San Clemente, Calif. (July 18, 2019) - Team USA’s Surf, Longboard and StandUp Paddle athletes are headed to the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. It is the first time surfing will be part of the Pan American Games as an Olympic-qualifying event for many Caribbean and South American countries and is an excellent proving ground for Team USA surf athletes.
Team USA’s six-member team listed below has won dozens of medals and Championship titles. As shortboard surfing makes its debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, an entirely new audience will be introduced to exciting performances.
For U.S. surfers, the main path to the 2020 Olympic Games is by completing the 2019 World Surf League (WSL) Championship Tour season ranked in the top two highest positions among U.S. surfers for men and women. If Team USA’s Kevin Schulz wins the shortboard event at the Pan American Games, he will earn consideration to be on the U.S. Olympic Team if WSL Championship Tour male surfers from the U.S. do not qualify. The majority of countries who do not participate in WSL events will qualify through the Pan American Games and International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games held in September 2019 and the Spring of 2020.
“The Pan American Games represent the Olympic path for North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. It will be exciting to be among the world’s top athletes vying to represent their countries at the Summer Olympics in dozens of sports,” said USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse. “The best of Team USA’s shortboard, longboard and SUP surfers and SUP racers will walk away with surfing’s first Olympic-sanctioned event medals around their necks.”
Lima, Peru’s surfing conditions offer a prime canvas for Team USA’s surf athletes to deliver standout performances. Look for Women’s SUP Surf and SUP race athlete Candice Appleby to defend her World Champion title and add more gold to her collection. After helping team USA win team silver in 2018, SUP Surf athlete Daniel Hughes is hungry for gold. In men’s SUP Race, Connor Baxter is looking to break more records. In Longboard, Tiare Thompson and Cole Robbins are frothing to ride the right point break of Punta Rocas. And with Olympic qualification on the line, Kevin Schulz is looking to go big. Just last month Schulz won Stab High’s “Freak Peak” event with what is being called the biggest air landed in Waco's BSR Wavepool history. The video clip of the maneuver he has been working on for more than three years went viral on social media.
“Surfing’s inclusion in the Pan Am Games puts our sport on a much bigger stage than ever before,” said USA Surfing head coach Chris Stone. “The athletes will be treated to an event very much like an Olympic Games. From the Opening and Closing ceremonies to rubbing shoulders with some of the world’s top athletes in the Athlete Village, and so much more. As an Olympic qualifier for many countries, the competition will be heated and exciting to watch. I can't wait!”
Team USA’s Pan American Games athletes include:
Candice Appleby, Women's SUP Surf and SUP Race
33 years old
San Clemente, Calif.
Not only is she the winningest women's SUP athlete, Candice Appleby is the first and only woman to beat men in a professional SUP surfing event, winning both the women’s and Open Pro divisions. Appleby began surfing at the age of 9 and competing at 10. As the captain of her high school surf team, she led San Clemente High to four consecutive national titles.
She went on to obtain her degree at the University of Hawaii and pursue surfing full force. In 2006, she decided to give stand up paddle surfing a try. She went on to claim victory six times at Battle of the Paddle and is a three-time Pacific Paddle Games champion. She’s also been the No. 1 Female SUP Athlete of the Year three times, APP World Tour Champion in 2015, and collected four gold medals for the United States at the ISA World Championships in 2015, 2016, and 2018. Candice is considered a pioneer of SUP. ESPN W calls her “Abby Wambach, Serena Williams, Brittney Griner and Danica Patrick all rolled into one. She’s talented, fiercely competitive, tremendously well-respected and a true ambassador of the sport.”
Daniel Hughes, Men’s SUP Surf
26 years old
Costa Mesa, Calif.
Daniel Hughes is renowned for SUP Surfing the Wedge in Newport Beach – one of the gnarliest smack-down beach breaks. He is the Zuma Beach Malibu 2014 US SUP Tour Champion and also took first place in the 2017 Ventura Paddle Surfing Championships.
He took first and was the Biggest Air winner in the 2017 Surfing Santa & Stand Up Paddleboard competition. In 2018, he helped Team USA earn the overall team Silver Medal in the World Standup Paddle Championships in Wanning, China - their best finish since earning the Gold in 2015.
Hughes got his first surfboard when he was five years old and remembers standing up on his first wave as “the most incredible feeling in the world.” He first tried SUP surfing in 2007 and quickly fell in love with the sport. “I knew I was going to land airs and surf my SUP just like my shortboard,” Hughes said. “My whole life I have thrived off the thrill of the ocean. That thrill, that passion, has allowed me to progress as an athlete and as a person. I strive to be the best and share my passion with others.”
