DANA POINT, California - The annual SUPIA Summit that began on Wednesday, October 3, sparked conversations surrounding the current state of the SUP racing scene and where the industry is headed. In a highly anticipated panel with SUPIA President Anthony Scatturo, WPA President Byron Kurt, ICF Representative Rami Zur, and Starboard Athlete Fiona Wylde, industry members and athletes engaged in an ongoing dialogue about the sport’s most pressing issues, identifying problems currently bedeviling the competitive scene and mapping out possible solutions going forward.
SUPIA President and SIC Maui Global Brand Manager Anthony Scatturo expressed the need for ongoing and open communication between all athletes, brands, event organizers, and industry associations as the SUP racing scene continues to progress. These sentiments were reiterated by one of the world’s first elite SUP racers, Byron Kurt. Kurt, who heads the World Paddle Association stated that all of the WPA’s resources, including rules and formats for event organizers, were available for those needing them within the SUP industry.
Identity Of SUP
Kristen Thomas kicks off the SUP racing panel. | Photo courtesy: Supconnect
These talks of cross disciplinary efforts come just in the midst of the ongoing battle between the ISA and the ICF regarding the governance of SUP. Most recently, after both sides failed to reach a resolution, the ISA has deferred the issue to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to settle it. Two-time Canoe Racing Olympian and Chairman of the ICF SUP Advisory Committee, Rami Zur, was ready to address these issues during the panel.
Zur strongly expressed that the ICF believes in coexistence with the ISA and explained that, despite contradictory narratives, the ICF does not want SUP to fall exactly in line with canoe but rather to have its own identity. Zur also stated that they believe private events should be able to happen freely. From their account, the ISA does seem to want to coexist but rather wants full ownership of the sport.
The battle specifically heated up a few months back as the ICF was preparing for its own SUP Championships in Portugal. Prior to the event, the ISA and Portuguese Surf Federation worked together to get the event cancelled on grounds of illegality, claiming that the ICF failed to get the proper authorization for such an event. Since the cancellation of the event, Zur confirms that the ICF has worked hard to refund all the athletes for the registration and travel costs, even reimbursing those who planned extended stays while visiting Portugal.
Rami Zur addresses the pressing issues facing the SUP race scene. | Photo courtesy: Supconnect
The ICF has tried to ensure the SUP community that they want to help better the sport despite claims from the ISA and others against their false interests. Zur further added that, looking forward, the ICF is completely open as to how to format the Olympic race season and would want to work with athletes and organizers to find the best solution for everyone.
The ISA was not represented at the summit due to flight issues, however Supconnect has since reached out to ISA Vice President Casper Steinfath regarding the key issues discussed during the panel. Steinfath conveyed his disappointment in not being able to attend the summit and respond directly, but said he believed it was very positive that key stakeholders in the SUP racing scene were gathering to discuss these issues in more detail. Steinfath explained how the ISA has and continues to help grow the sport of SUP and make it more sustainable around the world.
“The ISA creates an umbrella for all the different countries, small ones as well, and gives them the opportunity to grow the sport in their own way. We want to enhance the sport and give more opportunities on a national level,” said Steinfath.
When asked about working together with the ICF for the betterment of SUP, Steinfath shared his opinion.
“Personally, yes it would be great to work together. The ISA has been working very hard and I know the ICF has as well. But there are a lot of other factors,” shared Steinfath.
SIC Maui athlete Seychelle takes the mic during Day 1 at the SUPIA summit. | Photo courtesy: Supconnect
Many of these factors have to do with the long standing history of the ISA’s involvement in SUP, olympic rights, and the impending lawsuit with the ICF in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The ISA has been deeply involved with SUP since 2008, while the ICF has only more recently gotten involved. However, the ICF has successfully organized Olympic world circuits for years, with multi-million dollar budgets. Undoubtedly, the result of this lawsuit will have a huge impact not only on the future of the SUP racing discipline, but also on the identity of the sport as a whole.
The idea of the sport of Stand Up Paddling having its own, separate governing body was also brought up. General consensus during the panel seemed to agree that this would be a great goal for the long-term, however currently the sport just isn’t there yet. Steinfath shared a similar view on the topic.
“Stand up paddling could have its own federation one day. Ideally, that would be great. But of course there is a lot of management involved and resources needed,” explained Steinfath.
Although it appears the issues surrounding the governance of SUP will stay unresolved until the court returns a decision, the future of SUP racing, Olympic rights, event organization, and sport identity are all bound to be affected in many ways.
Candice Appleby (left), Fiona Wylde (middle), and Shae Foudy all smiles at the post-summit poster signing. | Photo courtesy: SUPIA
On the athlete side, powerhouse professional SUP racer Fiona Wylde introduced the new Paddler’s Collective, a group of about 70 paddlers that realized the need to come together in order to solve some of the more pragmatic problems of SUP racing. Think: board transportation, lodging, etc. To develop one unified body, they created a private Paddler’s Collective Facebook Page that is open to professional paddlers who want a share of voice. This collective is another step in the right direction for the sustainable future of SUP racing on the athlete level.
But the Paddler’s Collective was not the only news that Fiona brought up in the panel. She also voiced her confusion, echoed by other professional athletes, about how and when racers can qualify for the ISA SUP and Paddleboard Championships in China. With the event just 7 weeks away, she shared her frustration over the lack of clarity on these matters building up to such a major event.
According to other athletes including Candice Appleby, there had been a ISA Championships trial date set earlier this year, but had been canceled due to schedule conflicts with Hawaiian athletes who were to be invited to the USA trials. Athletes and other industry folk have yet to hear of a rescheduled date.
Mo Freitas (far left), Lara Clayon (middle left), Jade Howson (middle right), and Jordan Mercer (far right) sign posts after SUPIA Summit Day 1. | Photo courtesy: Supconnect
In response to these questions, Casper Steinfath explained that the process for qualifying for the ISA Championships differs for each country and that the responsibility ultimately lies on that country’s national governing body - in the case of the USA it would be Surfing America. The confusion sheds light on a need for improved organization and clear communication between athletes and the national and international federations.
With Day 2 of the SUPIA summit underway, we expect to have continued dialogue and productive discussions surrounding the SUP racing discipline and the future of the sport.
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