Who is Kate Duncan? Tell us your story!
I grew up in tiny rural town in South Australia. Think redbacks and brown snakes and dirt (so much dirt). In a drastic attempt to find some excitement I headed to California straight out of high school. There I found love and the outdoors and (very quickly) a career as an EMT, a Paramedic and then a Firefighter Paramedic.
I lived mostly in the mountains near Lake Tahoe, getting up to all kinds of outdoor sports mischief, like whitewater kayaking, mountain biking and all kinds of other dangerous but super fun shenanigans.
I spent 13 years trying to save (but mostly lose) countless lives. I saw all kinds of awful things, like depression and poverty and gang violence.
In between all of this I developed a strong meditation practice and sat countless silent meditation retreats at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, just north of San Francisco. I worked really hard to make myself kinder, to find compassion and an open heart and all that other good stuff.
And how did you find your path in yoga and surfing?
Finally I made the huge decision to embrace the Yoga and Meditation path I'd been walking for the last 7 years and transition into teaching. While I was transitioning, but still a Paramedic, I met Lulu Agan of SwellWomen.
After spending one week in Sri Lanka investigating a luxury resort for a future surf and yoga retreat, I came home and resigned, and haven't looked back since.
I now live in a beautiful beach town south of Sydney, surfing as much as possible and teaching about 10 yoga classes a week. I run local events and workshops (like Yin Yoga, Meditation, Kombucha Making and essential oils.), and run about six to eight SwellWomen retreats per year. I’ve also just done my Reiki training, and am completing a meditation teacher training and life coaching course, as I want to offer the very best version of myself to all my clients and guests.
Where is your favourite wave (or secret surf spot) in Australia?
The thing about Australia is there are so many hidden and remote spots. The cities are so crowded but all you have to do is pack up the dog, the van and a few boards and start driving and its just you and the ocean. I'm often venturing down South to find some space. The further South the better! I don't take off as much as I used to because, luckily for me, I live at one of my all time favourite spots, Stanwell Park. Its a rough, but super fun beach break and its often uncrowded and always beautiful. But shh, don't tell... Sydney’s just around the corner.
And... favourite surf spot in the world?
Well, I have to say I’ve had some pretty good times in the Telo Islands, in North Sumatra. Its relatively uncrowded, with scary enough, but not too scary reef breaks with amazing scenery.
La Bar dished us up some amazing right handers a few days in a row and there's also a wave called bubbles that barrels for ages.
BUT, my all time favourite is a secret spot on Maui, and I definitely cant tell you about that. All I can say is that is is somewhere sort of close to Honolula Bay...
What is your 'go-to' yoga pose and why?
My favourite yoga pose is always changing, depending on what is happening in my body or in my life. Every time something in me shifts, and I move to a new place, the favourite pose changes. There's one that has always stood the test of time though, and that is Savasana. There's really nothing else like it. It is that opportunity to offer each cell in our body this new information, a new way of being, so that we always leave the mat changed. The teachings and possibilities and growth in yoga seem endless, and yet Savasana is always there, simple and unchanging.
Tell us about SwellWomen and how you came to be involved?
I had an intuition inside me that it was time to leave the ambulance and move on to something else. Around that time I was experiencing a tonne of physical anxiety in my body. I didn’t know how I was going to make an exodus from this career I had always had and that had earned me a steady healthy income for so long.
I meditated, a lot.
I began making vision boards and writing my dreams on post it notes and running retreats was one of those dreams. About three months before I resigned I was having a glass of wine at a SUP Surf comp in Noosa with a new friend. She began telling me about this amazing life changing surf and yoga retreat she had been on, and how the owner, Lulu had told her she was looking for someone to expand the business to Australia. I had the most intense intuitive pulling in my belly, and so I said “can I have her email”. I remember sending a simple email, just thinking I could begin to get some information or advice about such things. Lulu and I hit it off, and the rest is history.
The moral of the story? If your gut tells you what to do, DO IT!!
What is the secret recipe to a perfect retreat?
The leaders have to have heart. They’ve got to want to change the lives on their guests. That’s what it is all about. You can be anywhere, with any kind of surf, but the most important thing to do is to have a team that wants the very best for you. Our guests have so much fun with surfing, but they also breakthrough barriers by pushing themselves beyond the boundaries of their comfort zones. Our yoga is a time to nourish and rejuvenate the body. And then.. we take them all deeper with journaling and meditation, designed to bring gentle inquiry. By the end of a week we are always amazing friends.
I remember every guest and the changes they went through, and I know that means they will remember their SwellWomen experience forever.
Of course, it also helps to be in luxury accommodation in paradise islands, with warm surf and plenty of palm trees.
What’s your personal mantra – the words you live by?
"Look where you want to go”. In other words, focus on the positive. I learned this when I first began whitewater kayaking. Its drilled into you in the early days, and because the consequences of going the wrong way down a rapid are so high, you take it seriously.
I took this motto to all my sports, and later had a massive realisation that it applied to everything.
If you focus on the negative parts of a relationship, for example, its likely to fail. I focus on what I want, I'm careful about what I am thinking about, and I look where I want to go. In fact, I just wrote an article about this that will be featured in April’s edition of Travel Play Live magazine.
What makes you feel a billion times better?
Three things… writing, surfing and meditation. Enough said.
To learn more about the awesome life of Kate Duncan follow @yoginisurferkate or visit www.kateduncanyoga.com. Photography by Fiona Peters.