Anni Ridsdill Smith is a well-known name on the UK SUP Racing circuit, she seems to be at every race and she is now spreading her wings to compete in Europe and further afield. This season she has joined the ranks of paddlers moving to SUNOVA for their FAAST race craft after what seems like a lifetime paddling on a different brand. Chris at TotalSUP wanted to know what was behind the change and find out a bit more about this popular racer
Hi Anni, you’re on TotalSUP!
Thanks!! It’s great to be here and to show off my new SUNOVA board.
OK, let us get straight to your new love. How, why and where did this new romance with SUNOVA start?
I first saw SUNOVA 14’ race boards up close and personal on the beach in Gdynia, Poland at the 2022 ICF SUP World Championships and I remember thinking three things:
Wow! They look so fast and sweet!
People seem to be having so much fun paddling them!
I wish I could get my feet onto one!
So a very positive ‘emotional’ reaction but sadly it turned out to be too hectic at the championships to sort out a ride to see what my feet thought!
Ha ha ha! That is a pretty normal reaction to the FAAST wooden beauties, seeing your images I guess you quickly took this interest to the next stage?
I had to! But it was a decision taken by my head and my heart.
At the end of 2022 having achieved a long-term personal goal of being selected and competing for my country at EUROSUP in Denmark (which scored me a place at the finals of ‘Sports Personality of the Year’ in my home county of Essex) and I after racing in Prague and Poland, I settled down into my off-season and the English winter.
Looking back on the year, I knew that I had to somehow make board transport logistics easier if I wanted to continue to extend my racing and training horizons beyond home shores.I have worked at various airports in my career but I still find flying with 14’ boards really very stressful!
In January my amazing Coach Seychelle suggested I hook up with SUP race athlete and coach Susanne Lier at the Watermen Performance Center in Corralejo, Fuerteventura.
On arrival, I had some trouble finding Susanne’s centre but when I did, I strolled in and was met with racks and racks of beautiful SUNOVA boards.I just laughed inwardly to myself and thought, ha-ha, thanks Universe, this is obviously meant to be!
That covers the heart part of the choice, getting to train on a board in a new location certainly ticks all the boxes for choosing a new race machine, what about the logical, head part of the decision?
That’s easy, Susanne knows everything about SUNOVA boards!
We talked about all of the different SUNOVA race board options and, importantly, how they were going to be available for athletes to rent on the EuroTour circuit and at the ICF SUP World Championships in Thailand this year. Taking the hassle of travel with a board is a HUGE advantage for international competition.
I thought if I can get one of these brilliant boards to train on at home, I could then rent it at these overseas events, feeling confident in the knowledge that I ‘know’ the board, but without the hassle of flying with it.It was a tricky decision though, as I had been promoting and racing Mistral boards for years and loved them, so I had to call Coach Seychelle from the beach to get sage advice and talk it all through.
It is always good to be able to talk through important decisions with your coach, and I see that we have similar board choice… mine is a little wider I guess.
Yeah, you have good taste too, Chris!
With Susanne’s guidance, I opted for the Allwater FAAST Pro 14’ x 23 which I had time to get to know in Corralejo and after a few months it arrived in England. It is all I had hoped for and more, and I am enjoying it so much.I train in various places in Essex, mainly on salt marsh estuaries, sometimes off sandy North Sea beaches and on various lakes.
The board delivers perfectly with total ease in all these environments and I just love standing on this strong ‘intelligent’ board and looking down on its beautiful ‘clean’ design.
So your trip to Susanne’s Performance Centre was a big success?
Absolutely! If you have not worked with Susanne at the Watermen Performance Center in Corralejo, then you should try to make it happen. She’s multi-lingual, switching between languages with total ease, she is full of honest energy and she is a very generous person. She runs specialist training camps and 1:2:1/group coaching and I had so much fun paddling her various SUNOVA boards and learning about them during training sessions in the sparkling blue bay.
