Interview - Alison Shreeve

Interview: Alison Shreeve, world champion sailboarder
-29th September 2007 - Mediaman
- 4th November 2007 - Triple M Dolphin Juice

Mediaman continues to report on some of Australia's greatest athletes and world champions.

What's your background?

On a personal note……..I was born in Sydney. When I was 2 years old my family moved to a rural property near Port Macquarie. I grew up riding horses, mustering cattle and enjoying farm life. We lived in a remote area so for some of my primary years, I learnt by correspondence at home, but moved into town for high school. I played about eleven sports for my school reaching state level in cricket, indoor cricket, and was age and state champion in Athletics.

As far as windsurfing is concerned……..When I was 15 I chose windsurfing as a school sport, and my parents bought me my first windsurfer for my 16th birthday. My first coach March Jordan saw potential and offered me free lessons on the weekends. The following year I went to my first youth World Championships in South Africa. I then went to Finland in 1999 and in 2000 and came 2nd at the ISAF Youth World championships. After coming 3rd in my first Olympic trials for Sydney, I then campaigned to qualify for the Athens Olympics. In two years I went from being ranked 55th in the world to being ranked 4th. Despite winning all the national events, I just missed out on qualifying for the Games. I then went into Professional windsurfing on the Formula class and came 2nd in my first ever professional Formula regatta - the European Championships. From there I was able to secure some sponsors and by the end of the year I won my first PWA World tour title. In the following years I won nearly every event in the Formula class including the World championships in Melbourne (2005), Korea (2006) and Estonia (2007). Along the way I have also broken the “A” class world speed record in 2005 with a speed of 27.7knots (51.3km/h) and hold the Australian speed record of 32.84knots. I won the prestigious Australian Female Sailor of the Year award in 2006.

What do you do on a typical day?

When I have use of a car I train 5-6 days per week on the water between 3-6 hours. I run 6 days per week, 1 hour per day. I do my own gym program on Mon, Wed, Fri for 2-2.5hours.

Apart from training a good deal of my time is spent seeking sponsors, organizing upcoming regattas (ie flights, accommodation, insurances, excess baggage, entry fees, equipment, transfers etc), work doing odd jobs to pay the bills, updating my website, media obligations, and sleep!

What are the biggest challenges you have overcome, both in your career and life in general?

Trying to juggle a Civil and Structural Engineering degree with an international windsurfing ‘career’ was definitely a challenge, which I overcame by simply putting aside university. It was just too difficult to do excellently at both, so something had to go. The disappointment of missing out on the Olympics didn’t last long because I re-directed my efforts on professional windsurfing where I have been very successful. Financial pressures are a challenge for anyone, but especially full-time sports people. Securing finance to cover the costs of the sport are always challenging. I’ve overcome that difficulty by reminding myself of just how good I’ve got it being able to travel the world doing what I love, and while my needs are always met, I’ve not yet been in a position where I can save up for other things in life. That’s where my faith in God kicks in – I’m incredibly blessed and thankful for what I have.

Tell us about the 4 World Championships you won?

My first world title was the PWA (Professional Windsurfing Assoc) World Tour in 2004. In 2005 I won the Formula World Championships that were held in Melbourne, Australia so that was pretty special because my family was able to attend. That event had its challenges. On Day one a guy sailed into our starting area and crashed into me making me fall and put me 400 m behind but I was able to catch up to 3rd place. Day 2 I broke an extension leaving me with a DNF (Did not finish) and then after being rescued and rigging up a sail really quickly I just made it to the next start in time only for a French guy to crash into my ankle doing about 50km/h. After not being able to move in the water for about 10minutes I thought if it was broken I wouldn’t be able to stand on it. Amazingly, I won that race but couldn't walk or carry my gear up the beach afterwards. I then spent the night in the hospital getting xrays without much sleep before racing the next day. My sister had to carry me around the beach because I couldn’t walk properly...but I could stand on a board! I managed to win the final 4 races taking out my 2nd world title, so I reckon I really earned that one.

In 2006 I did 4 world titles in 6 weeks in 4 different time zones and continents! I lost the PWA and Slalom world titles by only one point coming 3rd in both. Following that I came 10th at the Pre Olympics in China, and one day later the Formula World championships started in Korea. Half way through this regatta I hit a crab net with my fin on a down wind and split my board in half from the nose, and ripped the fin box out of the back of the board. I then won that race and the World title.

In 2007 I decided to focus on my Olympic trials and didn't do any professional events. After a very disappointing result at the RS:X World Championships I decided to go to the Formula World championships in Estonia before coming back to Australia. Because I wasn’t sponsored I had to buy new equipment and use sails that were two years old because that was all I had in Europe with me at the time. I went to Tallin, Estonia and had no wind for 2 weeks prior to the event, so with only 2 days on the board to get used to it again this was my only preparation since the World Championships the year before. I won every race which I have never done before taking out my 4th world title. I have never been able to drop (discard) three 1st places before, so that was pretty satisfying.

What parts of the world has your sport taken you?

My sport has taken me all over the world. Unfortunately I don't always get to enjoy the country that I'm in because the time between events is very short sometimes and we are in and out quite quickly with only enough time to train a day or two at the venue before the racing starts. The countries I have visited are South Africa, Finland, New Caledonia, Denmark, Thailand, China, Korea, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Holland, Estonia, Austria, Italy, Bulgaria, Maui, USA, New Zealand, Argentina, England, Turkey, Cyprus, Greece. There could be more…..

Who do you look up to?

My parents, Steve Allen (Australian Formula windsurfing world champion), and someone I’ve never met but who has inspired me is Kieran Perkins with his Gold medal swim at the Atlanta Olympics.

To you, what is success?

Achieving what you set out to do with integrity and fair play. Perceived success achieved without integrity and fairplay is common but doesn’t impress me – there’s no honour in that. Real satisfaction and happiness comes with success that is earned through hard work and honesty.

You’re so fit... what is your diet and training regime?

I try not to eat after 7pm, I prefer 5 small meals per day, with only once piece of bread maximum if I can. If I know I'm going to burn off the energy I allow myself some pasta or rice, otherwise I try not to eat too many carbs. I don't cut out any food group, I just eat less if I have to control my weight. Fitness for me comes from discipline with sensible eating, and regular exercise such as the gym program already mentioned. Running is good for me.

What do you to do relax?

Sleep, watch movies, read, hang out with my family, my sisters and brother, and play my guitar.

What's the biggest misconception about you?

Living an international sporting lifestyle makes people think I have plenty of friends all over the world, but the fact is I go from regatta to regatta, from one plane to another, or I’m on the road a lot, or training by myself, so there’s actually very little time for forming lasting friendships. It can be quite lonely.

What will you be doing in 10 years?

I hope that I am married and have kids by then! But I would also like to do some public speaking, especially to young people because I hope I have something to offer that would inspire and encourage them to make the most of their lives, to never give up. There aren't too many good role models out there for teenagers and kids these days, especially girls. I'm sure I will also continue windsurfing for a while. I have few goals to achieve before I retire, like breaking the outright world speed record, windsurfing across Bass Strait, and qualifying and competing in the Olympics.

Editors note: We were delighted to raise the media and publics awareness in Allison's endeavors. Allison and Australia's world champion athletes are really worth supporting every step of the way.



Alison Shreeve official website

Triple M Podcasts


Alison Shreeve

Mediaman secured Alison Shreeve the Triple M interview

Public congratulations and thank you to Allison Shreeve for supporting Movember 2007