The SUP racing world has been through significant changes over the last couple of years. The recent announcement of the cancelation of the Battle of the Paddle has added even more fuel to the fire. I am a firm believe that change is good but that is for another blog post. One of the pleasant surprises is the emergence of the ISA SUP and Prone World Championships which recently took place in Sayulita, Mex. There was a lot of trepidation when the ISA World Championships were announced 4 years ago because there was a sense that Fernando (ISA President) and the ISA were using SUP as a ploy to get surfing into the Olympics. My response to that is....SO, who cares? No one owns SUP and if someone wants to come along and further the sport then good for them. Now the great thing is that the ISA has done a marvelous job of putting on the event. Maybe the SUP industry can learn a thing or two about putting on events from the ISA since they have been putting on events and contests for over 50 years. Since there was a little pushback against the ISA about the recently launched Championship it seems that the "Giants" of the SUP world didn't show up to previous championships, so it somewhat reduced its relevancy. Well that changed this year and it made for a spectacular event. I was fortunate enough to be asked by Jimmy Terrell (QB founder), Ian Cairns (Legendary Surfer) and Greg Cruse (Surfing America President) to be the race coach for the USA team. Since coaches don't paddle in the contest and you have to actually paddle to win, my first order of business was to find out who can/would go. My first phone call was to Candice Appleby. Candice is a good friend and I have worked with her on and off over the last year. My second call was to Danny Ching. While Danny is arguably the best SUP paddler on the planet it is his second job as he is a world class canoe paddler. I knew that it was essential to get both of these paddlers on the team if we wanted any chance to win team gold. Both Candice and Danny told me no the first time. Which I totally understood as they both have busy schedules. So I enlisted the help of my secret weapon called the Brown Blurr. The Brown Blurr is an elusive creature that sometimes goes by the name Dave Boehne. Dave is good friends with both Candice and Danny so it was full court press by the Blurr. My next order of business was to sort out the prone team. I know very little about prone paddling other than my pet name for them....knuckle draggers. Slater Trout, who was on last year's team, had to help me out. Jack Bark (father is elite SUP and prone shaper Joe Bark) is USA's best prone guy and we needed him bad. Carter Graves is our best female prone so we just had to convince her to go after she had been traveling to Australia for the last 6 months. The stars aligned and Jack was able to rearrange his schedule and Carter committed to go. We also got Steve Schlens who is a great prone guy to complete the prone team. Slater was committed, the Blurr got Candice committed along with Danny and the prone team. Now it came down to 2 more spots and Slater was a no brainer because he is a stud and medaled last year. The last spot was tough. It was between Ryan Helm and Chuck Glynn. They are both world class paddlers but I saw something in Chuck that made me give him the nod. For those of you who know Chuck can understand that he is such a nice kid but is a fierce competitor and will empty the gas tank when asked to and that is what I saw in him. Everything happens for a reason and Ryan, who is a Sayulita resident was able to coach team Mexico to a great team finish. I have a lot of respect for Ryan as he handled me picking Chuck in a very professional manner. So the team was set and it was the best team that the US had put forth. The Aussies had won team gold every year of the event and for the first time the US team was a serious threat.
Once the event began I put down on paper what we needed to do to win team gold. We had to be as close to perfect as possible with the Aussies, team Hawaii and both the Kiwis and team Mexico all bringing strong teams. The most impressive thing all week to me was that all of the athletes are competing in individual sports but yet the team first attitude was present with all of them. We ate together, hung out together, cheered together and it was a cool thing to be a part of. All of team USA are great athletes but they are even better people. But being a good person doesn't win gold, so they had to produce results and boy did they produce results. Here is are the individual results:
Men's SUP Surf: Sean Poynter - Gold Medal, Dave Boehne - 13th place
Women's SUP Surf: Izzi Gomez - Gold Medal
Men's SUP Distance: Danny Ching - Gold Medal, Slater Trout - 10th place
Women's SUP Distance: Candice Appleby - Gold Medal
Men's Prone Distance: Jack Bark - Silver Medal, Steve Schlens - 10th place
Women's Prone Distance: Carter Graves - Bronze medal
Men's SUP Technical: Slater Trout - 7th place, Chuck Glynn - 9th
Women's SUP Technical: Candice Appleby - Gold Medal
Men's Prone Distance: Jack Bark - Gold medal, Steve Schlens - 12th place
Women's Prone Distance: Carter Graves - Silver medal
Team Relay Race: Graves, Appleby, Glynn and Bark - Bronze medal
All of this lead to team USA winning team gold for the first time ever. It was a historic moment for the US and it was made possible by a legendary team.
Everyone did as good or better than what was expected. All of the gold medals were essential but it came down to Steve, Chuck and Slater making sure that they placed as high as they could to give us as many points as possible.
Looking back on the event, it was such an honor and privilege to represent USA and to be a part of such a great team of athletes and coaches. The future looks bright for the ISA World Championships and I am thankful to be a part of it and looking forward to next year.