Shae Foudy, Stephen Baker & the SUP Groms Invade the Carolina Cup
Over the past few years, the Carolina Cup has become the premier East Coast event on the SUP racing calendar. And while all eyes will be on pros like Connor Baxter, Travis Grant and Lina Augaitis as they look to tune up for Battle of the Paddle and Molokai 2 Oahu, there’s something else you should pay attention to at this year’s Carolina Cup: the groms are coming!
As the event has expanded and SUP has continued its stratospheric rise as the fastest growing sport in the country, organizers have taken note of increasing participation among kids and teens. This year, kids and young teenagers will compete in the “Turtle Race”, while some older teens will take on the marquee names in the sport in the Money Island distance competition. SUP is one of the few sports in which top juniors can test themselves against world champions, and this inter-generational competition is driving performance to new heights.
16-year-old Shae Foudy is living proof of how quickly a grom can become a world beater. Since joining the elite SUP coaching program at The Paddle Academy two years ago, the Dana Point, California native has made her mark on the women’s pro ranks in a way few would have predicted. Dedicating herself to a rigorous daily training regimen designed by The Paddle Academy coaches Jaime Donnelly and Mike Eisert, Foudy has made the jump from a talented junior to one of the most highly regarded racers on the women’s SUP tour.
After a string of victories and podium finishes at events across the US, Shae was selected to represent Team USA at the 2014 ISA World Stand Up Paddle and Paddleboard Championship. As the youngest member of the team at 15, Shae charged to bronze medals in the 18 km and 5 km solo events and helped the American team win the silver medal in the SUP relay. The Worlds Championships were only the beginning of a successful season, as the Riviera athlete reeled off impressive wins at the Santa Monica Pier Paddle & Ocean Festival and the “Sport of Kings” event, along with podium finishes at the Hobie Hennessey’s Waterman’s Challenge and Race the Lake of the Sky. By the end of the season, Shae had climbed to #8 in SUP Racer’s world rankings.
Shae has also started 2015 strong, winning the division title and overall title at the Hal Rosoff Classic, taking third at the 2015 Santa Cruz Paddlefest SUP distance race behind Fiona Wylde and Candice Appleby and finishing third at the 2015 Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge. Last weekend, the 16-year-old phenom won the Mongoose Cup women’s elite race and finished second in the mile time trial at her home break of Dana Point, giving her confidence going into this week’s Carolina Cup Graveyard distance race.
“It’s my first time racing at the Carolina Cup and I’m excited because it’s definitely one of the top events on everyone’s list,” Shae said. “This year I want to improve my world ranking, but my main goal is to keep enjoying my paddling and continue meeting new people as I travel.”
Shae is one of the first junior paddlers to quickly make a splash on the senior tour, but believes that the grom revolution is just beginning as thousands of kids get into SUP each year and more find their way to centers of excellence like The Paddle Academy.
“As a team captain and one of the older athletes at The Paddle Academy it’s amazing to see how fast the standard is rising in kids competitions,” Shae said. “We’re really the first generation that’s raised on SUP and now there’s another wave of young paddlers coming up. I think the sport’s going to continue growing and progressing.”
As Shae balances training, racing and school, she recognizes the importance of good nutrition and hydration. But finding the right foods and supplements to fuel her world-class performance hasn’t been easy, as Shae is allergic to gluten. Dairy is out too, as she also discovered an allergy to casein. To help aid recovery, Shae’s coaches introduced her to UB Super protein superfood nutritional shakes last year. The difference was immediately apparent.
“I used to be exhausted for days after a race but now that I drink UB Super after competing and hard training sessions I recover much faster,” Shae said. “UB Super is also giving me the complete protein I need to rebuild muscle, which has been difficult because I’m vegan.”
Stephen Baker is one of Shae’s teammates at The Paddle Academy who’s also benefiting from the whole food nutrition offered by UB Super. The 13-year-old cultivated his love of the ocean by paddling OC-1s at the San Diego Canoe Club. He then started looking for a competitive standup training group and quickly found Mike Eisert and Jaime Donnelly’s program, which is turning out many of the top juniors in the nation.
“Mike and Jamie don’t just send us out on the water, but work on skills and technique, strength training and everything else we need,” Stephen says. “On the nutrition side, I drink a UB Super shake before paddling and working out and it keeps me going. It has definitely helped my energy level.”
Going into the Money Island race at the Carolina Cup, the promising Lahui Kai racer is confident of making the podium. And with good reason. Stephen made a huge leap in 2014, winning the U16 SUP category at the 2014 King’s Seaside Slide and finishing second at the Dana Point Ocean Challenge and the Mongoose Cup.
“I’m hoping to place at the Carolina Cup and this year’s Battle of the Paddle,” Stephen said. “I’m also inspired by people like Connor Baxter to do more distance races. SUP isn’t like other sports because the top athletes are just a few years older than me, so I feel I can relate to them. I’d like to try Molokai in the next couple of years because Connor has shown what’s possible for young paddlers.”
Connor will be looking to add to his already bulging trophy cabinet at the Carolina Cup. After finishing 2015 ranked number one in the world and being named Male Paddler of the Year by SUP the Magazine, the Maui master will look to reach even greater heights in 2015. After competing at the Carolina Cup, he’ll be taking aim at the Battle of the Paddle and anticipating another epic M2O battle with fellow UB Super Ambassador Travis Grant at Molokai. Whatever this season holds, Connor is convinced that the future of SUP is in safe hands.
“When I first tried SUP it was with a heavy metal paddle on a huge longboard, and now kids have access to equipment tailored to them which makes it much easier to get into the sport,” Connor said. “Some of the groms are already so good that sometimes I look at them and think, ‘Please stop paddling!’ They’re going to carry the torch for us, just like we’re trying to do for the pioneers of SUP.”