Opinion: Should SUP Be Added to the Olympics?

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Home-nation hero Casper Steinfath waves his flag after a repeat victory in the Men's Sprint Races. Photo: ISA/Reed

Interviews by Rebecca Parsons

Surfing is officially on the roster for the 2020 Olympics, which leads us to wonder: Will SUP ever be added to the games? Should it be? And if it makes the cut, will it feature flatwater racing, surf racing, SUP surfing, river runs, foiling, or all of the above? We posed these very questions to seven of the top paddlers in the sport. Here’s what they had to say. –RP

Jade Howson

I would love to see SUP in the Olympics. I feel that surfing being added to the Olympics was a mistake—I love surfing with all my heart but it’s hard to judge it as well as find a good location. People say the solution to this is a wave pool. That’s great, but I think it gets boring watching someone surf the same wave over and over.

Jade Howson on her way to winning the Women’s Pro Junior Technical Race at #PPG2018. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

As for paddling, if it were in the Olympics it would be much more exciting. I like to compare it to swimming—people love swimming! It’s so exciting to watch because it has a clear start and finish. Paddling is the same way and you don’t need waves to paddle (though it make things more fun and interesting!). I think paddling would fit right in at the Olympics.

Mo Freitas

I’d love to see SUP in the Olympics! Whether it’s sprint racing, distance or surfing, I’d love to have a shot!

Emmy Merrill

I don’t think SUP surfing will be in the Olympics anytime soon. I can see SUP sprints or technical racing getting the nod before SUP surfing. Part of me wants SUP surfing to be an Olympic sport because I would love an opportunity to compete at such a prestigious and iconic event, but I don’t think the sport is quite there yet. There is enough talent in SUP surfing for an event of that caliber, but I don’t think it should go to the Olympics until there is a reliable, professional competition series for SUP athletes.

There have been a few organizations putting on SUP surf series, but until there is a reliable contest schedule and professionally organized events, I don’t think it makes sense to have SUP surfing in the Olympics. I hope the discussion of SUP surfing being included in the Olympics draws more attention to the sport and gains more support for SUP athletes.

Tyler Bashor

I believe that SUP, given a couple years, will be put into the Olympics. Surfing has close ties with SUP and with the support of the ISA, I do believe there is a strong chance that SUP will follow soon after.

Tyler Bashor felt the thrill of victory at #PPG20188, will Olympics be next? Photo: Christian Jung

I think SUP should be added to the Olympics because it could have positive impacts on athletes, brands and the SUP community as a whole by bringing a worldwide exposure to the sport. Going to the Olympics has always been a dream of mine and I believe it is that way for many young athletes.

Brittany Parker

I do think SUP will be added to the Olympics eventually. I believe the flatwater and ocean racing is a great candidate for an Olympic event; I don’t see what harm it would cause. My M.O. is whitewater paddling, so I couldn’t see myself being interested in competing in that sort of event.

Dave Boehne

I think SUP is a natural progression into the Olympics only because the sprint canoe/kayak has been in there for years—this is just another adaptation of that so it’s a pretty easy application. Surf racing, however, may take a little longer, just for the general people to understand.

Zane Schweitzer

With surfing being added to the Olympics, there is a yin and yang for the chances of SUP. Being that SUP may be seen as a paddle sport and/or a surf sport, there may be some people saying there are already multiple paddle sports as well as a surf sport. On the contrary, many may believe that SUP is a solution to bring together disciplines of paddle and surf sport.

Zane Schweitzer (white) hopes to get a chance to compete on the world’s biggest stage. Photo courtesy of APP

I believe SUP should be added to the Olympics because we are able to perform in a broad range of conditions and adapt in many different bodies of water, as well as being something that every country can partake in as a relatable and accessible sport. To compete on a platform such as the Olympics has always been a dream–it would be an honor to represent my family and home.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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