Punta Rocas, Peru (August 2, 2019) – Team USA’s Connor Baxter is the first gold medal winner of the Pan Am Games SUP race – an event that made its debut this year. San Clemente’s Candice Appleby took silver in a heartbreaker of a finish after leading the race until the very end when a steep inside wave sent her over the falls.
“This race and the course they put together for the Pan Am Games showcased this event so well,” said USA Surfing CEO Greg Cruse. “The fans were on the edge of their seats the whole time. We’re really proud of Connor and Candice. They are incredible athletes and ambassadors for the sport.”
“Big thanks to USA Surfing and the ISA for giving us this opportunity to showcase our skills and sport,” Baxter said. “Beyond stoked to take the gold medal and bring it back home to my friends and family.”
Hawaii’s Baxter made the grueling race look easy as he traversed the 5k course that zig zagged through the main surf break three times and finished in pounding shore break. The racers were neck and neck until Baxter caught a set wave in lap two that took him all the way to the turn buoy. That extended his lead considerably, but the wave he found in the shore break was the clincher that sent him all the way to the beach, crossing the finish line with dry hair.
Baxter follows a rigorous training regimen, preparing his body and mind for a grueling race that requires great physical and mental strength and an ability to read tricky wave conditions.
Baxter told ESPN he would like to see the event added to the Olympic Games, as it can share the same location as surfing and add a new and dynamic angle to reading waves and showing athleticism and stamina.
Conditions are expected to build back into the 8- to 12-foot range for the event’s final rounds.
The Pan Am Games draws 641 athletes from the United States alone, who join six-thousand more from North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. It 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.