Words: Jason Paul
James Brown said it best — “this is a man’s world”. Yet, these days it seems that women are taking over. In everything from politics to popular culture, women seem to be increasing their impact on societal change.
But how has this affected the world of sport? Women are standing up against their abusers in Olympic gymnastics and swimming. World champion tennis player Serena Williams is free to open up about complications in childbirth. But are we also seeing a shift in the world of stand up paddleboarding?
It’s hard not to notice the achievements of women in our sport. While it may not be politically motivated, women are sweeping past the accomplishments of their male counterparts and leaving the term “waterman” in their wake. From running rivers on inflatable paddle boards to SUP surfing to competing in the sport’s most grueling SUP races, female paddlers are making their mark.
So who are these women that are currently having the biggest impact on the SUP world? Without further ado, let’s jump right into our list…
#1. Annabelle Anderson
Currently ranked #1 in the Women’s SUP Racer World Rankings, Anderson is an exceptional athlete. Since 2012, Annabelle has consistently stayed on the podium while racing as one of the few “free agents” in our sport. Not unlike Kelly Slater in surfing, Anderson’s name has become synonymous with stand up paddling excellence. As a cyclist or surfer, mountain biker or stand up paddler, the New Zealand born Annabelle continues to compete at elite levels and pursue adventure at every corner. After suffering a near-career ending injury in her early 20’s, Annabelle found recovery and stand up paddle boarding nearly hand in hand. Today, Anderson uses her platform as a professional athlete to raise awareness for breast cancer while working as a global ambassador for Stand Up For The Cure. With the 2018 season fast approaching, you can expect to see Annabelle at the top of the charts yet again.
#2. Candice Appleby
It’s hard to talk about women in stand up paddleboarding without mentioning Candice Appleby. A native of Southern California, Appleby began her surfing career in 2006 by winning the US National Championships in longboarding and the Hasa Hawaii State Championships. After spending her childhood surfing, Candice discovered stand up paddleboarding while studying at the University of Hawaii. With a propensity for success in the water, Appleby set her eyes on the Duke Kahanamoku Oceanfest; an event honoring the legacy of the great waterman. However, the prize of the day was awarded to Candice, a great waterwoman — the only woman ever to beat her male counterparts in a professional SUP surfing competition. To date, she is the winningest woman in both stand up paddle board surfing and racing competitions, having claimed 6 Battle of the Paddle victories. When not stand up paddling, Candice can be found mentoring young SUP athletes and preparing for her next race.
#3. Fiona Wylde
At 20 years of age, Fiona Wylde represents a new generation of professional stand up paddle boarders. Fiona grew up windsurfing all over North America from Oregon to Baja and discovered stand up paddling at an early age — at 14 she began winning competitions. All-around waterwoman, Fiona is dedicated to improving her craft as a SUP racer, surfer, kite surfer, and windsurfer. In 2015, Fiona was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and yet nevertheless, she persisted and has become one of the top fresh faces in the world of paddleboarding.
#4. Shilpika Gautam
Shilpika Gautam is the true triple threat: engineer, entrepreneur, and stand up paddler. In January of 2017 she made headlines after leading the first stand up paddle expedition over 1,800 miles down the Ganga river in India. For 101 days, Shilpika and her crew paddled downstream in the name of clean water. As an advocate and ambassador for WaterAid, international nonprofit, Gautam works to increase access to clean water for the 1.25 billion people in India who still lack this necessity. After setting a world record for the longest distance ever paddled by a woman on an SUP, Shilpika pushes on to pursue innovative ways to positively impact the world through her work. Whether it be through advocacy or action, Shilpika continues to impress from leading international public speaking events to building public toilets along the river.
#5. Jenny Kalmbach
As stand up paddlers, surfers, or simply humans, we have to take notice of the changes happening in our natural world and use our power to create positive change. A true global citizen, Jenny Kalmbach leads by example by using her platform as a professional SUPer to advocate for environmental justice. Raised in Costa Rica and educated in Canada, Kalmbach made her stand up paddling debut winning the 2008 Battle of the Paddle and Molokai to Oahu races. In 2010, she and fellow professional paddler Morgan Hoesterey set out to raise awareness for ocean plastic pollution by paddling the current ridden 300 miles of every major channel in Hawaii. Today, Kalmbach continues to pursue her passion for stand up paddling by coaching young athletes.
#6. Brandi Cumin Baksic
Brandi Cumin Baksic represents the modern mother through her ability to multitask to perfection as a realtor, firefighter, triathlete, stand up paddle board champion, and ironman competitor. If you ask Brandi about her jam-packed lifestyle, she’ll be quick to admit, “I didn’t give one up for the other, I have just kept compounding them all together, so basically, I do a lot.” Needless to say, she’s “not a fan of downtime.” At 45 years of age, the San Clemente local still manages to find time to win SUP races. After only two years of paddling, Brandi won two gold medals at the first ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship, setting the bar high for the sport at a time when stand up paddling was just getting started. Brandi is a fierce competitor in and out of the water where she continues to win — whether it’s by selling homes in San Clemente or paddling outrigger canoes in Dana Point.
#7. Alice Shih
The founder of Paiwen paddle boards, Alice Shih has dedicated her life to help women build healthy lifestyles through designing stand up paddleboard equipment for women. Born and raised in Taiwan, Alice’s parents helped her pursue her first adventure by sending her to school in Canada. While completing university in British Columbia, Alice flexed her new found independence through exploring the outdoors and quickly discovered stand up paddleboarding. Since 2007, Paiwen has been designing and manufacturing paddleboards for women through collaboration with shapers, paddlers, and SUP fitness instructors.