USA SUP Champs Crowned, Stacked Team for ISA World SUP Championship
As the international SUP community readies for the 2017 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship—the prestigious season finale happening in Denmark this winter and the global gauge of SUP’s elite athletes—today the US contingent held its annual team-trials at the USA SUP Championships with sprint racing and SUP surfing competitions in Oceanside, California.
The victors of the USA SUP Championships comprise the team that will represent America on the global stage at the ISA Worlds. A hardy list of top US contenders met classic California conditions today for a stab at that honor.
2017 USA SUP Racing Championship
California brought the goods as the event kicked off with the women’s Sprint Racing division in head-high surf.
The course consisted of a three 1/3-mile (approximate) laps, each starting with a foot sprint off the beach followed by a paddle circuit between three turn buoys then back to shore to finish with another foot sprint around a beach marker before returning for the next lap.
“The course was short enough for contenders to give 110 percent the whole way, but long enough to where giving it that took it all out of them,” said SUP mag correspondent Andrew Mencinsky. “We saw some really tight battles this morning.”
The ladies’ races saw strong surf as the morning’s low tide coupled with consistent sets of ample swell and formidable shore-pound.
Among roughly a dozen worthy women’s contenders between the Open and Pro divisions, America’s paddle racing matriarch Candice Appleby took a commanding lead early on and dominated through to the finish, cinching one of two women’s spots on the US SUP racing team for the ISA Worlds. Behind her came a drama between two young rising stars, teenager Jade Howson and champion race maven Fiona Wylde. After a back-and-forth battle through stout surf with both ladies hedging nose-to-nose over the three-lap course, in the end both caught the same wave to the beach and the race took to the sand. Howson turned on the turbo and out-sprinted Wylde to claim the second women’s spot on the US SUP racing team.
The surf subsided as the men’s race took to the water for a fairly flatwater grind. Southern California local Giorgio Gomez—traditionally more of a SUP surfing contender than a racer—used his local know-how to get out ahead and caught a wave to create an authoritative gap that he’d carry through to the finish. Following Gomez was a pack of three pounding paddlers—Josh Riccio, Ryan Funk and Slater Trout. Riccio fell behind around the midway point and the battle turned head-to-head between Funk and Slater. Funk prevailed in the end, adding his (dare we say, funky) name to the leaderboard for the US racing team at ISA Worlds.
2017 USA SUP Surfing Championship
A clash of top-tier American standup paddle surfers took to consistent chest-high and glassy waves at Oceanside’s North Harbor Jetty this afternoon for a good ole fashioned American face-off.
“The competition started at 10 and the waves were good all day long,” said event announcer Anthony Vela. “It was super contestable, a great day for a contest.”
With conditions aligning the men got the competition started. Among them former US team gold medalist Sean Poynter's surfing was on fire from Round 1 through the Final.
"Poynter put on an absolute clinic today," said Vela. "Gio (Gomez) was the runner-up, and Pointer had him comboed in the final. That says a lot with how good Gio is surfing."
Poynter finished with the highest heat total of the day with two 9+ point rides to combo the field. Gomez, who made the 2017 US racing team this morning, also scored two excellent rides—a 9.27 and 8.93—to secure his position on the podium and the world stage. Southern California's own Daniel Hughes followed in third with Florida charger rounding out the top-4. While he fell short of the final, another highlight of the day came from Maui standout Bernd Roediger, who scored the day's only perfect 10 in the semis.
The women’s division saw a likely display of dominance from three-time World Tour champion Izzi Gomez, who came equipped with her typical explosive surfing for a standout show among the women to claim first place. Two-time former ISA World SUP Surfing champion Emmy Merril, who returned to the US SUP Championship for the first time after taking a few years off to attend nursing school, showed she hasn’t been wasting any practice hours in her extended off season and surfed a clean final to narrowly beat veteran SUP star Candice Appleby and secured her spot on this year’s US SUP surf team. Appleby finished third ahead of the teenager Lexi Alston, who continues to climb the ranks in both SUP racing and surfing.
Under-18 and Over-40 Divisions
In the 18-and-under SUP surfing division, San Clemente’s Noa Hopper commanded a strong first-place finish with unrivaled prowess at the Oceanside beach break. Behind him a less likely performance came from 13-year-old Gavin Mencinsky, who shocked the crowd with beyond-his-years poise in the sizeable surf
“Gavin was absolutely ripping,” said Vela. “He was catching waves that were way overhead for him and showed some impressive surfing for such a young kid.”
Rounding out the grom podium, San Francisco’s SUP savant Haakon Hoyer-Nielson took third with Tyler Bashor finishing forth.
Perhaps the most impressive heat of the day came in the girl’s 18-and-under division, where 10-year-old SUP surfing phenom Scarlett “Shredder” Schremmer surfed beyond her years for two excellent ride scores, an 8.5 and an 8.33. It was enough to sweep the full field of noteworthy uprisers including third-place finisher Kali’a Alexiou and fourth place finalist Kitsy Nipper.
In the 40-and-over division, one woman came ready to mop the field. Alyssa Cairns—wife of former US SUP surf team coach Ian Cairns—won the semis (beating out her husband) to make the finals and compete alongside the men. She ended up fourth in the 40-and-over final behind gold finisher Derek Hamasaki, second-place contender Jason Shanks and fourth-place Tyler Callaway.
Stay tuned to SUP magazine for updates and info as we get closer the 2017 Denmark ISA World SUP Championship! —MM
More on the ISA Worlds.