Emmy Merrill has been paddle surfing since she was a grom, and the years of experience are evident every time she hits the water. The 20-year-old nursing student from Southern California just won her second World Title at the ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship, giving her a perfect record of two for two at one of SUP’s most important international events. We caught up with the champion paddle surfer to talk about grabbing the gold medal, pressure to perform, and what’s next in the world of Emmy. —SC
Tell us how it feels to take the gold for the second time in the two times you’ve competed in the ISA Worlds.
It feels amazing to win the gold medal for a second time! It’s crazy to see how the caliber of talent has skyrocketed since Peru two years ago. I love that our sport is progressing—especially for women—and I love that we’re being pushed to new levels.
We haven’t seen as much of you in the SUP world lately. Give us an update on your life.
I just completed my junior year of nursing school and have one year left. I’ve been doing the US SUP Tour events because they’re on the weekends, but I’m unable to compete on the World Tour because I can’t miss a week of school.
It worked out perfectly to have the Nicaragua event in May this year because I just took finals a week early. Even though I’m missing out on some SUP events, I feel like I’m gaining so much in school because I love learning and I love the community I have at Point Loma. I only have a short four years there—which are flying by—and I’m trying to take advantage of every day I get to spend with my best friends on such a great campus.
You mentioned you were worried about the pressure of reclaiming the World Title. Where does the pressure come from?
The first year I won a title in Peru I was an underdog and nobody really knew who I was, so I didn’t have much to lose. Coming into this event, I already had a title, so I guess it puts a little more pressure on me because there’s an expectation for me to perform. It definitely didn’t come from anyone but myself, however, it wasn’t negative; it was positive for me because I was fired up to be back and to show everyone, including myself, that I still got it!
What’s the vibe like at the ISA Worlds?
There’s a lot of camaraderie within our team and between teams. I’ve been competing in surfing for a while—which is an individual sport—so I miss having the team element. These types of events give us the chance to have people to pump us up and root for us, as well as help each other out the best way we can. Between teams there is definitely competition because that’s what we came for, but it’s done in a way that leaves the competition in the water, so we can all have fun together on the beach.
You’re a two-time World Champion, at 20 years old. What next?
I’m not planning on going back to racing, just because I don’t have a passion for it anymore. I love to surf. I’m still processing this week, so I haven’t thought much about the next step, but I definitely want to continue to compete in SUP surfing. I will focus on nursing during my last year, but my schedule will mellow out, so I want to compete in as many events as I can. I love competing and being a part of the SUP community, so at this point, I’m definitely going to seek out more opportunities to progress in the SUP surf world.
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