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 with an SUP lifestyle.
Izzi Gomez of Jupiter, Fla. is making waves in the standup scene with her progressive paddlesurfing. At only 13 years old, the student-athlete— and aspiring musician— is now taking the plunge into racing, and we have a feeling you’ll be seeing a lot more of this grom in the future. —Shari Coble
How’d you get into SUP?
My family had a Laird [board] when I was about 4 years old. I started catching little waves on that and then I started surfing (traditional). It wasn’t until about a year ago until I really started getting into SUP. I feel that my surfing experience has definitely given me that extra edge.
Your brother, Giorgio, is a competitive paddle surfer too. Do you surf or train together?
My brother and I train together at the gym and in the water. He pushes me to want to become a better surfer and toughens up my mental side as well. It helps to know that we have each other as a support system.
Are other kids your age paddling in your area?
Not quite yet. Most of the standup paddlers are a bit older than us. Giorgio and I are out in the water all the time doing our best to make paddlesurfing look fun, hoping to attract more kids. They ask questions and compliment us, so we always encourage them to try it. As a team, we hope to grow the sport.
Do you feel a stigma about SUP from others in the surfing world?
I’m an all around Roxy girl. I shortboard, longboard, SUP surf, and SUP race. It’s all about being well rounded and having fun. There is a stigma about SUP, though I am good about my surfing etiquette, so I don’t get hassled much. I feel like the surfers that are frowning upon SUP need to give it a chance— they might enjoy it.
Tell us about the camaraderie among the female competitors your age.
The girls in the SUP world are awesome! Everyone is so nice and encouraging. We're all from random places and all-around water girls.
Do you have any role models in the sport?
Yes, Candice Appleby and my brother, Giorgio Gomez. Candice is such a positive role model and an amazing athlete. She loves the sport and is stoked to get more kids involved. I feel fortunate to say she is so helpful and such a great mentor. It’s nice to know she really cares. Giorgio, on the other hand, pushes me every session and I am impressed to see how much he has progressed in such a short time. I think he will bring a new style to the sport.
Tell us about your win at the ESA Southeast Championships.
The competition was good and the conditions were rough. It was quite an achievement for me. I'm hoping for good things to come when I head out to California for NSSA and Surfing America Championships. I will be competing in shortboard, longboard, SUP surf, and the SUP race.
What goals do you have with standup paddling?
My goal is to train hard and focus on both racing and surfing. I just finished my first race and surprised myself, so now I want to try a few more to see how I measure up. I will definitely plan on doing the World Tour events and I would love to make it on the USA team.
The Performance Paddling Junior Pro & Youth SUP Fiesta offered equal gender prize purses. Do you think more events should follow their lead?
Why shouldn’t we be equal? It’s the year 2013. Candice [Appleby] and Anthony [Vela] did a fine job. That was a great event to grow the sport and there needs to be more events like it!
You’re a recording artist too?
Yes, I do love music! I’m in the process of recording an album, where my first three originals are for sale on iTunes. My music is inspired by my life experiences. I’m having fun with it and just trying to build up a fan base.
How do you balance SUP with school, competitive surfing, and your music career?
I am very busy. It is hard to balance everything perfectly. If the waves are really good, I’m going to SUP or surf. When it’s flat, I work hard on school or I’m in the recording studio. On the weekends, I’m usually at SUP or surfing contests. It’s a challenge!
For more Grom Talk, click here.