Paddlers Make History at the Very First USA SUP National Championships
November 10-12, 2023. Long Beach, CA, USA
Paddlers Make History at the Very First USA SUP National Championships
Long Beach, CA, USA
November 10, 2023
For the first time, a grass-root organized national championship for stand up paddleboard racers is happening in Long Beach, California. Although virtually unknown in the conventional sports and popular culture, SUP Racing (stand up paddleboard racing) has been going strong for nearly 20 years. The sport is one that has a high probability of being inducted into the Olympics in 2028 and still growing every year in all corners of the world.
USA SUP is a grass-roots organization built by paddlers with the mission of growing the sport of SUP by engaging and informing participants and championing safe, inclusive, and fair communities and events. For their inaugural National Championship, nearly one hundred competitors from 15 states are competing in four different events: sprint 200m, technical 800m, and a 5K and 10K long distance over three days. We’ll be following the progress of these competitions and racers as they progress and provide up-to-date information.
Day 1 Summary (Sprint 200M, heats and finals)
The day began with a feeling of anxious anticipation about the first day's events, focused on 200m sprint racing. For many in attendance, this was their first sprint race, and many of the more seasoned paddlers could count the amount of sprint racing they’ve done on one hand.
The schedule for the day had a heat race going off every 10 minutes, and with very few exceptions the schedule was adhered to. Every racer got at least two chances to paddle. Quarterfinal heats sent the top two finishers directly to the finals, with the remainder of the field passing to the semifinals. The top finishers of the semi then rounded out to the finals brackets.
The quarter and semifinal heats featured close racing across the board with more than a couple close finishes. As usual, the female classes brougth a lot of excitement and comradery on full display in all three divisions; Open, Masters and Golden Masters.
In the female’s Masters (50+) Shirley Heinemann pulled out the win edging out Linda McCoy, and Suzy Dyer. The Golden Master’s (60+) Kristin Thomas took a break from her official USA SUP President duties to pull out a will over Jen Fuller, who pushed Kristin till the very end. Midwesterner Kathy McCrae rounded out the podium.
The Female’s open final was one of the most exciting of the day with Seychelle going toe-to-toe with Katniss Paris hot on her heels. Birthday girl Soryn Preston, who just turned 15, was only a few seconds behind to lock up third.
Master’s male division was won by David Wells, with Pete Gauvin and Bill McGrath pushing till the end in a close finish. The male’s Golden Masters was dominated by Pacific Northerner Bruce Barry who coincidentally was also the winner of the 70+ age class. Tony Forcier, Sean Sullivan, and Joe Bechtold made to podium for 60+ youngster division.
The open male division featured a runaway win from none other than Danny Ching. Bodie Von Allmen pushed the entire distance, but faded at the end and was edged at the finish line by Jake Graham.
Day 2 Summary (5K and 10K Long Distance Sponsored by Mike’s Paddle)
Racing for day 2 consisted of the 10k and 5k distance events, respectively, with about 80 paddlers registered. The 10k course headed out the channel, into Alamitos Bay and over to Island Chafee, then back into the channel to circle the island of Naples. The 5k race started in the same location, but instead of heading out to see, completed the Naples Island lap.
The 10k race started first and as expected - Danny Ching and Bodie Von Allmen broke early and lead from wire-to-wire, swapping leads several times along the way. The stongest challenge came from Jake Graham who hung with the duo until taking a swim as they surfed a bump back into the channel. In the end, age and wisdom triumphed the exuberance of youth with Danny edging out Bodie, by a board length, for the win in the Male Open division.
The Female open class perhaps provided just as good if not better storyline as Soryn Preston took the win exactly one day after her 15th birthday. In the feel-good story of the day, Soryn, one of the youngest competitors on the water, swapped leads with Legend class (70+) year-old wonder paddler, Bruce Barry, and finished within minutes of each other. Kirsten Marina Lefeldt took 2nd in the female Open class with Katie Kasprzyk rounding out the podium.
The Female and Male Masters divisions provided close racing in the 10k distance. For the Females Vicki Mills took the win chased by Shirley Heinemann and Perla Bell, Male’s Master’s featured David Wells, followed by Pete Gauvin and Brian Tucker.
Golden Master’s divisions did not disappoint with Tony Forcier, edging Karl Eugster, and Derek Turner. For the Female Division Jen Fuller took the win over USA SUP Board President Kristin Thomas with Kathy McRae rounding out the podium.
The 5k race was dominated by Golden Master Dave Anderson, Rob Heinemann, and James Yanoschik Shared the podium. In the Male Master’s Division Robert Demarco took the win over Harrison Withers and Tony Alvarado. Troy Hendricks took the Men’s open win with Ankur Samtaney joining him on the podium. Oliver Martinez won the male youth division.
In the Female 5k, Elizabeth “Betsy” Duke took the Open class win while Zeina Kabbani, and Leann Peterson gave chase. Linda McCoy took the win in the Master’s class, with Veronica Wold and May Wong.
Day 3 Summary (Technical 800m, heats and finals)
Day three was all about technical racing, on an 800 Meter course which a beach start. Once again the historic Long Beach Marine Stadium was the location for the day’s events and, once again, did not disappoint with it’s calm waters, clean facilities and wonderful scenery. The course was roughly an “M” shape with a sprint across the waterway to 180 degree left-hand turn back across to a 180 right-hander, followed by a hard left leaning into a right hand dog-leg turn. A short sprint was then interrupted by a hard left back to the start/finish.
The Quarterfinal and Semifinal heats featured close racing with courteous sportsmanship, minimal get-offs, and only minimal course corrections. The racing was close, but clean and no one took unfair advantage through unnecessary contact.
The finals lined up as they should and provided for some terrific racing. In no particular order: The Female Golden Masters (60+) featured an battle between eventual winner Jen Fuller, and USA SUP president Kristin Thomas (who celebrated her birthday with a 2nd on the podium). Midwest paddler Kathy McCrae took the third step.
Female Master’s was won by Shirly Heinemann, who had a terrific weekend across multiple events. USA SUP South Central Rep Linda McCoy took 2nd and Suzy Dyer took 3rd.
Men’s Golden Masters was won by the Midwest’s Karl Eugster who pulled out a masterful victory over Sean Sullivan. Legend class paddler (racing in the younger Golden class) Bruce Barry coming across third. But yielding the second spot in the Golden Masters Podium to Tony Forcier.
Men’s Masters was won confidently by David Wells who also capped off a multiple podium weekend. Pete Gauvin and Ivan Storck pushed David until the very end in second and third positions respectively. Pete occupying the second spot for the duration and Ivan out dueling the field for his third position that was not secure until the final 50 meters.
The Men’s Open saw a dominant win by Danny Ching, with an exciting battle for 2nd featuring a rail-on-rail sprint to the end, with Dave Boehne barely getting by Jake Graham. It was a showcase of racing tactics by the two SoCal paddlers.
Arguably the race of the day was the Women’s open where Katniss Paris mad a mid-course pass on Soryn Preston for the win, with multiple podium finisher Kirsten Marina Lefeldt In close proximity.
These words alone cannot begin to convey the excitement of the Inaugural USA SUP National
Championships. If you missed it, you missed something special and if you were lucky enough to attend, you are part of history in the making. DO NOT miss the opportunity to join us next year!
Thank you to all of our sponsors to help make this event happen.
Athletic Brewing Inc
Ballard Elks Club
California Board Company
Gnarly Sports Nutrition
Pacific Healing and Wellness