Cairns grew up swimming on the Mission Viejo Nadadores swim team from 1978-1988. She graduated from University of California Santa Barbara with a BA in Environmental Studies in 1993 while swimming on the Gauchos swim team for 4 years. She was named Southern Pacific Masters Association Open Water Swimmer of the Year in 1997. She has participated in numerous Catalina Channel crossing relays and is a member of the team that still holds the fastest Catalina Channel Swimming Federation single and double crossing records. She has been the director of the Santa Barbara 6-mile ocean swim race for the past 10 years and still holds the women’s course record.
Cairns is also is a veteran paddleboard racer. She has raced the Catalina Channel 15 times, 8 of which in the 32 mile Catalina Classic and placing 5 times in the men’s division. She has also raced the 32 mile Molokai paddle board race 3 times. She is very involved in the aquatic community in Santa Barbara.