competing, Mariko Strickland-Lum lets her surfing do the talking!

She recently competed at the World Stand Up Surfing Championships in Huntington Beach, California. While enjoying the sunny, warm weather, Strickland-Lum competed in the small conditions and surfed her way into the finals. The media kept referring to her as the “dark horse.” Mariko remarked, “I thought it was funny, but it made sense. I haven’t competed in any of the tour events, because I was out for a year with a shoulder injury. Plus, being from Kaua’i, I don’t get many photo opportunities of me surfing my home-breaks. I enjoy being the underdog, so I didn’t mind being called the ‘dark horse’ at all. I think it actually took the pressure off of me, and put more pressure on my competitors who had more of a reputation to defend. Overall, I was just excited to showcase my surfing skills.”

Although a “dark horse” to the press, Strickland-Lum surfs exceptionally well. She has always had a passion to compete, but more than that, it is in the ocean where she is inspired and feels thankful. These are the feelings that drive her. She has a laid back and mellow demeanor, but don’t let this fool you. Her competitive nature was honed at an early age. She excelled in her free surfing, as well as putting her energy in competition on the soccer field and basketball court. She now assists pro surfers, such as Malia Manuel, to be successful in surfing competitions. Strickland-Lum’s story began in Anahola, Kauai, where her beautiful, hula dancing mom, Sue (Murayama) Strickland, and Aussie father Greg Strickland met. He was a traveling surfer and surfboard shaper at the time. The rest, as they say, is history.

“Growing up with my older sister Kanani and brother Kyle, we practically lived at the beach, surfing some of Kauai’s best waves with Dad.”

“At the age of four, it was soccer and basketball as my two main sports. Surfing was my fun outlet sport. Playing soccer throughout, I eventually I had the opportunity to play soccer in college and take it to the semi-pro level. Growing up with my older sister Kanani and brother Kyle, we practically lived at the beach, surfing some of Kauai’s best waves with Dad.”

Mariko Strickland-Lum

Strickland-Lum attended high school at Oahu’s Mid-Pacific Institute, where she ex-celled in basketball and soccer. Surfing was not really a career choice when she set out for California, attending San Diego State University. Strickland-Lum eventually transferred to California State University, Long Beach, where she graduated.

“I actually didn’t get into canoe paddling and canoe surfing until after college, just a few years ago. A couple of my girlfriends who are well known in the canoe paddling community took me under their wing to show me the ropes.” Strickland-Lum does not paddle for a canoe club yet, but re-marked, “I often paddle with the local clubs to train with them.”

“As a grom, starting over twenty-plus years ago, I competed a few times, but it wasn’t until SUP came along, that I started to enter some serious contests.”

Mariko loves surfing, but prefers stand-up right now. Her travels have taken this Kauai girl to Australia, Tahiti, Peru, Micronesia, France, California, and of course, our own Hawaiian Island chain. When asked which place was her favorite, she replied, “All of my international trips were so very unique. If I had to choose one, though,  I would have to say Australia. My husband and I travelled the whole east coast of Australia driving a camper-van. We travelled and surfed perfect wave after perfect wave, along the journey. Plus, it was on this trip where I got engaged!”

Now married, she and her husband, Kainoa Lum often surf together at her favorite spot in Hanalei. Kainoa is a Kaua’i County Lifeguard, as well as an avid spear fisherman, ex-professional bodyboarder, and overall great waterman. They have started a business called Adventure Fit Kauai and Brewskeez HI together. Strickland-Lum has also been a physical education teacher, waitress, and marketing manager at Duke’s, Kauai. They have both worn many “hats,” in terms of their life experiences.

Mariko Strickland-Lum

When asked to name one of her more memorable moments in surfing, she replied, “It was in 2011, Surfing Ta’apuna, Tahiti. At sunset, I was getting barreled on my SUP right in front of a boat full of Tahitians. They all started ‘hooting.’ This was probably because for one, I was a girl, and two, I was riding a stand up paddle board.”

“All the underground guys that rip on Kaua’i, who haven’t any sponsors, but do it for the love of the sport.”

Everyone has a water person they look up to, and when Strickland-Lum was asked who served as an influential source, she responded without hesitation. “Noe Auger! She is originally from Moloka’i, but now resides on Kaua’i. She is an amazing water woman who does it all. She paddles, surfs, sails, dives, etc. Her understanding of the ocean, wind, tides, and surf, as well her ability to steer a canoe is inspiring. She takes on the kuleana of sharing her water knowledge with others because she is so passionate about perpetuating the Wa’a. In my opinion, a true water-woman or waterman is a confident individual who does not feel threatened to teach others.”

Other water people that inspire her are, “All the underground guys that rip on Kaua’i, who haven’t any sponsors, but do it for the love of the sport.” When asked whether there were any other surfers that inspired her, she responded, “As cliché as it may sound, eleven-time world champion, Kelly Slater would be one. The reason be-ing, is that I have a lot of respect for surfers and just athletes in general, who put principle before money and fame. Plus, he’s twice the age of some of the youngest surfers on tour and he is still more fit and one of the best surfers on tour.”

Strickland-Lum discussed the organizations that she advocates for, including KORE: Kauai Ocean Recreation Experience, and the Waipa Foundation.

KORE is a program that enables people with disabilities to enjoy the “stoke” of surfing. The Waipa Foundation works with the community to manage the ahupua’a of Waipa (land mass from the mountain to the ocean), which is located on the north shore of Kaua’i. Strickland-Lum explained, “Waipa is a place where folks can connect with the ‘aina (that which feeds us: the land and resources), and learn about our local values and lifestyle through laulima (many hands working together).”

With all of her travels and adventures, Mariko continues to be a strong athlete, as well as a true champion. She extends an invitation and welcomes you to learn about her new business venture.

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