15-year-old Lara Claydon, gripping and ripping. Photo: MauiClaydonFoto

15-year-old Lara Claydon, gripping and ripping. Photo: MauiClaydonFoto

SUP Kids: Lara Claydon on Competition and Camaraderie

Talk with 15-year-old Lara Claydon for five minutes and you'll be stoked on SUP. The Maui girl
exudes enthusiasm for standup paddling and that enthusiasm has elevated her. The teenager competes with the pros—and women double her age—in paddle surfing and SUP racing. Needless to say, she has her eyes set on big wins in the future. But for Claydon, SUP isn't just about the competition or achieving—it's about enjoying the water, camaraderie, and pushing friends to be better athletes. —Shari Coble

SUP mag: We saw you flying during the 2014 Maui2Molokai. Had you paddled Pailolo before?

Claydon: No, that was my first time. My dad and I would just go do Maliko runs with Josh Riccio a lot. I've always wanted to paddle from Maui to Molokai and we just thought last year was the year, so I trained really hard with my coach, Scott Fleck. When I got my escort boat, I was thinking, 'This is surreal; I'm actually doing it.’

My goal was to do it under five hours, and I did it, but it was close. Coming in, I got blown way further past the finish line, so I had to paddle upwind to the finish.

Photo: MauiClaydonFoto

Lara Claydon, eyes on the prize. Photo: MauiClaydonFoto

Where's your focus in SUP?

My focus is split between surfing and racing because I love both of them so much. I could surf all day but I could just go paddle too.

What's your favorite type of race?

My two favorites are racing through the surf and downwinding. I'm focusing more on competing with older women and pro events so I can get used to it more. I really want to win a World Tour event and World Series event in my lifetime.

What affect do you think competing with older girls or women has on young competitors like yourself?

When you compete against older women it gives you more confidence. You think, 'If I'm up here with these women, I have a chance at this.' Anyone could win an event at any time—it doesn’t matter about your age—you can always win or lose. But, when you're up there with the women, it sets your confidence bar higher.

Do you feel that way because you've experienced it, or is this something you've witnessed among other competitors your age?

Both. Having that experience, you kind of have more confidence, but also seeing other girls achieving their goals and getting higher up there and winning events, you think, 'If she can do it, I can do it too.'

A double-talent, Claydon is equally apt at surfing and racing. Photo: MauiClaydonFoto

A double-talent, Claydon is equally apt at surfing and racing. Photo: MauiClaydonFoto

How do you find the balance between competing and focusing on your education?

I do homeschool so I can compete more. I just started homeschooling this year because the last two years I've been competing I was in public school and it was hard for me to get to events; after a certain number of absences, I could get kicked out. Now, I can try to make it to all the events I can and be at that higher level of competition.

Do you feel that you're sacrificing your education or a social life to compete in SUP?

I don't feel that I'm making a sacrifice. When I go to competitions, I’m meeting a ton of new people from all over the world and I get to see my friends compete. It's a lot of fun. My homeschool program allows me to compete in sports for my school too, so I'm swimming and playing waterpolo with my friends, which is also really great cross training for SUP competitions.

What inspires you to continue competing?

I never really thought about it, but I think what it is, is that I just love being in the water all the time. And, being out in the water with other girls or other kids and competing, you see kids doing cool stuff. You'll think 'I want to do that too' and you compete with each other, but you just have fun and help push each other.

More SUP Kids doing big things:

14-Year-Old River SUP Protege: McQuade Andrade

Video: Kids SUP Race in Puerto Rico