Michael Booth – From Dark Horse to SUPerstar
One of the fairly new faces in the world of Stand Up Paddling has just made a name for himself: Michael Booth. The Australian Athlete sponsored by Starboard has won against some of the world’s top racers on various occasions including world champion Connor Baxter and Titouan Puyo throughout 5 weeks of intense Euro Tour racing. While he has won the biggest European SUP event, Michael Booth reveals to TotalSUP that this sport is still very new to him and that the margin for improvement is considerable. Here is our one to one transcript with him.
Hi, Michael Booth. Can you give us more details about your past as a sportsman and your record of achievements?
I grew up competing heavily in Swimming and Surf Life Saving. From 14 I quit Swimming to focus on SLS (primarily ironman) before finding a niche in Ocean Ski Paddling at 20. To improve my Ocean Ski, I began Kayaking and went on to represent Australia in the 2014 Junior and Senior World Championships. I started paddling SUP at the end of 2014 after a good friend started up a SUP company. With Starboard‘s help in 2016 I have been able to focus on it and take it seriously. I still compete across 3 sports including Surf Ski paddling in Surf Life Saving, Ocean Ski paddling and now SUP. I have been selected in Australian national teams for each sport mentioned above (except swimming).
Why and how did you decide to take SUP seriously?
I wasn’t enjoying Kayaking anymore and I saw SUP as an avenue to compete/travel and do what I love. It’s a combination of fitness, surfing and paddling… What more do you want. I am finding that all sports I do really complement each other and allow me to keep my mind fresh and stay at the top of the game. At the end of the day, Starboard took a big risk in sponsoring me and they have armed me with the tools to succeed. Svien and Caren have been so supportive and I am very lucky to be a part of the Starboard dream team.
How was your Euro Tour? Can you take us through your performances race by race? Did you expect to do that well? Will you come back?
My Euro Tour had its ups and downs. For me it was a chance to mix it up with the best on the world stage. It definitely taught me a lot about tactics and the way some people race in the sport which was a huge learning curve. It also taught me about equipment selection according to conditions in regards to which board, length of paddle, what fin, how much water. Much of it was still unknown to me coming into the tour.
Sainte Maxime was a relatively good start for me. I mixed it up with Connor and T2 early in the technical race, however, silly mistakes and falls cost me too much time. The distance was a great race for me. I got out in front and broke away early. It was a huge confidence booster finishing first by 1minute over some class paddlers.
Coming into Lost Mills I knew I would be up there on the flat as I felt strong but really didn’t think I could win it. I worked very hard with Connor in this race to break up the pack and we finally got away on the third and final lap. It was a race in 4 in the final sprint and I gave it everything to take the win! I still remember cramping so bad on my left side I could only paddle on my right. Obviously winning the biggest race in Europe was another huge confidence booster.
My third race was in the city of Bilbao in what would be the deciding race of the Euro Tour. It was surprisingly bumpy and messy paddling along the canals but was still very hard to break up the pack and with no run like the week before there was a final train of 8 coming into the finish. I pushed hard on the last lap multiple times to break the pack with no avail. At the end there was an altercation in the final sprint between Connor and I. All I’ll say is there is a fine line between tactics and foul play. I ultimately was given second and a great deal was learnt.
San Sebastián was an awesome race with very messy and wild conditions. Here I was caught a bit off guard with what was thrown at us. I fell a few times and was very uncomfortable on the first lap. On the second 8km lap I made my move from 4th past Connor and Leo into second. Ultimately it wasn’t enough to catch T2 who won comfortably by 30 seconds. Here I guess board choice was a major factor in the results and I was envious of the guys out there on Aces!
Croatia was the last stop of the tour for me and I wanted to go out with a bang. I wasn’t very motivated coming into this race, 5 weekends of racing in a row with traveling in between, had started to take its toll. However, on race day I got my favorite number, 11 (Which is where ELVA comes from – 11 in Swedish) so I knew it was going to be a good day. I broke away at the 2km mark and kept pulling away in the small bumps to gap the field by over 2mins.
Realistically I would’ve liked to win the tour overall and there were so many things I could’ve done differently that would’ve lead to a better result. However, I know I am only going to get stronger each race and event. To finish 2nd, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 1st in strong international fields was a huge confidence booster and I’m looking to build on that coming into America.
What are your projects for the rest of the year?
Loosely at this stage I am planning to go to America for just over 2 months. I will compete at Jamie Mitchell’s Survivor race, Hood River, The Red Bull big wave event, PPG & Turtle Bay. I will then contest ISA worlds in Fiji before heading home for the KOTC. On the Surf Ski I will still be competing for Fenn Oceanskis and will compete at the Mauritius Ocean Classic, The Hong Kong Dragon Run and the Doctor in Perth.
Your paddling technique looks really efficient, where did you learn to paddle?
Thanks! I basically taught myself. I’ve adapted my techniques I’ve learnt in the Kayak and the Surfski as the same principles apply…
1. Sink the blade & lock on
2. Strong at the catch
3. Pull past your blade
4. Quick exit
5. Relax through the recovery
It also has much to do with body positioning and being efficient with both your muscles and your paddle.
I am thinking of doing some paddle clinics later in the year in the USA.
If anyone is interested email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me via Facebook.