Madeira Island Sup Challenge 2023 Ones to watch: New Zealand SUP Champion Ollie Houghton

Madeira Island Sup Challenge (MISC) has been setting the pace for the international SUP racing scene since 2017 and its competitive 13km ‘marathon’ format has become its signature. Taking place this year on the 27-28 May, part of the EuroTour Grand Slam, the event’s location alone is a reason to participate as it’s held on the Madeira Island, a stunning archipelago situated in the North Atlantic Ocean and located about 900km from the Portuguese capital, Lisbon.

In the run up to the event, TotalSUP caught up with Ollie Houghton, 4x New Zealand National SUP Champion, who’s making a comeback on the European SUP racing scene.

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Hi Ollie, welcome to TotalSUP! You have returned to the international SUP racing for the first time in 5 years…How’d that come about?

Thank you for having me, yes I am back to SUP racing internationally for the European season. I have spent the last few years focussing on my studies at university and building a bit of a career in my work. My last competitive international race was back in China for the ISA World SUP Championships, but since then the world has been through a lot due to COVID pandemic. Being in New Zealand that set back a lot of opportunity to travel, so my priorities were altered. But this year I’ve finally decided to come back to racing and whilst being competitive, I’m also looking to keep it fun and continue with some travel in between events.

Competing in Europe vs on your home turf…What has your experience been like so far?

I have been blown away by the competitiveness over here in Europe. So amazing to see so many well run events and young guns really driving the sport. Back in the Southern Hemisphere it really feels like a dying breed, so it’s really encouraging and motivating to see it going so well over here.

Photo credit: World SUP Festival Costa Blanca

The logistic side of being a pro SUP athlete on tour is tough, especially being this far from home… Where are you based for the duration of the EuroTour and how many stops are you planning?

The logistics are very tough, because I can only afford one board, I have to spend the time in between races without one to train on, which forces me to find alternatives. I am also not based in any one place so this also poses challenges in regard to keeping on top of both my nutrition and fitness level. I have accepted the fact I will not be in peak condition for this season but am just looking to do my best and enjoy it as much as possible. I am planning on six stops across three months finishing with the Nordhausen SUP Race.

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What’s your favourite competition format and why?

My favourite race format has got to be a technical race, especially when there are waves involved. This I think is the most exciting when you are a spectator, it also creates an even playing field and can create opportunity for both major triumphs and upsets. I think to be a SUP athlete you must be able to compete in every discipline but the tech racing really shows who has the skills.

Next stop, Madeira Island Sup Challenge, what are your expectations?

Yes, can’t wait for Madeira. I’m looking forward to being in such a remote place in the Atlantic. I think it’ll be a great event based on the fact we will be in such an exotic place. However it will have been a whole month since the last event, so I think it has created opportunity for people to get really fit, we will have to see.

What’s your board set up? You’ve been using Union Paddlers to travel light from competition to competition?

Originally, I was picking up a board from Starboard HQ in Thailand, the All Star 14×23, however when I was checking in my baggage, they would not accept my board on the plane. Which threw a huge curveball for me, I had to board my flight knowing I had nothing to race on. I then stumbled on Union Paddlers the week of the event with the help of a few friends, and was able to talk with Andrey Kraytor and figure out a plan for my season. They have been a massive help with figuring out this problem for me and I was able to be on the exact same board that was originally planned.

What’s next after Madeira?

Next stop after Madeira will be Gran Canaria. Can’t wait!

We’ll be catching up with you in Madeira and good luck with the rest of your European tour!

To find out more about Madeira Island Sup Challenge and REGISTER, visit

Follow the event on Facebook and Instagram

Follow Ollie Houghton on Instagram

*Images courtesy of Ollie Houghton 

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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