West Maui pro Joshua Riccio medals in national SUP competition
WEST MAUI — With COVID-19 protocols and restrictions easing in all aspects of daily life, the resumption of standup paddleboard (SUP) racing competition came as a welcome release for aqua athletes around the world and particularly for the U.S. enthusiasts.
In the first major SUP race in the United States since the start of the pandemic, some 250 paddlers from all across the country competed in the 2021 Gorge Paddle Challenge in Hood River, Oregon, last month.
This event usually attracts SUP competitors ages six to 79 years old from around the world, but this year’s event had a limited field due to travel restrictions between countries.
Nevertheless, the excitement of being able to compete in the scenic environment of the Columbia River Gorge was a grand return to the water for these dedicated athletes.
This venue creates some of the best downwind conditions in the world due to the contrast of cooler air temperatures at the coastline and the warmer air further inland.
These conditions produce strong winds that channel through the gorge and create rideable waves to surf on the 14-foot SUP racing boards.
This promotes faster speeds and ideal conditions for wave riding and optimum speed racing.
In the Men’s Pro Division, Maui West Sider Joshua Riccio captured a silver medal in the downwind race, joining the all Valley Isle podium contingent of Connor Baxter of Pukalani in first place, and Bernd Roediger (Kahului) taking the bronze medal for third.
Baxter also won the course race that traverses buoys set in the river to earn the overall event championship.
A high-level SUP competitor for over 20 years now, Riccio continues to rise in the water sport in elite races such as the Molokai to Oahu race across the Kaiwi Channel. He is a three-time gold medalist in the Stock Division of the prestigious race, and in 2019 set the current record of 4:12.8 in the that division.
He is sponsored by Flying Fish Board Company and Werner Paddles.
“It was really great to get back into it at such a beautiful place, with such perfect conditions,” said Riccio.
“After being kept out of competition for so long, it was a nice relief to get back into racing at Hood River. The Pro Division is usually the big deal at this event, but with the limited field of racers, we were able to be more relaxed and reconnect with our old friends. We all really appreciate all the race coordinators, volunteers and Hood River locals who put forth the effort to put on the event.”
He looks forward to the upcoming races here in the islands and elsewhere around the world.
Riccio is currently preparing for Maui Fire Department recruit training, and he works as a surf instructor and Maui Preparatory Academy coach.
And, most of all, he will marry his fiancee, Victoria Chadsey, in 2023.