I first saw Michael Booth in action as part of the gold medal winning Australian team in the ISA event in China, Dec 2018. He won the men’s distance race coming in almost 1 minute 30 seconds ahead of the next competitor, which gives you some idea of how good he is. Next stop for Michael is the North Carolina Cup so it was great to receive this interview with him.
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NORTH CAROLINA, USA – Australian SUP powerhouse Michael Booth, rated as one of the top two paddlers in the world in both the Paddle League and APP rankings, returns to North Carolina April 24-28 to defend his Carolina Cup Championship.
A first-time champion of the Carolina Cup and member of the Starboard Dream Team, Michael Booth logged an impressive SUP season in 2018, winning 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.
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.
An interview with Michael Booth by Robert B Butler:
Michael, congratulations on your amazing victory at the Carolina Cup in 2018. With high winds and choppy seas, the top five competitors in the men’s elite division finished within 35 seconds of each other. Eight of the top ten were from Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands.
How do you feel when you look back at this incredible achievement?
“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.
Having traveled and competed professionally around the world, what is unique about the Carolina Cup?
“The Carolina Cup to me is the most prestigious distance race in our sport. It’s 20km 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
Are you looking forward to returning to the Carolina Cup to defend your championship?
“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.
What is your strategy for a repeat?
“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.
Last year you said that training in Perth is similar to conditions in Wrightsville Beach. What are the similarities?
“Perth has a consistent trade wind from the Southwest for about 4 months over the summer months. It is known as the Fremantle Doctor, as the mornings are generally hot and then in the afternoon it blows through and cools everything down. The similarity with the conditions was that in Wrightsville and Perth, the wind comes over your left shoulder and generally there isn’t a lot of swell. So, this gave me great confidence when I looked out on race day last year.
What is your training regimen during the offseason?
“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 was your most significant achievement in 2018?
“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?
“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 are your goals for the 2019 SUP season?
“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?
“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?
“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?
“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?
“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.
Thank you for your time, Michael.
Limited enrollment clinics and workshops will be presented at the Carolina Cup by Michael Booth and other top paddle athletes. Subjects include: ocean racing; beach starts and surf landings; instructor certification; the perfect race day; SUP paddling; outrigger canoe paddling; one-on-one sessions; paddle skills and techniques; the TRX training system; motivation to race; footwork; and, drills. In addition to Booth, instructors will include: Dan Gavere of Oregon; Travis Grant from Australia; North Carolina’s April Zilg (now residing in California); Florida’s Seychelle; Candice Appleby of California; and Hood River’s Fiona Wylde.
Organized by the Wrightsville Beach Paddle Club and sanctioned by the World Paddle Association (WPA), the 9th annual Carolina Cup is the first SUP race of the 2019 Qualifier Series, a newly formed partnership by the WPA and Association of Paddle-surf Professionals (APP). Competitors in the Carolina Cup have the opportunity to earn points to qualify for the APP World Tour and World Championship.
Races on the 2019 schedule include:
- Graveyard Race; a grueling 13.2-mile ocean and flatwater race for the elite and professional paddleboard racers; SUP; Prone;
- Money Island Open Race; a 10-kilometer flatwater race designed for the intermediate to advanced paddler; SUP; Prone; Kayak; Surfski; OC;
- Harbor Island Recreational Race; a 5-kilometer flatwater race for first-time to intermediate paddleboarders; SUP; Prone;
- Graveyard Surfski and Outrigger Race; a 13.2-mile elite race starting and finishing on the sound side; Kayak; OC; Surfski;
- The Kids Race; for children 6 to 14.
The designated charity for the 2019 Carolina Cup is Nourish North Carolina, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit whose mission is to provide healthy food to hungry children, enabling them to succeed in the classroom and their communities.