Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Unfiltered | Anthony Vela

Age: 42

Hometown: Dana Point, California

Pro Paddler / Coach / Event Organizer / SUPFiesta Co-Creator

I didn't have a mentor in any of the sports that I did. Competing in paddleboarding, surfski and lifeguard stuff, I did it on my own. That's how I got started working with the youth in SUP. Because I never had that coming up.

Lots of people complain about races, but very few people put their money where their mouth is and organize a race or create a platform for kids to showcase their skills.

Everywhere I went for events early on, you'd see these one or two kids that were incredible, whether at downwind, surfing, river paddling or whatever. And it was like, "It would be cool if all of those kids could get in one place." That's what SUPFiesta is.

Young buck Michael Cuda hammering through the Grand Prix at the 2016 Quickblade Jr. Pro and Youth SUPFiesta presented by Infinity SUP. Photo: Mike Muir


We need more events that are targeted just for kids to put them on a pedestal that this is all for them. That's how other sports like surfing have developed.

You hear about peer pressure all the time in a negative way but that's what these (youth) teams and events are doing, they are pressuring kids in a positive way to be outside and compete.

I wish I was a kid. Can you imagine if your first sport was standup paddling? We have this whole new generation of kids where it's their first sport.

Whether you are an adult or a kid, everyone wants to be sponsored. Some kids are 16 and they've been with three different board companies. Everyone wants to succeed so fast and they forget the reason they started paddling or why you got your kids involved in the first place.

Hard work and discipline, they're number one and number two. Everyone wants things now but the only way to succeed is through hard work and discipline. If you add in talent to that, that helps an awful lot but that isn't the number one thing in any sport.

Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

Staying motivated is about goals. You have a few big events during the year and those are your long-term goals and then you have some smaller goals leading up to them. That really helps to keep you motivated.

Nobody gets first in every event, not even Kai and Connor. If you start thinking you have to win all these events, that's when you start getting unmotivated.

Everyone at the top level really enjoys being on the water and that's the biggest thing to keeping the discipline and passion. You have to love it.

What makes the truly great ones great is their consistency. The great ones just want to do it again and feel all those days of commitment and excellence and hard work.

There are so many amazing people out there who are giving back and that's what it takes. Like Danny Ching, who is not only an athlete but also is one of the best kids' coaches out there. He's an incredible image of our sport, as are Connor, Kai, Candice, Annabel, Fiona. They're all so personable and passionate. Our sport's in great hands.


Core commentary with 2X Carolina Cup champion Titouan Puyo.

Learn more at Anthony Vela’s Youth SUPFiesta.