In October, Hawaii’s CJ Perez made history on three different fronts. The 18-year-old became the first American Woman to race in the global sailing championship, the youngest competitor, and first Latina athlete in a professional sailing event.
“Sailing on the F50 in Spain was the coolest thing I’ve ever done. It’s amazing because that boat is at the forefront of technology. To be with the USA team there, they were super welcoming and it’s filled with such intelligent sailors that I’m learning from every second that I’m with them,” Perez told KHON2’s Alan Hoshida.
Perez rise to professional has been rapid. She’s only be foil sailing for five years, and clearly, already one of the best at her age while breaking down barriers for the next generation.
“I started sailing when I was 13 years old down at Hawai’i Kai boat club. My parents aren’t actually sailors, so I didn’t get introduced to the sport because of them. I started sailing because I lived near the water and I would always see kids sailing around in their little boats. I thought that was the coolest thing ever, so I begged my parents to sign me up for a spring break camp and everything blossomed from there.”
Her journey in sailing has gone from the waters of Hawai’i Kai to now dreaming of one day sailing on the biggest stage in the sport – The America’s Cup.
“I have goals of being in other foiling Grand Prix events like The America’s Cup or other GC32 events. Also, just representing females and being an inspiration to them for future sailors,” Perez explains, “I’m really grateful for the platform that I have with SailGP that I can represent females, Latina communities, and Hawai’i on such a global scale. I really want to see more people like myself get into sailing and pursue it to the highest level, so I’m trying to be the best representation and inspiration I can be for them.”