Opinion: Does Winning One Event Make You A World Champion?

World champion Izzi Gomez on her way to the top. Unfortunately Gomez and her SUP surfing cohort’s competitive platform seems to be disintegrating. Photo: APP

Opinion: Win an Event, Win a Championship?

About a week ago, a press release from the APP World Tour plopped into our inbox with some surprising news: Kai Lenny and Izzi Gomez had been crowned “Professional SUP Surfing World Champions for the 2017 season.”

It wasn’t surprising that those two had won a championship for SUP surfing—they are both freakishly-talented human beings—we just didn’t know that a SUP surfing world championship was being decided in 2017. Upon opening the email, it soon became clear the phrase “2017 season” was being used liberally.

Let’s break down what happened.

Back in February, the APP World Tour hosted the SUP world’s marquee surf event: the Sunset Beach Pro. Facing waves that were double-overhead, the world’s best paddlers—both men and women—put on incredible performances that pushed SUP surfing to new levels of progression. When it was all over, Kai Lenny and Izzi Gomez were victorious. Both were well-deserved wins.

So what happened during the nine-month span between the Sunset Beach Pro and that press release?

A lot of things. Chris Bertish crossed an ocean via SUP, world records were set and SUP foiling caught on like wildfire. Yet, for all the great things that occurred during these past nine months, an APP-sanctioned SUP surfing contest was not among them.

It begs the question: does one single contest constitute a world championship?

Whatever the answer is, competitive SUP surfing is in a bad spot. And it wasn’t always this way.

Formally known as the Standup World Tour, the circuit used to take paddlers to several spots around the world including Brazil, California, Hawaii, Tahiti and elsewhere. Both the sport and the tour were growing in popularity and the future was bright. Sadly, the tour began to fall apart in 2015 when events were cancelled.

In 2016, the tour was reduced to only two events–Sunset Beach and Japan–which raised eyebrows about whether it was still a legitimate championship or not. The bar was lowered again in 2017.

To this point, Tristan Boxford and the folks at the APP have taken on the daunting responsibility of being the lone torch bearers for hosting a world competitive SUP surfing circuit. Their tour has elevated previously unknown talents into global stars and has served as a platform to showcase the best SUP surfing has to offer.

We could play the blame game until everyone is blue in the face, but it doesn’t change the fact that a one-stop “world tour” is not helping to legitimize or grow our sport. And that’s the biggest shame, because the technology and talent in SUP surfing only continues to get better. Both men and women keep pushing the boundaries by hacking bigger turns and paddling into bigger waves at breaks that were deemed impossible to SUP surf only a few short years ago. This talent deserves to be showcased and not wasted.

We don’t have all the answers but it’s time for the SUP surfing community to work together and give these paddlers the spotlight they deserve.

Look for more chatter on this subject soon.

Let us know what you think in the comments below.

See the release.