Sam Bittner created the AWT (American Windsurfing Tour) more than 5 years ago and has been organizing and managing the tour since then. That was a tough move and it worked as Sam and her colleagues put their heart and soul into the project. A lot of work and dedication by her and a few others was necessary to keep the momentum. She even managed to create a yearly growth in terms of events and 2015 saw 7 wave events on 3 continents. Last winter Sam Bittner who is 31 years of age decided to start a regular job on Maui.
We spoke with Sam about her new job, the 2016 AWT tour and how she will manage the tour in the future.
Continentseven: How are you doing? How was the start in your new job?
Sam Bittner: I am LOVING my new job at Maui Arts and Cultural Center as event coordinator. It keeps me very busy and on my toes with so many different fun events.
Continentseven: What’s new for 2016 at the AWT tour?
Sam Bittner: Morocco is new for 2016!! Boujmaa Guilloul has been on the AWT since the beginning and has been rooting to bring the tour to his home town for years. I am happy to finally get the opportunity to see that dream true.
Continentseven: Why did you decide to skip Cabo Verde, Santa Cruz and Cape Hatteras for 2016?
Sam Bittner: Cabo Verde was made possible by local Vicky Abbott last year but now that she has moved to Maui, we are short a local contact there. Santa Cruz was tough last year with the steep permit price and no wind. Hatteras is still on the maybe list. I feel it is important to include the East Coast US sailors in the fun but it sure is a long way to travel from Maui!
Continentseven: You built up the tour and made a re-birth of the Aloha Classic possible. Proud on that?
Sam Bittner: Hehe. Yes! Actually I am so so happy and grateful for the HUGE team of people who have worked together over the past 5 years to make it possible. Paul Ehman who used to manage the Aloha Classic back in the 80s and 90s has helped me tremendously along with the County of Maui.
Continentseven: You even brought AWT and PWA a bit together running the 2015 Aloha Classic together. Will you continue like that?
Sam Bittner: My mission with the AWT is to provide opportunity for everyone to showcase their skills in the best locations for windsurfing that the world has to offer. I wanted to allow the PWA riders to participate in the event and I’m so grateful they were able to come!
Continentseven: You competed in the Aloha Classic as well. Are you happy with your performance?
Sam Bittner: I had some great waves in my heats! There were a few heats I was so surprised to advance through and it was really frickin cool to be in the water with the best female windsurfers in the world! I spend so much of my time and energy putting on the events that my personal windsurfing often takes a back seat. I am grateful for the opportunity to windsurf at Ho’okipa with only a few girls.
Continentseven: The AWT tour is your baby. Now you decided to work full time on Maui. Will you be still in charge of the tour management?
Sam Bittner: The plan as of now is for me to manage the tour from Maui and have local event organizers at each stop on the tour in case I can not be there. I truly love Maui and it has been difficult to leave 6 months of the year to be on tour.
Continentseven: In 2013 you said, that you feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have the job you do as tour manager and you wouldn’t change that. Your decision to get a regular job with a regular income is definitely a step forward for you, but do you think, it might be a step back for the tour?
Sam Bittner: I still feel like the luckiest girl in the world. That did not change! I am still tour manager, just delegating more out to local event organizers for each stop. I live in Maui and get to windsurf/surf every day. Windsurfing has taking me around the world many times over the last 6 years. It is nice now to have a job on Maui where I can use the skills I have developed on tour and get paid now for the first time. Now I am learning even more skills to put towards the tour. Life is great!
Continentseven: What can we expect from the 2016 tour?
Sam Bittner: I expect the 2016 tour to have the same family feel as always and to provide an opportunity for anyone who loves windsurfing to explore new great spots and windsurf with like minded people!
Continentseven: Do you feel the tour and the Aloha Classic help to make windsurfing more popular in the USA again?
Sam Bittner: I do feel that windsurfing is coming back into the spotlight for extreme sports again. The 2015 Aloha Classic featured conditions like “back in the day”. At least that is what everyone kept saying. It was MASSIVE!!!! Jaws was breaking on the opening day. That gives everyone an idea of how extreme the conditions were. The live cast provided opportunity for anyone around the world to watch the event from the comfort of their own home. A lot of eyes were on the event and I expect an even bigger show for the next event with the help of title sponsor NoveNove!
I want to say thank you again to all windsurfers who have helped me along the way to build the American Windsurfing Tour into what it is today.
Continentseven: Thanks for the interview.
The AWT tour will see the first event in Morocco in May, organized by wave pro and local Boujmaa Guilloul.