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Shakira Westdorp

Shakira Westdorp Is Champion Again & Explains Why SUP Is The New Black

THE MERMAID SOCIETY // 2017 AUSTRALIAN SUP CHAMPIONSHIPS

They might be commonplace in the lineup in 2017 with a number of professional SUP surfers and racers propelling their sport beyond comprehension but SUP or Standup Paddle Boarding hit the surf/ocean sports scenes not that long ago. Let’s take a real good look back on its short history.

‘The Internets’ say that it originated in Africa when villagers and hunters would stand up in their canoes to fish. The Hawaiians also lay claim to its origins, and we’re not going to dispute who actually started the whole thing, obviously when you’re hunting on the water you’re going to have a whole lot more power with your spear or other such weaponry if you’re standing up.

Let’s skip forward to modern times. In the 1940’s  Duke Kahanamoku and Leroy and Bobby AhChoy got into standing on their boards to see incoming swells. Then in the 1990’s Brian Keaulana picked it up again during periods with small waves right before he developed the Buffalo Big Board Contest – now in its 41st year of competition. This is when SUP started to blow up and move into mainstream surf culture. Mainly because of its ability to be performed without the high intensity, high risk of the ocean, the appeal was much broader than surfing with a shortboard or longboard. People who were landlocked could pick it up, people who just like the pool could pick it up. The boards were big, stable and made wave riding a little easier.

By 2013 there was a world tour formed and a little known athlete from Maui by the name of Kai Lenny burst onto the scene, just ahead of the female pioneers who set the sport on fire, making SUP surfing and endurance racing seem as easy as taking a stroll down the street.

2013 Outdoor Participation Report found that stand up paddle boarding was listed as the most popular outdoor activity among first-time participants. Then in 2015 Special Report into Paddlesports found that 2.8 Million (or 0.9%) of Americans participated in standup paddleboarding in 2014. (*Wikipedia 2017)

In 2017 the sport is now part of the International Surfing Association, has it’s own world championships and world tour run by the APP (Association of Paddlesurf Professionals / Watermans League) covering multiple disciplines including SUP surfing, marathon, technical and flatwater sprint. There are over 20 countries that have national bodies that run events and in Australia last weekend, Surfing Australia ran the 2017 national championships on the Gold Coast.

Athletes include former ironwomen, surfers, athletes of all kinds, as well as people who started off as ‘outdoor activity enthusiasts’ turned pro. Anyone who competes in a SUP discipline is a true athlete, they work harder than they are given credit for and they know the ocean. Respect.

Among them is also Shakira Westdorp. She’s a 32 year old from Queensland and she’s got a title and trophy collection that resembles a pirates treasure trove. She’s surfed waves up to 10-foot on her SUP and can pull surf manoeuvres like she’s on a high performance shortboard. In 2017 she’s come in at third on the World Tour but is the QLD state and now national champion. She’s not even nearly done yet.

Shakira is now six times Australian Champion and three times ISA Champion (2 x SUP surf 2016, 2017 and 1 x Tech race 2014) and on the APP World Tour has finished with a second and two third places. This year she’s more stoked than ever to be part of the sport as it begins to make some rapid progress on its way to Olympic inclusion.

So, the event on the weekend was a pretty big deal and all the best SUP competitors from the Australian coastline were in pretty good form. “Yeah and conditions were pretty tricky, but there were some nice waves coming through when you could find them. The girls were surfing well and the level of competition has improved so much. It’s getting pretty tough to take it out. But yeah, I’m so stoked to win another Title.”

Why do you think there has been such a big growth in the sport and the level of performance? “I think the girls have have been part of the competitive side of the sport for a few years now so everyone is gaining more experience on the boards and surfing heats and working out the technical side of the sport to allow it to improve, really challenging each other. Board technology is also suiting us a bit better now too, with SUP makers providing smaller board options so we can surf better based on our different builds and ability.”

And obviously having more competitive events helps build the presence of it and the opportunity to get more people interested? “Yeah, there are more events popping up everywhere, here in Australia and internationally. There are also a lot of SUP clubs forming too, so there are club rounds being developed allowing for some good momentum to build at the grassroots level. Next year looks a bit light on for international SUP events at the moment but there are a few good events in Australia, so that will be good for the local young girls to be part of and jump into.”

The Australian Championships were held over four days with four disciplines; Marathon, Surf, technical, and flatwater sprint. It was amazing to see so many women part of this fast developing surf sport. Congratulations to everyone who competed.

2017 Australian SUP Championship Results

Open Women’s Surf

  1. Shakira Westdorp
  2. Torrene Black
  3. Kaylan Dahl
  4. Skyla Rayner

Over 40 Women’s Surf 

  1. Gwen Carbone
  2. Narelle Kuppers
  3. Melissa McManus
  4. Erika Oemcke

Open Women Technical

  1. Karla Gilbert (QLD)
  2. Terrene Black (NSW)
  3. Olivia Hall (QLD)
  4. Keale Dorries (QLD)

Open Women’s Marathon

  1. Angela Jackson (QLD)
  2. Karla Gilbert (QLD)
  3. Belinda Stowell-Brett (WA)
  4. Jackie Nicholl (WA)

Over 40 Women’s Marathon

  1. Cheryl Willie (QLD)
  2. Lisa Cross (NSW)
  3. Susan Dorries (QLD)
  4. Julianne White (QLD)

Open Women SUP Flat Water Sprint

  1. Kea’le Dorries (QLD)
  2. Chloe Walkerdene (QLD)
  3. Rewiina Mihaere (QLD)

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