Just a few years ago, Michael Booth wasn’t yet a well-known name on the international competitive SUP circuit, let alone a stand up paddle rising star in his homeland of Australia. But for the past few years he has been working hard day in, day out to hone his skills and sharpen his technique in order to take on the very best in the paddling world. Recognition for all of these strides came in 2016 when he gained the title of long distance world champion at the ISA World Championship in Fiji. While this year’s edition didn’t go quite as well as Booth might have liked, this hasn’t stopped him from raking in different titles left, right and centre, and he’s determined to correct things for next year’s outing. In the wake of the his recent 1st place at the Australian National SUP Championship, we speak with the man himself about how far he’s come and what his ambitions are for himself and for SUP itself.
Michael Booth, you recently took home first place at the Australian SUP Championship on the Gold Coast. How did taking the top spot feel?
Winning a national title is always something I hold in particularly high esteem as it’s the best of the best Australian racers battling it out. I missed the Aussie SUP Championships last year so it was really important for me to regain the distance race title.
It was also a selection race for the 2018 National Team for the ISA World Championship, and after a disappointing race this year in Denmark, I really want to have another crack at the Worlds next year.
As we know, you’re no stranger to stand up paddle success. You won the ISA World Championship in 2016 and you recently took home the Euro Tour title in 2017. What has been the highlight of your 2017 season?
The highlight for me would have to be taking the Euro Tour title this year. I came really close in 2016, on my first attempt, but with a renewed focus and motivation I was able to win it comfortably in 2017.
That was a great achievement for me and it’s a memory I will cherish going forward.
With a tonne of accolades and podium finishes, what would you say have been some of the proudest moments in your SUP career so far?
I think my biggest achievement is how far I’ve come in the past two years competing in SUP. Only 3 years ago I could barely stand on a board and now I’m competitive in every board class and event.
I love the process of learning a new sport and the challenge it presents. The most exciting thing is there’s still so many things to learn in SUP.
Now that 2017 is coming to a close, what do you look forward to most for the 2018 season?
I’m really looking forward to new events and challenges in 2018. I’ve just started doing online coaching and doing hands-on workshops with paddlers. This is something I find extremely fulfilling as I love teaching and giving back to a sport that’s given me so much.
And anything on the horizon before the end of the year?
Then I’m looking forward to having some time off just to train a little, followed by some recharging of the batteries and then getting very seriously back into training as of February onwards!
Can you tell us a little bit about your training regime?
At the moment my training consists of a lot of downwinding on the unlimited board with the Drumliners up and down the West Coast. I also train a few times a week on the ski with some mates at Trigg, which I really enjoy.
I’ve always been really good at knowing what I need in training, and in doing so, I have been able to target events specifically, which has allowed me to be competitive in everything I enter.
What do you think is the future of SUP? Both in Australia and internationally.
That’s a really interesting question and I’m not really sure about the answer. Boards keep getting narrower, competitions keep getting more competitive and interest seems to be at an all time high for SUP in general. I think it’s really important that all industry players band together and create a sustainable future for the sport.
I’m personally not sure whether arguments over the way the sport is governed and the current focus on the Olympics is necessarily the best way forward. I think we need to focus on the average paddler and on mass participation-style competitions.
What advice would you give to someone seriously taking up stand up paddle for the first time?
Be patient as results won’t come straight away. Focus on your skills and technique and get advice from as many people as possible. Once you’ve nailed that, seek help from an experienced coach to take your paddling to the next level.
If you are at this stage, check out my online coaching packages on my website.
Finally, if you had to sum up stand up paddle in three words. What would these be?
Fun, challenge, experiences.