With the immense progress standup paddling has made in the past few years, it's easy to forget that our sport is still young. Unlike surfing, whitewater or outrigger paddling, there isn't a generation of athletes that have known SUP since birth, or lived an entire life around our sport. But, as SUP continues to flourish, the first generation of groms to grow up with paddle and board are maturing and writing their own history- becoming the legends that future generations of paddlers will look up to and strive to emulate. In SUP magazine's ongoing series, Grom Talk, we get to know the first generation of paddlers lucky enough to grow up in the SUP lifestyle.
As one of the few female groms racing on the east coast, Bailey Rosen of St. Petersburg, Fla. is making a name for herself. The 16-year-old International Baccalaureate student not only keeps up with her grades, but also keeps up with some of the top ladies in SUP racing. —SC
Tell us about your athletic background.
I played soccer and t-ball when I was younger and then I got really into Tae Kwon Do. I became a black belt and wrote the leadership planning manual for my gym. After that I became a teacher at my gym and taught Tae Kwon Do to kids ages 3-14.
How'd you transition from Tae Kwon Do to SUP?
I would go on some surf trips with my family, but the closest spot is three hours away. The local surf shop, Suncoast Surf Shop, started doing SUP demos, so I tried out paddling for the first time about two years ago. I really wanted to go to Surf Expo, which was coming up, so my mom and I made a deal that if I raced in the Fall Paddle Fest and got sponsored, I could go. I paddled the 3-mile race on a 15-foot board with a wooden kids' paddle and was offered sponsorship by Suncoast Surf Shop right after the race.
And you typically race with the women?
If there isn't an age division for me, I end up with the women. It's challenging, but still a lot of fun and I'm usually able to stay right with them. All of the women have been so supportive of me from the very beginning and initially encouraged me to paddle. We definitely challenge each other competing, but at the end of the day, I know I can ask them for advice or just hang out with them. I’m really inspired by a lot of the people I meet and after every race I’m doubly motivated to train harder and go faster.
How do you balance being a student in the International Baccalaureate program at your high school with training and traveling?
This can get really messy sometimes! My teachers are really accommodating for the most part, especially my principal, even if some of them don’t really 100% understand what I’m doing. It’s a very rigorous program and I try my best to stay ahead, especially when I’m traveling, but for the most part I kind of have to make things up as I go along.
What's your favorite aspect of SUP?
Two of my favorite aspects are the versatility of the sport and the progression. SUP is great because you can paddle in so many conditions and almost anywhere, from flat water to river rapids. Also, the sport is growing so fast and I love how fast I'm able to grow with it.
Do you have any role models?
My biggest role models are my mom and grandmother, who show me how to work hard for what you want and still have integrity. I’m inspired by tons of awesome paddlers, especially Candice Appleby and Jimmy Terrell (and his whole awesome family). I also look up to Slater Trout, who first told me to stick with SUP when I took a kids clinic of his. I see role models in everyone because SUP has so many aspects and such a wide range of amazing surfers and athletes. One of the greatest things about paddling is that all of these superstar athletes that you see on magazine covers and in ads are so down to earth, and I feel lucky to be able to have met them, and even call them my friends.
What are some of your goals for the future?
I really want to travel more, do more races and work on my surfing. I'm really hoping to get to go to the Battle Of the Paddle Rio and race in the Elite division. I'll be starting some free kids lessons through Suncoast Surf Shop, so I'm excited to get to introduce SUP to more people.
For more Grom Talk, click here.