My South: Olympian Tara Lipinski on Kiawah Island

The Olympian describes her dream day on the South Carolina island

Illustration by Colleen O'Hara

As told to Mara Reinstein

I remember the first time I drove to Kiawah Island. I rolled down the windows and could hear the ocean. It was so peaceful and quiet; it had that Nicholas Sparks vibe. I told my parents, “This is it. I want to buy property here!” Which was crazy, because I was only 14, and it was just before I won the World Championships in 1997. But especially at that time, and even to this day, life gets so busy. There’s something nice about having that mental break from a faster-paced world. A dream day is waking up and seeing the ocean outside my window. I sit in my hammock, have a cup of coffee, then maybe go for a bike ride. You can bike all over the island and see the marshes and the golf courses. You can even ride all the way to the ocean, and if you hit it right, you can see dolphins. It’s amazing! The ocean is literally 80 degrees. It’s like bathwater. If my girlfriends are visiting, I love going to the Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. It’s one of those magical places that has everything—you can take out canoes by the beach or walk around in nature. The restaurant also has great bar snacks and drinks on the water, so we eventually make the long walk home a little tipsy! It’s insane how much the island has changed. When I got here, I felt like I had the whole place to myself. Now we have, like, a Lululemon. But the village still feels old-fashioned. One of my favorite places is Vincent’s, which is a little pharmacy that has a soda-fountain shop where you can get grilled cheeses and milkshakes. I am really the island’s biggest supporter. People say, “Oh my gosh, you should become the mayor.”

Tara Lipinski, the 1998 Olympics ladies’ figure skating gold medalist, is an analyst for NBC Sports who covered the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

This article appears in the Spring & Summer 2022 issue of Southbound.