World Champions Colin McPhillips and Antoine Delpero Win Day 1 Heats; Jamie Mitchell Paddles on Friday
The building excitement around the inaugural ISA World StandUp Paddle (SUP) and Paddleboard Championship culminated in an exciting first day of competition in 2- to 3-foot surf at La Pampilla in Lima, Peru. With only surfing heats running, all the energy and spectators were fixated on the waves out front and the team camaraderie on the beach.
"Between the team chants, the action in the water, and the reward of running the inaugural World Championship for SUP and Paddleboard, the feeling is better than I even expected," said Fernando Aguerre, the president of the ISA. "This is just the beginning. I imagine it will only get better."
Though today is the smallest day of the surf forecast, with the assistance of the paddle, SUPers were able to power through sections and create speed that otherwise wouldn't be possible.
"It's always nice to get that first heat done, my legs were a little shaky and stuff, but it worked out," said Colin McPhillips, a three-time ASP World Longboard Champion, who won his Qualifying Round 1 heat with the highest heat total of the day, 16.33. "When I first heard the ISA was going to have SUP here, I was super stoked. To be with a great team, a great coach, we're having a good time so I'm just super happy that SUP is a part of it all. Everyone is just having fun, everyone's friendly and it's going to be a really good week."
Team USA performed well on Day 1, with McPhillips, Sean Poynter and Emmy Merrill all winning their first heats.
McPhillips is one of three World Champions competing in the event. Australian Jamie Mitchell – who will be competing in the SUP Technical race on Friday and the Marathon race on Saturday – is a 10-time paddleboarding world champion, and France's Antoine Delpero is a former ISA World Surfing Games Longboard Champion.
"It's a good wave, good for standup," said Delpero, after his Round 1 heat win, with a score of 14.73. "With a standup board and a paddle in the hand, you can take anything. The waves are a little bit flat but it doesn't matter; you can always get some speed and turn and try to find the pocket on the wave."
Part of the appeal of ISA competition is that world champions and unseeded competitors surf and compete for their country, side by side, and in the same heat. And sometimes the unheralded surfers advance through. Italy's Alessandro Onofri, Ireland's Finn Mullen and Great Britain's Jim Richardson were among the surfers to survive through Day 1.
When the action shifted to the women, a surprise to some came when the lone competitor from Austria came out of her heat in first position. Karina Figl lives most of the year in Cape Town, South Africa, where her husband and coach, Tom Figl is from, but her roots and heart remain devoted to Austria.
"Austria's not a big surfing power, although we've got talent," Karina said. "There's a few of us Austrians around surfing; there's some living in Hawaii and La Herradura (Peru). We do love the sea.
"I feel very, very fortunate, very blessed to be here," she continued. "A lot of my friends from Cape Town would have loved to be here, and I miss them, but some are here, and I feel honored, really honored to be with them. It's a historical event, and my two daughters, 7 and 5, are watching it on the live stream and it's awesome."
The day's action ended with the first round of the Men's Repechage, where surfers get a second chance at survival throughout the event – an aspect of ISA competition that makes it unique. Rafael Tapia (CHI) considered himself lucky that the ISA decided to give every SUP surfer two opportunities to win.
"I'm feeling really good right now, actually. I've been competing in all different sorts of water sports all my life; it's always been tough to compete against the best in the world coming from a third world country," Tapia said.
Competition resumes in the morning, with the Qualifying Round 2 for Men's SUP Surfing, followed later in the day (10:00am local time) by the first prone paddle event, the Women's Technical Paddleboard Race.
The webcast, which will feature both the surfing and paddling, can be viewed live at www.isawsuppc.com/live, beginning at 8:20am local time (5:20am PST in the USA).