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Cameron Tripney: Is the new Starboard Dream Team Rider ready for the big guns?

“These victories aren’t done alone,” says Cameron Tripney, Junior Sprint World Champion and Starboard Team Rider, that has been dominating his local SUP racing scene in South Africa for a while now. And among some of the most memorable moments in our sport that truly embody this statement, was seeing Cameron’s Team celebrating his win at the ICF World SUP Championships in Poland, especially his father’s reaction to this spectacular achievement.

Photo: Georgia Schofield / Planet Canoe / ICF Worlds

Following the Starboard Dream Team announcement, TotalSUP caught up with this SUPer driven young athlete to check what are the challenges of taking on the SUP racing world and what lies ahead.

Hi Cameron, welcome to TotalSUP and massive congratulations on your amazing season and the Championship title! How does it feel to have achieved it?

Still feels incredible to have achieved one of my greatest goals I have had in mind ever since I started this sport. I knew it was possible I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. I missed out on ICF Worlds in 2021 due to a major knee injury where I snapped my ACL, ALL and tore my Meniscus so to come back stronger after no paddling for 9 months was a great reward for me. Even though I am super happy with my World Title, I am not fully satisfied yet. I know I will be competing in the Men Open category but I am certain I will only get stronger and my time will come for another World Title.

Photo: Georgia Schofield / Planet Canoe / ICF Worlds

What’s your favourite SUP format and why? Are we going to lose you to foiling any time soon

For me even though I didn’t really get the results for my distance race at ICF Worlds as I’d hoped for, I really do love my long distance ocean paddling. Our Summers here in Cape Town have plenty wind everyday with it being the best place in the world for wind watersports. I get plenty downwinds here in Cape Town, the wind is so consistent and blows perfectly along the coast with big swell, cold water and great whites.

I really do enjoy my SUP wave riding too, and have had some good results here over the years and sharing heats with some really talented riders here and internationally recognized like Tom King, Matthew Maxwell and Dylan Frick. Ha ha, no I don’t think you’ll lose me to foiling anytime soon, it’s great fun and awesome to juggle between downwinding on different crafts but paddling is in my heart, I don’t enjoy setting up my foiling gear in the car park for 30 minutes plus every time, paddling is so much less complicated and enjoyable to setup for sure, ha ha. I say this but I wouldn’t mind maybe getting into competitive wingfoiling in the future but I won’t let it take over my paddling, it’s all about balance.

What’s your local SUP scene like?

To be 100% honest paddling here in South Africa has died badly over here, it was even starting to die before COVID. There’s a small group of us that train every Wednesday night at SupCapeTown Club which we usually get around 5-10 paddlers at a time, in the old days we used to get 40+ paddlers. We also do downwinds every Friday night but I am sometimes the only paddler between multiple ski’s and foilers.

Image courtesy of Cameron Tripney

For me it was extremely tough to train all by myself for the Worlds in Poland. I have a sport scientist Coach in the gym but all my paddling training is done by myself and my dad keeping my times on the side. The rest of my SA paddling team all live so far away from me so I rarely get to paddle with them, unless there’s a big contest at their side of the world. We still have some really talented paddlers here but some of the big names have sadly moved on. Most of the ex-paddlers I still often see are wingfoiling now, it’s really killed paddling here. Throughout the year we have a few wave events, lots of downwind races, flat water and every other format you can imagine.

We know how committed you are and how hard you work for your dreams… It must be challenging to juggle training, school, social life?

Yeah, it is really difficult, my parents and my school are hard on me with academics but also fully supportive over my paddling which I am grateful for. I go to normal school with exams and everything else, so it’s hard for me to take time off and compete or train, but I somehow just manage. I am a very sociable person, I do love to go out with my friends and have fun, but my friends know me well enough when I’m in a training mode and I can’t see them as much. In life you have to make sacrifices in order to succeed and if you have the right people in your life, they will fully understand you and show nothing but love and support. These victories aren’t done alone.

Photo: Georgia Schofield / Planet Canoe / ICF Worlds

How did you prepare for the 2022 season? Did you plan a strategy for each event?

