SUP: Shilston’s world – Ollie Shilston interview

St Ives based Ollie Shilston has been a force to be reckoned within SUP racing for a number of years (he’s no slouch in surf either). Able to mix it up on the world stage as well as at domestic events his lifeguard background certainly pays off when preparing to tackle the world’s elite. Now a Starboard team rider Ollie is poised to make an even bigger impact so SUPM thought it high time we caught up with the Kernow ace for a natter.

How and where did you first get into stand up paddling?

I work for the RNLI Beach Lifeguard Service in Cornwall as a supervisor and I love to get in the water as much as possible. Initially I bought a SUP to get in the water even more, to stay fit and keep that connection with the water. About three years ago I bought a race board and started competing.

Ollie Shilston

What appealed to you about the sport?

SUP has given me so many more options to enjoy the water. Conditions here in Cornwall and the UK can be wild but I love knowing that whatever the weather I can paddle or surf and have fun on my SUP. I have always competed at sports from a young age to the best of my abilities – you could say I have a very competitive nature!

Tell us about the spots you tend to paddle most frequently. What are your favourites?

I live near Hayle in Cornwall. St Ives Bay is where I do all my training because whatever the conditions there are always some options to train and have fun. Also living five minutes from the beach means I don’t have to travel too far. During the winters I used to work and travel abroad to places in the Southern Hemisphere and before Christmas I went back to South Africa on holiday with my family. That’s one of my all-time favourite places to go.

You manage to head overseas fairly frequently – where do you usually aim for and what do these spots offer?

I have been extremely lucky to have help to compete all over the world in SUP races. I love competing in America. The SUP community is much bigger over there and racing in places like California, where the weather is warm and the standard of competition is so high, is really fun. I have been to three ISA World Championships representing Great Britain and that’s always a huge honour. Being part of a team is pretty good, as usually it’s such an individual sport.

Training with Ollie Shilston

If you could head anywhere in the world to SUP where would it be and what appeals about this location?

I really want to go to Hawaii to compete as the place has so much history in paddle sports and so many good paddlers live there.

Any plans for further SUP trips abroad in 2016?

It’s getting harder to compete abroad as I now have a young family and getting time off from work during the summer is difficult. This year hopefully I will be looking to compete in some races in Europe, maybe California and at the ISA World Championships in Fiji.

You’re known mainly as a SUP racer but can equally rip it up in surf. Any plans to do more wave events?

I will be competing at the Gwithian surfing event in June. Hopefully some local knowledge will come into play!

Ollie training

As a Starboard team rider what are you expected to deliver for your sponsors?

My sponsors obviously want me to do well and achieve good results whilst using their equipment. I really enjoy using Starboard boards and want to demonstrate what great kit it is. I hope to be a good ambassador for the brand by being a good team player whilst having such a lot passion for the sport. I also hope to introduce new people to the sport and encourage youngsters to get involved.

Tell us about your role at SUP events around the UK – what you do when on the ground besides compete?

I currently jointly run St Ives Bay SUP Club and have helped set up the South West Sea Monkeys SUP series, starting this year. The race series for fun, using already established races within the South West, so less travel and hopefully some racing in all sorts of conditions. It wouldn’t be able to happen without the race organisers allowing us to use the race results, so a huge thanks to them.

Also this year I will be running some paddle clinics. The clinics will be mainly based at Carbis Bay and aimed at a range of abilities looking to improve their skills. The brilliant thing about the area I live in is its varied conditions. I can offer something for everyone in any types of conditions, from downwinding to technical course racing.

How did Starboard’s support come about and what kind of deal are you on?

I feel very lucky to be part of the Starboard team this year. They have been fantastic in the support they are offering me. The deal is that they provide me with the best equipment but, more importantly, I get to work with a team of people that are really into paddling and seeing the sport progress. Being with such a big brand like Starboard motivates me to become even better.

Ollie at home in Cornwall

What should aspiring stand up paddlers do about becoming a team rider for a brand?

My advice would be to let your results do the talking. The sponsorship will come if you’re getting the right results. It’s all about having fun on the water and sometimes chasing sponsorship can take the fun out of things. Make sure the sponsorship deal is right for you and don’t settle for second-rate equipment. I set myself goals and that keeps me motivated, and I don’t limit myself to the UK.

What UK events will you be doing this year?

I’m looking to compete at some of the UKSUP series events as well as a few standalone events like the National Water Sports festival and the Celtic Crossing. I will also be doing the Sea Monkeys SUP series this year, which includes the Euro Tour Race, The Celtic Cup. I am looking forward to racing locally and expanding the South West race scene, hopefully in some varied conditions.

What’s your favourite part of stand up paddle boarding?

I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy having the pick of the waves in the line up. However it pays not to be greedy. Where I live SUPs are generally accepted but some people have given SUP a bad name. Luckily I know most people here, so I don’t get bothered too much.

Tell us about your favourite bit of SUP kit.

I’m currently riding the Starboard 12’6 Allstar 25inches wide and 7’7 pro wave model. They are great boards for every condition.

Fun session with Ollie Shilston

What’s your local crew of paddlers like – who do you normally SUP with?

I’m very lucky to have a great training group, headed up by Glenn Eldridge at Ocean Sports. Last year Damo Warner, Glenn and myself set up the St Ives Bay SUP Club, which is going from strength to strength. We have a fantastic mix of guys and girls of all ages and abilities, and always have a laugh. I’m really looking forward to seeing how some of the training group go this year.

If you had to choose one last thing you wanted to achieve within SUP before giving it up, what would that be and why?

I would love to do the Molokai crossing in Hawaii. This year I will hopefully be doing the European version from the Isles of Scilly to Sennen, called the Celtic Crossing.

How do you keep the SUP stoke going as well as motivating others to get involved?

Living in such a beautiful part of the world and training with such a great crew, it’s not hard to get people involved. One training session with the sun rising at Carbis Bay and they are hooked. When the weather is not so good, people still come because they know the benefits they get from a good workout and hanging out with a great bunch of like minded people. Personally I never have a problem staying motivated to get in the water.

Ollie and Marie

Why should people take up SUP and how do you encourage them to take to the water?

SUP provides great healthy benefits. The movements you do are beneficial to strengthen and to tone up the body. The mechanics of SUP offer a combination of the movement of the legs and hips together with the movement of the trunk, and finally expressed through arms – working the whole body. I also find it can be my escape from the day-to-day grind. There’s no better feeling than getting out on the water to relax!

Tea or coffee?

Tea (never had a coffee!)

Blonde or brunette?


Sausage or bacon butty?

Bacon butty

Any final shout outs?

My wife George has just had our second baby called Barney. I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without her.

Huge thanks to our advertisers

Leave a Reply