Photos by @Georgia Schofield
The 2023 ICF World Championship in Pattaya, Thailand, will be etched in the history books as one of the largest international paddleboard championship events to date. The allure of racing in Thailand helped attract over 850 riders eager to test their skills among the world's best paddlers. Some athletes traveled up to 30 hours to participate. While the Thai culture and scenery provided a beautiful backdrop to the event, the hot and humid weather added to the challenges of the race.
SPRINT RACES TO START THE CHAMPIONSHIP
The event commenced with sprint races at the RCAT Center, located 30 minutes from Jomtien Beach. The RCAT Center, a comprehensive training facility featuring Whitewater Park, hosted the races.
The start list for the day showcased a stacked lineup of talent, making it clear that success would depend on who could endure the oppressive heat and humidity.
GLOBAL ATHLETE SEYCHELLE
"Competing internationally with the world's best athletes at the ICF Worlds felt incredible. It's like a real homecoming for me in SUP racing. There are many wonderful people, reminders, and memories of why I love this sport.
My passion and fire were already rekindled, but now they are blazing. Winning Gold in the sprint feels like fireworks shooting out of that fire. More than anything, I feel grateful. Thank you, SIC Maui, for sticking by me."
Global Athlete Seychelle's experience training in the heat of Florida, combined with her grit, and her mental fortitude helped her maintain focus as she dominated in each sprint heat, ultimately securing the ICF Sprint World Champion title.
In the Men's Master 40 division, Global Athlete Ryhoei from Japan claimed a 3rd place podium finish, while Canadian National Athlete Tommy Buday secured 6th place.
Athlete Olga Merkulova, representing the ICF and borrowing a SIC board, clinched 1st place in the women's Master 40 division.
DISTANCE RACING WITH STRONG WIND
The distance racing began along Jomtien Beach, with twenty-knot winds offering relief to spectators from the heat but posing a challenge for athletes. Despite headwinds and side chops fluctuating throughout the course, SIC Maui Athletes consistently secured positions in the top ten.
In the fiercely contested women's elite division, Japanese Global Athlete Rika had a strong start, maintaining pace with the lead pack throughout the distance race, ultimately securing 4th place. Despite a challenging start, US Global Athlete Seychelle fought back, finishing closely behind Rika and claiming 5th position.
French Global Athlete Ludovic showcased exceptional endurance among the highly competitive elite men's pack, culminating in a well-deserved 6th-place finish.
Canadian National Athlete and Team Manager Tommy secured 3rd place in the men's Master 40-plus division, while French National Athlete Pierre-Alain finished 6th.
Japanese Global Athlete Ryhoei achieved 7th place, and Italian National Athlete Sara finished commendably in 9th place among the women's Master 50 competitors.
Our youth development team also excelled, with Japanese Athletes Kotaro securing 3rd place for Junior Boys and Kanae securing 4th place for Junior Girls.
"I was eagerly anticipating my first ICF Championship, being my first tournament since the end of the coronavirus pandemic. It was my inaugural world championship, and I was nervous given the stiff competition in my age group.
Though I didn't achieve the desired result, I'm thrilled with my 3rd place podium finish for Juniors Distance racing. Witnessing the top athletes of my generation has fueled my ambition to strive for the best. I aim to become the junior champion next year."
AMAZING FIGHT DURING TEC RACING
The climax of the 2023 ICF SUP World Championship was the nail-biting Tec Race, marked by spills, thrills, buoy-turn drama, and unexpected beach racing upsets.
SIC Maui's standout moment came from Japanese Global Athlete Ryohei Yoshida, who secured the world championship in the master’s 40 division. This victory marked Ryhoei's dominance throughout the week, with his first tec race win added to his growing list of ICF accolades.
The rest of the team fiercely competed in their respective tec race divisions against a formidable field, with most athletes securing spots within the top ten rankings. US Global Athlete Seychelle fought through a tough race against incredible talent, finishing 8th, while Japanese Global Athlete Rika Okuaki finished 11th.
Italian National Athlete Sara Oddera secured 8th place, Canadian National Athlete Tamas Buday claimed 10th, and Japanese Youth Dev. Athletes Kanae Shibahara and Kotaro Miyahira finished 8th and 7th, respectively.