Starboard SUP: Boothy and Sonni Back to Defend Carolina CUP Title!

The Carolina Cup is one of the world’s largest paddle festivals, featuring races, clinics, expos, and entertainment, with athletes attending from over 20 nations and virtually every state in the USA. Competitors include Olympians, world-record holders, champions, professionals, amateurs, and first-time paddlers. All races begin and end at Blockade Runner Beach Resort, the official resort of the Carolina Cup. Sonni Hönscheid and Michael Booth respective champions of the Carolina Cup and members of the Starboard Dream Team both logged impressive SUP seasons in 2018.

Carolina CUP 2017 - Stand Up Paddle Race

Australian paddler Boothy won eleven of fifteen starts on his race calendar. In addition to the Carolina Cup victory, Booth won his third Australian Distance Race title, second Euro Tour Championship, and second World Title ISA distance race. Although sprinting is not his specialty, Booth focused on the APP Tour for the first time and achieved remarkable results, netting a season-end ranking of second-place worldwide.

Germany’s Sonni Hönscheid, winner of the women’s Paddle League World Title in 2018, returns to North Carolina April 24-28 to defend her Carolina Cup Championship. During the 2018 season, Sonni Hönscheid’s power and speed were astonishing, winning four of the top five major races and accumulating enough points to lock up the Paddle League’s World Title by early July. Sonni’s goal was to win the 2018 title before the opening of her art exhibition in August, a goal she easily achieved. On the North Sea island of Sylt, Germany, Hönscheid’s birthplace and home, Sonni combines her two biggest passions: professional paddleboarding and art. An accomplished acrylic painter, Sonni’s painting style is inspired by her experiences on the ocean – bold, bright, colorful, flowing, and modern.

Robert B Butler interviews Sonni and Michael about their return to the Carolina Cup, the 2018 season and their goals for 2019.

Are you looking forward to returning to the Carolina Cup in Wrightsville Beach to defend your championship?

Sonni: North Carolina is a beautiful place, and Carolina Cup it’s a beautiful event. Great people and good vibes. It’s a long race and everything can happen. I was happy to win this race last year. This year my approach is, to give my best and see what happens. The great location, the race its very complete, from open ocean to flatwater. It’s also a race everyone can compete in. It’s great to see so much stoke for the sport.

Michael: Absolutely. My offseason has been a bit all over the place with lacking motivation after a big year last year, and then, unfortunately, getting an injury that put me out for a month. However, everything is back on track, the fire is there, and I can’t wait to get on the start line in April.  Winning the Carolina Cup was something I always wanted to do since I first picked up a SUP paddle in 2014. All of the guys I look up to like Danny Ching, Travis Grant, and Tituoan Puyo had won it before, and I wanted to be amongst that caliber of paddler. In addition to that, for me, it was a great victory as I bonked the year before and everyone was writing me off because of the downwind section at the end of the race.  The Carolina Cup to me is the most prestigious distance race in our sport. It’s 20 KM of varied conditions that test the best-of-the-best each and every year. It’s one event that everyone wants to have on their mantle

What is your strategy for a repeat title?

Sonni: Give it my best.

Michael: I think the best strategy you can have going into any race is being confident with your preparation and knowing when you put your foot on the line, you are the best you can be. I know I won’t have it all my own way on race day, so my strategy will continuously be changing depending on what is happening around me. At the end of the day, I just want to go out there and do my best performance and if that’s enough for the win that will be a bonus.

How do you feel when you look back at your incredible season in 2018?

Sonni: I´m still processing the whole year, it was a crazy year in many aspects. I’m proud of myself to be strong enough physically and mentally in reaching my goals in winning the “World Paddle League” title before I had the opening of my art exhibition. The days were too short, and I had to be really strict with myself in making all this happen. 2018 was a great year, but also a very hard year. I proud of winning the World Paddle League, having my 3rd Art exhibition, but also being passionate on day one out in the ocean and painting.”

Michael: I think I won 11 races last year from 15 starts which were beyond my expectations. I earned my third Australian Distance Race title, my second Euro Tour, and second distance race World Titles. I also focused on the APP for the first time, and I came away with second overall which is a major achievement, as my specialty isn’t sprinting.