Connor Baxter, Men's SUP Race
24 years old
ISA SUP Gold Medalist Connor Baxter wins. A lot.
Raised in Hawaii, Baxter began competing in windsurfing and surfing events at the age of 8. By 14, he was surfing the biggest waves in the world – becoming the youngest person to ever windsurf the infamous Jaws break. At 16, he shifted his focus to Stand-Up Paddle and set a world record at the Molokai-2-Oahu World Championships - four minutes ahead of the closest competitor.
He is the Stand Up Paddle World Champion, the Fastest Paddler on Earth, five-time SUP Athlete of the Year, five-time Male Paddler of the Year, Battle of the Paddle Champion, Pacific Paddle Games Champion and has more than 100 first place finishes.
Kevin Schulz, Men’s Open Surf
23 years old
San Clemente, Calif.
A 2018 Jacks Pro QS 1500 Champion, Kevin Schulz is competing on the World Surf League’s Qualifying Series, trying to crack the top 10 to qualify for the Championship Tour. He surfed on the ISA World Surf Games in 2018, helping the team take home the Bronze Medal. Just last month, Schulz won Stab High’s “Freak Peak” event with what is being called the biggest air landed in Waco, Texas’ BSR Wavepool’s history. The clip of the air he has been working on for more than three years went viral on Instagram.
Schulz is a product of the USA Surfing program, coming up through the Western Surfing Association, National Scholastic Surfing Association and USA Surfing Prime Series. He was on the USA Junior Surf Team in Nicaragua in 2013 and the USA Surf Team in Costa Rica in 2016. Kevin has pioneered surfing in the cold waters of Canada and Alaska and been featured in many surfing magazines and websites. While competing on the World Surfing League Qualifying Series, he is attending Northwestern University, working on earning a Bachelor’s degree in Health Management.
Tiare Thompson, Women’s Longboard and Shortboard
18 years old
La Jolla, Calif.
Tiare Thompson has been chosen by USA Surfing to represent the United States in ISA competitions every year since 2014. She helped Team USA’s 2015 World Junior Championship team win Gold, which at the time was USA’s first gold in 33 years of ISA competition. She surfed for Team USA in the Pan America games in Peru in 2018 and competes in the World Surf League Women’s Qualifying Series & Junior Women’s Tour. She holds several NSSA Southwest Conference titles and was a WSA West Coast Champion in two divisions.
Cole Robbins, Men’s Longboard
28 years old
Santa Barbara, Calif.
By the age of 15, after winning four National Championships and Scholar of the Year, Cole Robbins became a professional surfer and joined the World Tour of Professional Longboarding. In 2012 & 2017 Cole placed 5th in the world, in 2013, 2014, and 2016 he placed 9th. Last year in 2018, he placed 3rd. Robbins shares his surfing passion with his twin brother, Brett, who also has been a professional surfer.
Traveling to surf in diverse places like Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, Italy, France, Spain, Indonesia, South America, and China has given Robbins a broader perspective on world cultures and the appreciation for the common humanity everywhere.
Chris Stone, USA Surfing head coach
USA Surfing’s head coach Chris Stone will oversee Team USA when surfing makes its debut at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 and at the qualifying events leading up to the Olympics – the Pan American Games and International Surfing Association (ISA) World Surfing Games.
Stone is a former World Surf League Championship Tour surfer and coach to some of the world’s best, including Brett Simpson, CJ and Damien Hobgood, Taylor Knox, Josh Kerr, and Jordy Smith.
During Stone’s World Championship Tour career, he clinched a win at Margaret River, two back-to-back Coldwater Classic wins, and a second place at G-Land in Indonesia. He studied breaks around the world and continued to perform among the top male surfers in the world, but soon gravitated to his true calling of inner surf nerd and technique wizard.
Stone’s technical knowledge and ability to communicate the little things that make a big difference in scores are valuable to athletes working to excel in a sport with myriad variables. Stone says he’s stoked and humbled to be able to share the athleticism and artistry of surfing on the Olympic stage.
Stone grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., and now calls the North Shore of Oahu home. It’s a prime location to work with the best in surfing and raise his three sons.
Contact: Becky Fleischauer becky (at) usasurfing (dot) org
USA Surfing is the National Governing Body for surfing in the United States, recognized by the International Surfing Association (ISA) and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). USA Surfing’s mission is to promote and grow the sport of surfing and support United States athletes of all backgrounds to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American and Parapan American competition. USA Surfing will oversee and support America’s Olympic team as surfing makes its debut in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and surfing and stand-up paddleboarding athletes compete in the 2019 Pan American Games.