It was my first international event so I had no idea where my strengths would lie, I felt pretty comfortable across all distances and had good experience with each, except for technical racing at that level was very new to me. Even though I didn’t make the tech final A in Poland, I won my final B and my time was the 2nd fastest overall even compared to final A, which motivates me to actually start tech race training here at home. I now obviously know my strength lies in sprint paddling but I know for a fact I can do well in all distances.

The distance start for me in Poland was just a mess and I got stuck behind so many people and boards and just struggled to find balance, especially me being one of the heavier juniors on an inflatable in those conditions was a challenge. My training going into Worlds was a cycle between running, strength training and paddling. I cycled between that training pattern throughout the months, then  I slowed down the gym training and running and just mostly paddled. I trained once a day everyday because of school I couldn’t fit in more sessions, but on weekends I tried training twice a day and Fridays were my rest days.

I focused on getting good food into my body, the right hydration and keeping my meals high in protein and carbs. My gym work is the only true part of my training where I have a professional Coach, I’ve seen great results focusing on gym work and getting strong. At the Worlds a lot of the paddlers probably had slightly better fitness than me, but I know for a fact my strength played a huge role in me getting that Sprint World Title.

Photo: Georgia Schofield / Planet Canoe / ICF Worlds

Who’s your biggest influence in the world of SUP and why?

For me it’s probably Connor Baxter, ever since I started paddling he has always been that guy I watched on YouTube and looked up to as a little boy. For someone like him to be on top of his game for so many years is inspiring, so much consistency and hard work that guy puts in is incredible. For him to come up to me and congratulate me after my win in Poland just shows what kind of person he is and how humble he is, he had such kind words to say to me. I could mention many other paddlers, they are all amazing people and inspire me to, but I have watched Connor for so many years now that I can’t not mention him.

Photo: Georgia Schofield / Planet Canoe / ICF Worlds

What’s your advice for the aspiring SUP riders who want to start competing?

The best thing I could say is just start, there’s no harm in trying, you won’t know if it’s your thing or not if you haven’t even attempted it. If you want to take it to the next level you need to have a structured programme and a good diet. I would firstly work on technique and then find the right equipment that suits you best, play around with paddle heights, blade sizes and fins. Don’t try and over complicate it if you are just getting started out, you learn so much over the years and adjust the small things which all add up and make you stand out from the rest of the paddlers.

Could you tell us more about your collaboration with Starboard?

I have been looked after by Starboard South Africa for the last 3 years and recently was stoked to be advised that I am now sponsored by Starboard International and now apart of their International Team Rider crew. It’s great to be part of this amazing brand with a family like ethos and can’t wait to take delivery of my new 2023 race boards.

What’s next?

It’s really hard for me to say what’s next. This year is not going to be a good one for me competing and most probably going to miss out on ICF Worlds in Thailand, as it is when I am writing exams. Being in South Africa is also so far away from all the overseas events and very pricey with our exchange rates, making travelling and funding a nightmare. My school career has been a bit a messy one, so for me I am rather going to focus more on academics next year just to get it over with, then I can think about my paddling career.

So who knows what the future holds for me, but I am here to say that I am not done or have anything thought of quitting. I will train when I can and still compete locally, but I will take this time off to get stronger and better myself, which I see as a blessing, as my junior career is over and will be competing with the big dogs now. So it’s looking like 2024 is going to be my year where I can promise I’ll be paddling overseas. I’ll be done with school by then and have a gap year where I have more time to train than ever before, as I have no plans for further studies after school for now. Another World Title is definitely my next big goal, I am hungry for more.

Thank you for your time Cameron and good luck with smashing those personal and pro goals!

To find out more about Starboard innovation and check out the 2022 board range, visit www.sup.star-board.com

Have you heard about the Future Fighters movement? Visit Blue Tiki – A token for Future Fighters 

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About the Author

Anna Nadolna

Anna is the Founder of SUPer Whale, a Cambridge(UK!)-based emerging watersports brand and a stand-up paddleboarding community. She is a certified SUP Flat Water Instructor accredited by International Surfing Association (ISA). Anna is also a digital marketing, storytelling aficionado and a growth hacking enthusiast.

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