Throughout her stunning career Karla won back to back world championships, 16 Australian gold medals, five world championship gold medals and won countless other surf life saving titles. These results show her dominance as the finest female surf life saving competitor at this time.
Having won many state and national junior championships, Karla won at her first attempt in a professional Ironwoman event – which was also the first ever professional Ironwoman race in Australia in 1990. She was just 15 years of age and competed against older more experienced and established Ironwoman like champion Samantha O’Brien.
It soon became apparent that she would be a star in the senior ranks of surf life saving when in 1992 she won three gold medals at the world titles in Japan and took out the Queensland and placed second in the Australian Ironwoman championships.
This was the start of a ten year dominance in the sport which saw Karla win ‘back to back’ world Ironwoman championships (2000 and 2002), amass seven consecutive Ironwoman series wins (two Kellogg’s 2001, 2002, three Meadow Lea 1998, 1999, 2000), two Devondale 1996, 1997), 16 Australian championships (including three Open Ironwoman titles and three Competitor of Carnival titles), seven Queensland Ironwoman titles (1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2003), and numerous state and Australian nipper titles.
Karla represented Australia at international events including the 1994 and 2002 World Championships, the 2001 Goodwill Games, 2001 World Games, and the 2001 Tri-nations Series.
In 2000 Karla won four Uncle Toby’s races in a row to beat Trevor Hendy’s record of 17 race victories and took that total up to 23 race victories in Ironwoman series race wins.
Karla retired from the sport that made her a national icon the same way she entered it – a prolific winner. The defining moment in an outstanding career spanning 21 years was when Karla crossed the line in her very last race – the final round of the 2003 Kelloggs series doubling as the Australian Ironwoman championships. Victory was not guaranteed – in fact Karla had not won an Australian Ironwoman championships since 1994 (although she had won many Ironwoman series events). Trailing after the board, Karla overtook club mate Penny Turner in the swim leg to take the lead and maintain it – claiming her most significant victory and ensuring she left the sport in the best possible way.
Through her involvement at the highest level Karla helped to raise public awareness of surf life saving in the community and created interest in the sport amongst members and non-members.
Karla was inducted into the Surf Life Saving Australia Hall of Fame in 2004 and became a life member of the Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club in 2005.