Hailing from the desert island of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands, Germany’s Sonni Hönscheid has literally been rotating her home from one exotic island locale to another throughout her life. The daughter of a professional windsurfer, Sonni was born on the small island of Sylt in the North Sea near Germany’s border with Denmark. The family traveled the world throughout her father’s career, during which they spent a considerable period of time on Maui (her older sister was even enrolled in school there), before relocating their permanent home to Fuerteventura when the budding surfer girl was five.
Long before her 2014 victory in the prestigious annual Molokai to Oahu stand up paddleboard race, the 31-year-old athlete began her water sports career in competitive surfing where Sonni holds the distinction of being a 12x German Surfing Champion. Her upbringing has instilled a set of interdisciplinary skills which make her among the most well-rounded athletes in the sport of stand up paddling. “I like to be competitive, give everything and get to my limits (sometimes even over them). And I enjoy the feeling of crossing the finish line,” she told me from her home in Fuerteventura during a well deserved break from competition.
In a manner similar to her contemporaries around the globe, Sonni enjoys the freedom that comes with stand up paddling. There is perhaps no other discipline that can be shaped and molded to make the most of one’s surroundings while offering the opportunity to specialize in certain conditions. When it comes to racing, Sonni prefers the challenge of a good downwinder or extreme conditions with a lot of wind and waves. “I like the challenge and difficult conditions [which] makes it more exciting as you don’t know what to expect,” said Sonni.
Unsurprisingly, her favorite race is the annual Molokai to Oahu event traversing the renown Channel of Bones. “It´s a big challenge mentally and physically, more than just a race against other athletes, it´s also a race against yourself,” she said.
At home on Fuerteventura, the Hönscheid family owns and operates North Shore Fuerteventura, an all-inclusive surf, windsurf, kiteboard and SUP shop in the town of Lajares.
The family’s patriarch, Jürgen, designs and shapes all manner of boards for the activities promoted by the shop and each member of the family shares the management duties. “My dad shapes unreal windsurf, surf and SUP boards in his workshop,” said Sonni. A cursory glance at the shop’s website and the photos it contains are an indication of the strong bond between Sonni and her family. The assembled collage is a pictorial history of the Hönscheid’s travels through life and contains multiple images of Sonni from an earlier time.
Etiquette in the water, knowledge about the elements specially in the surf zone, currents, crowds etc. I was teaching my daughters all these things before they even got their first wave. First they were on boogie boards to learn, then on surfboards and later on Sonni got to windsurf as well. For my daughters it was a natural thing to step up into surf sports.
~ Jürgen Hönscheid
Sonni Hönscheid: Talented On and Off the Water
In contrast to many top athletes, the SIC Maui team rider’s accomplishments do not stop at the water’s edge. Sonni is an incredibly talented and inspiring artist who can be regularly seen sporting her own designs via her apparel line with Chiemsee. “I have liked to paint since I was a kid,” she told me.
“Painting is a real enrichment for me, it feels really good to have another way to express myself outside of my sport. I used to always draw Lobos (the little island next to Fuerteventura) with faces, dressed up, as a princess, etc. Then in 2010 I found my style or the style found me! Everything happened really quickly after that – I had my first art exhibition on Sylt [in 2013] and I began designing for brands such as Starboard, Jucker Hawaii, Capri Sonne and Chiemsee clothing, where I have my own collection.”
In August 2015, Sonni will hold her second art exhibition at the Kaamp- Hüs Gallery in the town of Kampen back “home” on the island Sylt. The exhibition is named Peace, Love, Sylt II and will feature works highlighting her unique blend of colors and ocean inspired themes. She draws inspiration from traveling the globe and spending time on the water. “Painting is like writing a diary for me,” said Sonni, while disclosing that she enjoys listening to the German soap opera Sturm der Liebe (Storm of Love) as a way to relax while painting. Sonni’s goal is to one day hold an art exhibition in Maui, where the tropical ambiance of Hawaii would provide the perfect backdrop for her colorful oceanic themes.
Maui is always on her mind, an element no doubt instilled during her youth following her father’s windsurfing career. It was perhaps no coincidence she chose SIC Maui as her board sponsor and cites the Paddle IMUA/Bluesmiths race on Maui as one of her favorite events alongside Molokai to Oahu and the Stand Up World Series-Turtle Bay on neighboring Oahu. Regardless of the venue, Sonni’s cheerful demeanor is guaranteed to shine and will most certainly bring her additional success along each of her chosen paths throughout the years to come.