Behind the scenes at the 2014 SUP Awards. Photo: JP Van Swae

Behind the scenes at the 2014 SUP Awards. Photo: JP Van Swae

The 2014 SUP Awards, Four Konas Deep

The thing that makes the SUP Awards so special is that everyone is there—minus Laird (inside sources say he was busy inventing another sport last Thursday). That night the greater standup community is not racing, not surfing, not paddling, they’re just hanging out with each other, having a good time eating free food and drinking free alcohol. As a journalist, it’s a great time to watch everyone mingle. What did we learn? Well, after four cold ones from Kona Brewing Co., everything starts to get interesting.

Connor Baxter owns a collared shirt. It’s true. We have photographic evidence. The Most T-shirts Worn to SUP Awards for the Most Consecutive Years award winner finally gave up his reign tonight by wearing a button-up shirt. With a collar. We can’t confirm if he has more than just that one.

Caio Vaz is the most stoked-est. The first Brazilian male to break into the SUP Awards, Vaz was unusually smiley—even for himself. Seriously, the guy always has a grin on his face whether he’s winning Standup World Tour events, free-surfing in Indonesia or just hanging on the beach with his family. When I asked him if he’d thought about racing in the BOP he gave me a “hell no” look and told me he was going to surf in Mexico for a few days. Then he smiled.

Mickey Muñoz lives the good life. He’s is one of the happiest guys you’ll see. He was truly stoked to win the Lifetime Achievement award, even more stoked to get sandwiched between Izzi Gomez and Annabel Anderson backstage for a photo op and even more stoked than that to get to surf Salt Creek alone all weekend as he “refereed” the Battle of the Paddle. The spoils of being a living legend.

Izzi Gomez is still fourteen. She’s taller, more well-spoken and surfing better than ever. She’s also a World Champion and the Top Female at the SUP Awards. And somehow that doesn’t make her any older. She giggled her way through the crowd like the teenager she is after winning, enjoying the limelight and thanking everyone profusely. She’s loving every moment.

Booze gets people drunk. Strange how that works. With Kona beers flowing, cocktails making the rounds and even a Glenfiddich scotch tasting table, the volume of the crowd was turned up this year. Hoots and hollers were a dime a dozen as everybody loosened up and cheered each other on. There were even some attempts at heckling. Awesome.

Dave Boehne is too funny. Boehne’s skits this year were a gamble, one that worked out pretty well according to the level of laughter in the ballroom. However, some of the jokes therein floated above the crowds’ collective heads. It could have been the booze but we watched those videos many times and they’re pitch-perfect. Boehne is ahead of his time as a comedian.

Brazil is here to stay. Not only are Brazilians killing it on the Standup World Tour but they’ve got the love of the fans too, with Vaz and Nicole Pacelli taking top spots in Top Male and Female categories. They’re talented surfers, as good-looking as models and excited to be on the world stage. We’re happy they’re here.

Expedition guys have a lot to say. Remember last year when Justin Riney interrupted his Florida expedition and gave a speech that lasted 15 minutes? Will Schmidt didn’t do that but he gave a long, layered speech explaining how SUP saved his life after battling with anxiety and depression as a military veteran and why that motivates him to do long-distance paddles. I heard many people say it was a highlight of their evening. My theory is that they’ve spent so much time on the water alone that they’re excited to have a room full of people to talk to. It makes sense.

And once again we were kicked out of the Casino San Clemente and sent across the street to dive into the fine establishment that is Knuckleheads. And once again, there were hardly any athletes there while we toasted to another year. So responsible.

Until next year …

Last year’s Four Konas Deep.

Full results here.