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.
Florida grom, Fisher Grant, is a killer all-around surfer and paddler that has been showing off his shredder skill set up and down the eastern seaboard. After only a couple months with paddle in hand, Grant dove headfirst into the SUP scene, winning both the East Coast Surfing Championships’ first SUP title and the ESA Easterns’ first SUP Championship title. The kid isn’t stopping there, with big plans for 2013 in both paddle surfing and racing. —SC
Tell us about your athletic background.
I've always surfed and have been competing for about six years. I longboard and shortboard, and compete in both, but I'm mainly a longboarder.
Why did you start standup paddling?
I had seen SUP and one day I decided to rent a board from Catalyst [surf shop]. I started getting paddling down pretty quick because my dad taught me paddle technique [from canoeing] when I was younger. I had a lot of fun and from there, I hooked up with Tim Baker from East Coast Paddle (ECP), who sponsored me. A little after that I did my first standup surf contest.
What’s up with your paddle surfing style?
Well, my dad taught me about how paddle work is pretty important and it really helps with my maneuvers and allows me to power into turns to make them more critical. I try to put in some of my flowing longboard style and mix in my shortboarding style for the critical side. Together, it's a laid back but aggressive style.
And you race too?
I've only done two races so far- one of them was the East Coast Paddle Championships and I raced it on a board I borrowed. It was a 7-mile open race and I had no idea what to expect or what to do. The competitors were mostly twice my age and size- I think I was the youngest racing open- but the challenge will help me become a better racer, which I want focus on more this year. I'm surfing a lot and riding my road bike to cross-train for racing.
How's the scene in the Southeast?
It's pretty small, but it's definitely growing. The racing scene is definitely stronger than the surfing side. Since the ESA started including SUP it's bringing more popularity, and my brother, Kieran, and I try to get more people into it. It seems like most of the paddle surfers here are older guys that don't [prone] surf anymore. But there's also a good amount of people touring the flatwater here.
I'm mostly in Melbourne Beach and New Smyrna, where there are a few paddle surfers, most of them on ECP boards. Usually it's just me, my friend Giorgio Gomez, and my brother at breaks, and we walk down the beach away from the surfers. We try to be respectful to the surfers and use etiquette.
We hear you'll be joining the ESA All-Star Team?
Yeah, I'm one of the kids they chose. The ESA chooses competitors that do well in ESA contests to be part of the All-Star Team. It's cool because I'll get to travel more this year and will have a lot of help from training with the coaches.
What do you aspire to do in SUP?
I want to keep trying to push the sport and would love to get on the [Standup World] Tour or at least do trials. This year I'm going to do more races and want to improve that side instead of just focusing on the surfing side. I'm going to train more and do more cross training, running, riding my road bike and just working out. I'm going to do more SUP surf contests too- I want to win the contests I didn't win last year and just keep improving.
For more Grom Talk, click here.