And back to the UK. You are based in Essex, a place I would not associate with SUP. For those not familiar with UK geography Essex is the English county immediately north east of London. Persuade us to visit.
You should visit! The county of Essex in the southeast of England has a varied and beautiful coastline which includes the Thames Estuary, the watery gateway to London, and the Blackwater, Crouch and Stour tidal estuaries and rivers. The county’s inland rivers are also plentiful in number and so collectively there are several options for SUP training throughout the year. If you slow down, you’ll see that the natural habitat is just amazing – you can paddle past protected salt marshes and enjoy sandy beaches – the county has so much to offer.
If you are planning a trip to Essex, I recommend you start at VisitEssex.com, a great hub of visitor information. Regarding where and when to launch, do your research and contact the local SUP Schools, Clubs and Centres in the area you want to access. They will have the local knowledge so important for safe and successful paddling and they will know what licences or access fees might be needed plus they will also direct you to the best pubs! And of course, do look me up at FrangipaniSUP.com
And the SUNOVA Allwater FAAST Pro works well there?
Oh it’s perfect!I feel I can push myself even more and take on more choppier conditions.Everywhere I paddle I get people talking to me about the board and complimenting it, so I encourage them to try it for themselves. It always gives me a buzz because I feel ‘supported’ in every sense of the word and I just ‘trust it’ to take care of me.
When I step back it feels so, so, what’s the word? So CLASSY.
The logical reason for investing in a SUNOVA was driven by your racing ambitions, how is that working out so far this season?
It is working out really well, I used an Allwater Faast Pro 14’ x 23 that I borrowed from Susanne and an Ocean Faast Pro 14’ x 24 which I got through the EuroTour. I will be paddling the Allwater Faast Pro 14’ x 23 in Thailand in November.
And the decision to use the SUNOVA rental boards has worked brilliantly so far. The EuroTour events were incredibly well organised and the boards were there waiting for me at the venues. Flying to the continent and then using the train network to get to different locations was a great experience, one I just couldn’t have done if I was trying to carry a board.
That does sound like a much easier, and less stressful way to race away from home. Briefly, what were the races like?
Briefly? Ha ha, being on the EuroTour start line with a SUNOVA board under my feet and incredible female athletes to my left and my right was exhilarating and great fun.
After 10 years on the SUP circuit I am still totally stoked by SUP racing and my heart and mind are both in great shape. Coach Seychelle helps athletes to actually enjoy their competition as well as get physically prepared and I’m currently the highest-ranked Elite Kahuna female on the EuroTour 2023.
So your preparations for the World Championships are going well then. The championships are pretty close to SUNOVA HQ at the Board Factory, do you plan to go see how your Allwater was made?
Of course, I am so excited to be visiting the SUNOVA factory in Khao Lak prior to the championships, to see the boards being made first-hand and to meet the SUNOVA family.
That is how this board makes me feel: grateful that I am part of something with a ‘collective feel’ – a family of people around the World which gets so much joy from high-quality SUNOVA boards, whatever their chosen water sport.Personally, it was obviously meant to be that this beautiful race board came into my life and I feel very grateful to everyone who has helped me so far on this special journey.
Anni with Mr TotalSUP
Thank you, Anni for sharing your new love of SUNOVA boards with us and giving us a new location to try to get to for a SUP paddle. Everyone here at TotalSUP hopes to see you on podiums around Europe and further this season.
Anni Ridsdill Smith is the owner of Frangipani SUP, a Director of the British Stand Up Paddle Association BSUPA, a BSUPA Advanced SUP Coach (Racing) and a This Girl Can Ambassador for Essex, England. You can find Anni on Instagram and on Facebook.
SUNOVA are one of the leading surf and SUP brands in the world with a massive range of boards and equipment, you can find out more about them on their Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles and see where the magic happens in The Board Factory. Don’t forget to keep up with SUNOVA here on TotalSUP.
Essex salt marsh images from LeggettAirPhoto, SUNOVA board production from SUNOVA and all other images from Anni.
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