fiona wylde stand up paddling world champion

One of the best parts of running the shop is all the cool people we get to meet. If you judge the quality of life by the quality of the people you get to hang out with than we are living large. We are so impressed with what this group of groms we grew up with is doing we had to write about it. (Pictured Fiona Wylde - Starboard)

The group of people we will spend the remainder of this post showering accolades on is one we both respect and admire. Having witnessed first hand the hard work and determination they have displayed in pursuit of excellence. The fun part has been watching them achieve it. In fact, there was so much winning going on this year it felt downright viral - a bad case of 'World Championitis' seems to be going around. 

A quick note on just who gets to call themselves "World Champion". Right now there are 3 sanctioning bodies fighting over the right to bestow the World Champion title. It's an alphabet soup of groups running events and bestowing titles. The International Canoe Federation (ICF), The International Surfing Association (ISA), and the Association of Professional Paddlers (APP) all lay claim to the capability of handing out titles. We are not going to delve in to the politics of it all but if you are interested to understand more you can read this article by SUP Racer.

As we look back on 2019 the only way to describe the results is otherworldly. In no particular order, we first have to recognize......

Fiona Wylde. The product of a water-loving family and a strong Hood River water community she can now call herself World Champion. Her personal story of learning to live, and prosper, with diabetes is inspiring a new generation of believers to think they can do it too. Fiona had so many highlights this year we don't have time to list them all so we pick out 2. First, up her first Overall APP Women's World Championship title is something she will cherish forever - no one can ever take it from her - she is World Champ! Fiona winning the 2019 Euro Tour Title was another amazing milestone representing the USA on foreign turf and winning. We know she is feeling pretty stoked right now about 2019 and has big plans for an even better 2020.  


Connor Baxter (photo Latin Times) has Heart with a capital H. We know that because life has checked him on it many times. We've seen him lay it all on the line - take more of a beating than any one human can take - then get back up and win Gold without missing a beat. He was scorching the field at this year's Red Bull Heavy Water only to have Ocean Beach take it away from him - violently. I will never forget his chilled ghost-like face as he finally retired from the race. His lips were blue and there was not a bone in his body that was not shaking. His entire being was left out there on the water and only the shell of his physical self was here on the beach with us. From there he went on to win gold just 2 weeks later at the ISA Sprints Gold Medal just last November. He already had the ICF Sprints title as well from his Gold Medal win in China earlier in the year  To top it off he reclaimed the fastest paddler in the world title by posting the first-ever sub 47 second 200-meter sprint time. Connor also racked up 3 Silver Medals to add to his growing collection. SUP Racer even just name him Paddler of the Decade! We could not agree more. 

zane schweitzer

Zane Schweitzer never mails it in (pictured above courtesy Honolua Bay) .There are a lot of world titles out there but we are quite partial to the "Overall" titles. While some choose to specialize in only one discipline the athletes who pursue the overall title are  the in our opinion the 'best' paddlers in the world. Winning a World Title makes you the best racer, best sprinter, or best surfer but winning the overall title just makes you - best. Zane's second place overall further proves this guy is simply the best waterman on the planet right now. Eariler in the year he won the Honolua Bay Longboard showing just how diverse his skill set is. When you add in his foiling, prone paddling, outrigger, windsurfing, kiteboarding, and surfski skills to the mix you can not deny this guy is the best all-around waterman walking the earth right now. His charitable work, planetary focused ethos, and his committment to helping kids, make him a role model for an entire generation. 

casper steinfath

Casper Steinfath is a Viking . (Picture courtesy Red Bull)There is no doubt about it. His Red Bull Heavy Water performance was our Men's Paddlesport Performance (and photo) of the year award winner. Hand downs.Pictured above the Vikinkg is staring down a monster - on the same 14' race board he used to win the World Title. Naish can pretty securely claim the Maliko can literally do it all.  He won not only the APP Sprint world Title but also the APP Overall World Title. His spirit of spreading positivity pervades everything he does. It's impossible to interact with this guy without smiling. OK so he is not racing under the American flag but we are adopting him. 

