From September 7-11th, the world’s best standup paddlers gathered in Gdynia, Poland to face off at the ICF Standup Paddle World Championships. Often referred to as “a city built on sea and dreams,” Gdynia is in northern Poland and is an important seaport on the Baltic Sea coast.
500 athletes from 42 countries gathered for the chance to be crowned the best in the world. Four countries made their debut at the ICF SUP World Championships including Belgium, Croatia, Finland, and Singapore. Athletes were invited to enter as individual or as teams—with 30,000 Euros in prize money on the line, it promised to be an exciting event that the top SIC athletes shouldn’t miss. It was a great opportunity for the SIC Ohana to get together and support and challenge each during four days of epic competition.
Poland went all out to be gracious hosts and put on a spectacular event and the venue was beautiful, with a separate area for athletes and spectators. The sprint race took place in the harbor, beginning at a platform and ending 180 meters later at the finish line. The 1000-meter technical race was held in the Baltic Sea, with athletes navigating a series of buoys in a single loop. The distance race also was held in the Baltic Sea, where athletes completed three triangle laps, totaling 12 kilometers.
ICF Day 1
On opening day, the ICF held its first ever Special Olympics event where 10 special athletes paddled in tandem with 10 pro paddlers. The event was inspiring and a reminder that standup paddling is about so much more than just competition.
ICF Day 2
Day two was sprint day, with open, junior, and master divisions. The 180-meter course was held in the harbor. The space was a little tight and there were no lanes, so it was a bit of a hectic race. SIC Global Athlete Rai Taguchi used his XRS 14’ x 20” and the board served him well. He progressed through the heats, first making it quarterfinals, then the semis, and eventually to the finals where he placed fourth.
“I thought it would be dangerous to make it to the final with all the powerhouses from the preliminaries, but I improved my time every time I went through the roundups and gradually got a feel for it. In the final, I was able to finish in fourth place! I was one step away from getting a medal, so it was a frustrating race, but it was the event I least expected to do well in, so it gave me confidence.”
SIC Global Athlete Rai Taguchi
ICF Day 3
On the third day, the athletes awoke excited to take on the distance race. The race was schedule to start at 11 AM but due to high winds, big surf, and rain, the race was postponed until the afternoon. By 2 PM, although the weather had not improved much, the athletes were finally given the green light and the race began. The conditions were some of the craziest in the history of SUP racing and over half of the field dropped out before the finish line.
“With very challenging conditions it was great to see all SIC riders going out there and doing their best. It was a challenge just to go out and get on a board—respect to all who went out and fought!”
SIC Team Manager Tommy Buday
In the long-distance open men’s division, SIC Global Athlete Rai Taguchi put up a strong fight, finishing in 10th place. SIC Global Athlete Ludovic Teulade was close behind, finishing in 11th. In the long-distance Master men 40+, SIC Team Manager Tommy Buday paddled his heart out, securing an impressive third place finish.
ICF Day 4
On day four, the athletes were gifted with great conditions. There was wind and waves, but nothing compared to the distance race—just enough ocean energy to make for an exciting technical race. The course was well laid out and easy to follow. Although all the SIC athletes gave it their all, only Rai Taguchi made it through to finals day—he used his RS 14” x 21.5” in the qualifying round and the XRS 14” x 20’ in the semi-finals due to the flat conditions. Bodie Von Allmen didn’t make it through, and Ludovic Teulade had a tough semifinal; he finished fifth, just missing qualifying for the final.
ICF Day 5
Day five, the final day of the entire event, was the technical finals. The only SIC rider in the race was Rai Taguchi and he used his RS 14” x 21.5 LV due to accommodate the rough ocean conditions. He got off to a slow start but as the race progressed, he slowly worked his way toward the front. Near the end of the race, he made some strong moves and ultimately finished the race in third place. Rai was very happy with his performance and is excited for next year as he continues to improve.
“A lot of SIC riders from around the world were excited to see new boards. The Czech team brought a huge number of boards and they had tents and chairs—they were amazing hosts to all the national and international team athletes. Overall, it was a really great experience and really great racing because a lot of people were there, so the competition was strong.”
SIC Team Manager Tommy Buday