What was your greatest disappointment in 2018?

Sonni: Disappointment racing? None. It doesn’t matter what was behind the scenes, when I was at the starting line of a race and I had the feeling I gave it all, even in not becoming 1st, it was not a disappointment, because I knew that in that situation I gave all I had.”

Michael: I didn’t really have any disappointments in 2018. I was really proud of my season, and I know every race I went in I did the best I could. There’s nothing more satisfying than that.

What was your training regime during the off season?

Sonni: Surfing, paddling, pretty much what I like to do all year.

Sonni Hönscheid practices her SUP surf technique in Fuerteventura, the Canary Islands, Spain

Michael: Not too much. After my last event in Paris at the start of December, I put the paddles down and had an extended break until I felt the desire to paddle again. It’s a long season that’s incredibly draining physically and mentally. So, when I get to that point, I try to learn and master a new skill or sport, and for me this year it was downwind foiling. When I start back training in the pre-season, I really try and mix things up, and this year I am doing kayaking for a lot of my base fitness.

What are your plans and goals for the 2019 SUP season?

Sonni: Get more people interested in the sport and get them out there and show them the beauty of being out in the ocean.

Michael Booth and Belinda Stowell-Brett, both Aussie Starboard SUP riders, pose for the promotion of the Stand Up Surf Shop King of the Cut 2017

Michael: To be the best I can be, work on my weaknesses, and be focused and ready every time I put my foot on the starting line. Titles are great, but the personal satisfaction of knowing I couldn’t do anymore, regardless of the results, is the best feeling I can have.

 How does it feel and what is it like to be a global role model in the paddle sport?

Sonni: I´m happy I can inspire people in trying the sport, and if they already paddle, help them to improve.

Michael: I don’t really feel like a role model as I just feel like another person who loves paddling and enjoys meeting people with similar interests. I try and be my best each and every day, and I really like helping others achieve their potential. I’ve been coaching people for the past couple of years through my online platform [Training by Boothy]. I honestly get most of my satisfaction seeing other people achieve results. Everything I portray is authentically me, and if that inspires or helps someone reach their own personal goals, that’s truly winning.

As a pro athlete and role model, what are your thoughts about the ‘state of the sport’ of SUP?

Sonni: It’s amazing how fast this sport grows, more people paddling, getting out there, eventually finding a new passion in their life through the sport. Racing is a small part and that’s growing as well. People are training more, increasing the level every year. It’s great to see and I’m very happy to be part of it.

Michael: I think the sport is constantly winding its path in continual growth. As an athlete, I feel like there are more and more great paddlers coming through in the professional side, and you are always looking over your shoulder to see who the next superstar is going to be. There are events all over the world every weekend, and we are fortunate to be able to pick and choose which event suits our goals and aspirations.

Do you have any thoughts or recommendations on how to improve the professional sport of SUP?

Sonni: Make it more accessible for recreational paddlers, and get more brands involved outside the sup industry in my opinion.

Michael: I think cohesion it’s the ultimate goal for the sport of SUP, as there seems to be a lot of players that aren’t working together to achieve success. The sport is still young and teething, and all good things take time. What I notice is people want short term solutions and aren’t looking at the end game where we should be focusing our attention. I think more rules, class decisions, ruling body’s and restrictions on board design will all be positive additions to the sport.

Is there any news regarding your SUP career or plans you would like to share?

Sonni: I´m very happy to be able to show my two biggest passions, art and standup paddleboarding in one product, the Starboard Tikhine. This year we have three new designs. I’m super stoked about making this sport even more colorful.

Michael: In the background of my sporting career, I’ve been slowly building a paddle brand called MB Paddles. This brand is a design collaboration with well-known paddle producer Gara Racing Paddles. I have always loved design and enjoyed creating things, so it’s awesome to be able to share that passion with the everyday paddler. Combined with my coaching site [Training by Boothy] I am able to help everyday paddlers across the globe reach their goals.

































About the Author

Helen Trehoret

SUP, OC1, V6, Surfski ... and field hockey coaching, Helen is a busy British mother of two who lives in Bretagne, France with a passion for all things Ocean. Helen runs Barrachou SUP, a SUP tour company specialized in excursions around Bretagne and Scotland.

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