Get Up, Stand Up with Izzi Gomez
Words and photos courtesy of The Inside Line.
Most 17-year-olds are preoccupied with SATs, prom dates and the latest social media trends. That said, Isabella Gomez, a.k.a. Izzi, is far from average. She kicked off the year at the top of her game, securing her third Stand Up World Tour Championship title, in an interesting turn of events. Izzi is now at the forefront of competitive standup paddling and leading the charge for women in her sport.
Growing up on Anna Maria Island off the coast of Florida, the ocean was deeply rooted in Izzi's DNA. She was born into a family of surfers, her grandparents owned the oldest surf shop in the state, and she shortboarded competitively for much of her adolescent life. After a while, like most kids her age, Izzi started to feel burnt out about a sport she once loved. She wanted to find something else to do, so she learned to play the guitar and began to develop a passion for music. At the age of 11, her older brother Giorgio (four years her senior) introduced her to standup paddling.
"The transition from surfing to standup was easy," Izzi remembers. "It was different because I had a paddle in my hand, but I had so much fun doing it. The SUP community was super welcoming." Since then, Izzi has never looked back.
This year she had her eyes set on her third World Title. But she didn't know how, or when, the opportunity would present itself. In February 2016, Izzi traveled to Oahu for the Hawaii World Tour Opener in Turtle Bay.
“The waves were harder to surf than Sunset Beach, because the waves weren't that great,” Izzi recalls the conditions of the first stop. “We tried to move the event to Sunset, where the men were competing. But, for some reason, it's difficult for men and women to compete at the same location.”
It wasn't just the waves, though, something was stirring around the Waterman's League--the Standup World Tour was going through a bit of a transition with funding. Izzi says it's hard to overlook this treatment, especially when the women WSL, for example, are starting to surf better venues.
"Why do we have to surf terrible waves?" Izzi remembers thinking. "I hope it evolves for us. We're still waiting to get equal prize money."
So what did this mean for Izzi and the rest of the 2016 season competitors? In short, the season opener soon became the closer. All remaining 2016 events were canceled after Turtle Bay. Izzi was confused, as were the rest of her friends and competitors on the Tour. Would there be a 2016 Women's SUP World Champion? The answer, Izzi soon learned via email, was "yes."
The email she received informed her that the winner of Turtle Bay was also the overall 2016 SUP World Champion. Izzi was shocked. She had won the event! Excitement aside, she says it was bittersweet for her to claim the title after only one stop. "I worked really hard to win, so this year, I'm really fired up to prove that I can win a world title being consistent event after event."
If clenching her third World Tour Title wasn't enough, Izzi went on to compete and podium in the ISA World Championships at Cloudbreak last year.
“Women don't really get to compete in quality waves like this, and the waves were pumping on the final day,” Izzi says. “I had been there 2 months before the competition began, and I got to prove myself, show that I can surf and can compete in quality waves. I ended up breaking a board and lost two paddles, but I caught the biggest wave of my life at Cloudbreak that day. I was happier to get second place than win the contest because I set out to do what I wanted to do and surf my first event in this legendary location.”
All things considered, Izzi had a lot on her mind. She was unsure where she was going to go next in her career but, but toward the end of 2016, something clicked. Her mantra became: "Do what makes me happy and everything else will fall into place. Stop thinking about what other people are doing because I don't have control over their actions. Focus on bettering myself. Do what I love."
This new mentality can be attributed to Izzi's work with mentor, coach and fellow GoPro athlete Chuck Patterson. Chuck has helped keep Izzi true to herself as they travel the world doing what they love most, motivating her to push the limits.
At the end of the day, Izzi is a teenager on the brink of adulthood who standup paddles for a living, but also stands up for what she believes in. She works hard everyday to be the best daughter, sister, friend, competitor, athlete, musician and role model she can be. Izzi is passionate about female equality, the right to equal pay for equal work and the right for women to have access to surf the same quality waves as the men. Bu don't get us a wrong, Izzi is also just like every millennial who loves social media, going to movies with her friends, playing music and being silly.
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