Team USA Longboarders Head into the Final Stretch of the 2019 Pan American Games - Paddleboard Racers Prepare for Challenging Course
Punta Rocas, Peru (August 1, 2019) – After winning all three heats of his Pan American Games debut, Santa Barbara’s Cole Robbins moves on to the qualifying round where he will face Peru’s Benoit Clemente.
Robbins found plenty of opportunity in clean overhead conditions with faces perfect for sweeping, powerful wraps that sliced through Punta Rocas’ bumps like butter. Robbins led from the start scoring an 8.33 and an 8.0 for a 16.33 heat total, beating Brazil’s Wenderson Conceicao, who finished with a 11.90.
Robbins told ISA announcer Brad Jay his series of wraparounds were an ode to Chris Brown.
“Cole is going for gold but is guaranteed a bronze medal after winning all three heats of the Pan Am Games,” said Team USA Surfing’s head coach Chris Stone. “He’s figured out this wave and has some of the strongest wraps, footwork and nose rides in the event. He's my pick for gold.”
After a furious exchange of waves with Canada’s Mathea Dempfle-Olin, Tiare Thompson just missed making it through round three. Thompson will go to the repechage 3 round at 9:35 a.m. Pacific Time. Thompson has competed at Punta Rocas before and has a solid plan for making it back into medal contention.
Tomorrow, August 2, will be a busy day starting with ISA world gold medalists Candice Appleby and Connor Baxter’s Paddleboard 5k distance race at 7 a.m. Pacific for women 8 a.m. Pacific for men. Daniel Hughes heads into his Men’s SUP main event round at 12:50 p.m. Pacific. Candice Appleby starts her Women’s SUP surfing main event round at 1:42 p.m., leaving just enough time to recover from the morning distance race.
Conditions are expected to continue to be in the 7- to 9-foot range with a dramatic heavy shore break finish for Paddleboard racers. The Paddleboard distance race begins with a water start in a bay just north around the point from Punta Rocas. It follows a 5k zig zag that sends racers through the surf three times and finishes
into the beach. The world's winningest SUP racer Candice Appleby said the challenging course will require keeping her head on a constant swivel reading the conditions and timing the sets to ensure proper positioning as she traverses the main break at Punta Rocas headed toward the inside turn buoy.
The Pan Am Games draws more than 600 athletes from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean and is the second largest sporting event in the world behind the Olympic Games.
Team USA’s six-member squad 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.
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
24 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.