The 2016 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year are Caleb Paine and Daniela Moroz, both of California.
Daniela Moroz, the judges say, is “a prodigy in an up-and-coming sport.” She’s mastering the kitesurfing scene and besting competitors everywhere from China to Australia. On her foiling kiteboard, she says, she rides 2 to 3 feet off the water and can hit speeds from 30 to 50 knots. The only thing she fears? Fish.
“The wipeouts can be pretty gnarly, but it’s worth the risk,” she said by cellphone following chemistry class at her high school, where friends were eager to see her new Rolex watch. “You’re going so fast, and it literally feels like flying. And once you get the hang of it, you wipe out less and less. If you hit a fish or something — that happens all the time to me — then you’re going down.”
Ironically for a Yachtswoman of the Year, Moroz says she has never thought much about stepping aboard a sailboat.
“My parents were highly competitive windsurfers,” she says. “They always thought that sailing was, well, not slow, but windsurfing gave them more of a rush. I have heard from them that sailing is a lot slower, and on the kites, people are amazed at how fast we can go.”
The California girl hopes to represent the United States if kitesurfing becomes an Olympic sport. It is expected to be an exhibition sport in 2020 at the Tokyo Games, giving the International Olympic Committee, the press and much of the world a chance to see how the foiling boards work for the first time.
“I definitely hope to be a part of that,” she says. “It would be amazing. If it’s successful, they’ll put it in [the medal events] for 2024, which could potentially be in Los Angeles, so for me, that would be like competing at home.”
Earning an Olympic medal would put Moroz on par with the Rolex Yachtsman of the Year, Caleb Paine, also of California. His bronze medal in the Finn dinghy class at the 2016 games in Brazil allowed him to take US Sailing’s first trip to the winners’ podium in eight years.
Paine, like Moroz, is already looking to the 2020 Olympic Games. “The goal is gold in Tokyo,” he says. “I’ve been sailing pretty well, but to get a gold is going to take a lot of hard work and dedication.”
Also like Moroz, Paine is still finishing school. The 26-year-old is earning a bachelor’s degree in shipping logistics, which he hopes will lead him to the California State University Maritime Academy.
“Being able to solve lots of problems all at the same time is something I’m fairly decent at,” he says. “Shipping has no shortage of issues and crises, so I thought I’d be a good fit.”
While he launches his next Olympic campaign, Paine is living aboard his newly purchased Nauticat 33, Lost and Found. The fixer-upper spent six months afloat in the Pacific before showing up off Hawaii. “The mizzenmast was gone,” he says, “but the main mast was still there.”
He hopes to sail her this summer on San Francisco Bay.
“I’m doing through-hulls right now,” he says with a laugh. “My dad and I were grinding the fiberglass.”
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