seychelle webster

While there is no doubt Seychelle Webster is physically fit she proved this year it's mind over body. How she overcame the odds to win her first and second World Championship Titles is straight out of a Disney Movie. Seychelle (pictured above with Fiona Wylde in hot pursuit - credit to Nommy) won both the APP Sprint and Distance racing World Titles but to us, her victory at the London Sprints is our Women's Paddlesport performance of the year award winner. Prior to the event, Seychelle was fighting a serious injury and in some significant pain. Frankly, we did think she would be able to even race, let alone win. If you were one of the lucky people who took Seychelle's Paddle Clinic here in October you can now say you've taken a class from a double World Champion!

kai lenny by Fish Bowl Diaries

While Kai Lenny (pictured above courtesy Fish Bowl Diaries) didn't win any world titles this year he did so much other stuff it really needs to be its own blog post. However as far as world titles for Kai its been there done that. He has more than 8 already on his mantle. This year it was his in Insane drop In's and unprecedented aerials on massive waves that left us repeatedly saying this is "next level stuff". Kai was elected to the Pro Surfer Hall Of Fame this year - at 27 years old. He foiled from Molokai to Oahu in under 2hr's and 30 minutes to take line honors at M20, and capped of his year with what I think is the first-ever standing double-barrel with Nathan Florence. The guy just continues to amaze. Like the others on the list, Kai is also a ceaseless giver of his time through his Positively Kai foundation. We have picked out 2 of our favorite Kai moments of 2019 below both of which happened in the last 30 days!

  • Kai Lenny and Nathan Florence double-barrel Jaws ride - Watch it here  (video halfway down page)
  • Kai Lenny Barreled ON A WINDSURFER. - What! You read that right. Watch it here 
  • Kai Lenny drop-in of the year candidate #1 - AirDrop - Tail Walk on 30ft Mavs Wave - Watch it here (The whole video is worth a watch but the insane drop in starts at 2:35 - put it on full screen)

Jade Howson SUP

Jade Howson is still a grom and now she too is a double world champ! This grom from SoCal has been popping up at our local races over the years. All that practice paid off as she double gold medaled at ISA SUP World Championships in China. First in the Junior Technical race and then it was time to take down the adults in the Women's Sprints. To say her future is bright is the understatement of 2019. 

kristin thomas infinity SUP 

One more case of "World Championitis" infected our good friend Socal's Kristin Thomas. Kristin too has been a fixture at our local races for many years. Kristin went to the ICF games in China and ended up winning the Women's Masters World Championship Sprint title and actually it did no surprise us. Kristin's work ethic and positive spirit attract winning results.  

The scary thing about this group of paddlers is the brightness of their futures. It just may be possible that 2020 will be even better for them. Not sure how - but it's possible and we can't wait to see what they do next. 

2019 APP World Tour Champions

  • Overall Men's Champion - Casper Steinfath
  • Overall Women's Champion - Fiona Wylde
  • Men's Sprint Racing World Champion - Casper Steinfath
  • Women's Sprint Racing World Champion - Seychelle Webster
  • Women's Distance Racing World Champion - Seychelle Webster
  • Men's Distance Racing World Champion - Michael Booth
  • Women's Surfing World Champion - Izzy Gomez
  • Men's Surfing World Champion - Poenaiki Raioha 

2019 ICF World Championships El Salvador 

  • Men's Distance Racing - Michael Booth
  • Women's Distance Racing - Sonni Hinscheid (Fiona got 3rd)
  • Men's Sprint World Champion - Connor Baxter
  • Women's Sprint World Champion - Olivia Piana
  • Women's Technical Race - Olivia Piana (Fiona 3rd)
  • Men's Tecnical Race - Lincoln Dewes (Connor 2nd)
  • Special Nod to SoCal's Kristin Thomas who won gold in the Masters sprints. Awesome Kristin - just awesome.  

2019 ISA World Championships China

  • Men's SUP Surfing Benoit Carpentier
  • Women's SUP Surfing Justine Dupont
  • Men's SUP Distance Racing Vinnicius Martins
  • Women's SUP Distance Racing Esperanza Barres
  • Men's Prone Paddleboard Hunter Pflueger 
  • Women's Prone Paddleboard Tyra Buncombe
  • Men's SUP Technical Titouan Puyo (Connor 2nd)
  • Women's SUP Technical Esperanza Barreras
  • Junior SUP Technical Men - Christian Anderson
  • Junior SUP Technical Women - Jade Howson 
  • Women's SUP Sprint Racing - Jade Howson
  • Men's SUP Sprint Racing  Claudio Nika (Connor 2nd)

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