It was an opportunity not to be missed.
Competing at Cloudbreak in Fiji is usually reserved for surfers only, but for the first time in history, Standup Paddling (SUP) took center stage in the 2016 ISA SUP and prone world titles.
All 26 National SUP and Paddleboard Teams featuring 244 athletes competed in SUP Surfing, SUP Racing and Paddleboard Racing disciplines for the week of competition. The process to represent Australia came from qualifying through the State and National titles, which allowed 1 female to compete in each event. (Something I hope will change to see 2 female representatives in each event to match the men in years to come).
With so much spirit and atmosphere it was really inspirational to hear personal stories of how some competitors made it to the line. Especially 16-year-old Tanvi Jagadish from India who overcame a lot of issues in society to compete in the sport she loves.
The ISA SUP world titles isn’t a professional event, rather it focusses on bringing national teams together to compete for national pride with a governing body (International Surfing Association) hosting the event. Australia went with one goal in mind and that was to reclaim the title they lost last year in Mexico.
With the choice days being held off for the SUP surfing events, my day came on Wednesday when we had the Technical race event. Technical can mean many things but due to lack of swell at cloudbreak and the nature of 12′ 6 boards ending up on reef, the race directors decided to set a course that was close to the wave zone. With a distance of approx. 3-4 km, which included 4 turns per lap x 3 laps, the undercurrents and strong wind chop made for challenging conditions.
With no expectations, and a lack on international competition this year I was kind of green going into the event. After the starters gun we were heading straight into a strong head wind. I was 4th to the first buoy and really the placings did not change from there. It was hard to overtake or make a gap due to the conditions but finishing with the copper medal was a good feeling with precious team points to boot! Penelope Strickland from NZ had an amazing race, followed by Olivia Piano from France and Candice Appleby from the USA.
With the whole team performing exceptionally well, with medals from
Harriet Brown – first place female prone tech race and distance race
Shakira Westdorp – first place female surfing
Matt Poole – first place prone tech race and second place distance race
Michael Booth – first place mens distance race
Lachie Lansdowne – 3rd in both mens prone and tech race.
With special thanks to Momi Bay Eco Resort for their hospitality for the week. The Fijians are such beautiful people and their efforts in trying to accommodate us in the best way possible was indeed humbling. Hats off to ISA for considering a logistical nightmare of an event and to pull it off unscathed. Hopefully the community of SUP now see Fiji as a destination to consider in the future. Thanks team Australia for the fun week and crazy times!