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  • Op Ed: The Future of Stand-Up Paddle Is With the ISA


    Stand-up paddle (SUP) is my passion and at the center of my life. This passion started when I was young and was born out of a close affinity to the ocean.
    Casper Steinfath (L) with ISA president Fernando Aguerre in Fiji (ATR)

    As a child, my family settled in Klitmøller in northern Denmark – an area also known as ‘Cold Hawaii’ as it reminds people of the waves found around the Pacific Ocean islands. Of course, the temperatures are a lot cooler in our Scandinavian region. My new home and the sea offered me a world of new possibilities, including sport.

    After years of hard work and dedicated training, I am now an elite and professional SUP athlete. It is the sport that I love and compete in internationally today so I want to see SUP enjoy a healthy future and flourish for many more years.

    I also have the honor to be the current and three-time SUP Racing World Champion and it is also a pleasure to serve our world governing body, the International Surfing Association (ISA), as a Vice-President and Executive Committee member. I am delighted to also Chair the ISA Athletes’ Commission so I can ensure the views of the athletes can be expressed and heard.

    This is an important responsibility for me because the governance of SUP has been questioned recently and the voices of professional SUP athletes need to be heard.

    As the representative of the professional SUP athlete community, I have an obligation to speak out about what we believe is the right course for our sport so it continues to develop and thrive for years more.

    Like all professional surfers, I travel the world to compete in pro-tour events. Therefore, I am in daily contact with the best athletes in the world practicing this sport. We the athletes firmly believe the future of the sport lies with the ISA as the sole International Federation for SUP. The ISA has our full support.

    SUP in all its forms, is a sport born from surfing in Hawaii and created by surfers. The two activities are inextricably linked through their shared origins and culture. The deep connection between SUP and surfing is re-affirmed by the ISA’s long-standing and pioneering commitment to promote and invest in both disciplines globally over many years.

    The sport of SUP is also written into the ISA Constitution, which serves to govern stand-up paddle activities in all bodies of water in any format. The ISA Constitution describes surfing as all activities in which the force of the wave pushes the athlete, and all activities in flat water, using wave riding equipment. Obviously, this always included SUP.

    SUP is a discipline of surfing, just like shortboard surfing (now an Olympic sport), or paddling in flat water on any surfboards. For years now, the ISA Rule Book has established the technical guidelines for all SUP activity worldwide – whether it be competitions on waves (SUP surfing) or another body of water, either ocean or freshwater (SUP racing).

    SUP also has a strong professional world tour and today’s announcement that the ISA has entered into a partnership with the tour owners, the Association of Paddlesurf Professionals (APP), is great news for the athletes and for the future development and growth of the sport.
    Stand-up Paddlers at the 2016 ISA World Championship in Fiji (ATR)

    For years now, the ISA has been the leader in creating and activating development programs that underpin the global growth of SUP. For example, the ISA has run a worldwide coaching program for certifying SUP coaches, instructors, judges and officials for both ocean and flat-water racing.

    The ISA’s success here is notable with more than 5,000 coaches now certified in over 35 countries – of which 700 are specialized in SUP disciplines. This has been achieved in diverse countries in every part of the world, including Iran, India, France, Austria, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Canada.

    As a result of all this support, SUP athletes globally are convinced the ISA will defend, protect and advance the best interests of our sport and offer it the ideal platform to develop further. No other International Federation can claim to have this history or tradition in governing elite-level competitive SUP – or offers the same level of developmental investment.

    The critical point is that the best SUP racers in the world participate in ISA events and competitions and support the ISA as the global authority of the sport. The ISA has always been and is still today the sole and exclusive organizer of the SUP World Championships, inclusive of surfing and racing.

    In fact, the ISA has successfully organized SUP World Championships since 2012, featuring all the best stand-up paddlers in the world, including the elite professionals. I am thrilled too that the 2017 ISA World Stand-Up Paddle and Paddleboard Championships will be held in my home nation of Denmark where new record levels of participation are expected.

    Through proposals submitted by the ISA, SUP competitions, alongside surfing ones, will now also be staged at forthcoming additional major multi-sport events: the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, and the 2019 ANOC World Beach Games.

    SUP athletes strongly believe in preserving the surfing heritage in SUP and we are backing the ISA to organize our competitions – and without the athletes there are no events, no spectacles and no fans. Quite simply, without athletes there is no sport.

    Whatever the dispute, the interests and needs of the athletes must come first and be the number one priority of the governing body. And on the issue of the governance of SUP, the athletes have clearly spoken – we want to continue to be under the ISA umbrella.

    Casper Steinfath from Denmark is the three-time current SUP Racing World Champion, ISA Vice- President and Chairman of the ISA Athletes’ Commission.

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