Appleby stars in SUP, gives back, too

Courtesy of Candice Appleby

Candice Appleby taught herself the art of SUP during a summer borrowing boards on Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.

For 27-year-old professional waterwoman Candice Appleby, going to the office means throwing on a bikini and hitting the beach. Work trips are usually to vacation spots such as Australia, Hawaii, Peru and Brazil, and her corporate jargon includes more beach speak (stoked) than board room buzzwords (synergy).

But don't let the blonde hair, tanned skin and laid-back surfer lingo fool you, the 5-foot-9 Appleby is a serious professional athlete, one of the world's best at the fast-growing sport of stand-up paddleboarding (SUP).

"The great thing about SUP is you can do it anywhere," Appleby said. "You don't need waves; all you need is water."

Appleby thinks SUP will eventually be bigger than surfing.

Chris Aguilar

Candice Appleby has won state and national titles for her surfing skills, but a world title is still on her list of goals.

"SUP has a way larger demographic than surfing," she explained. "Grandmas and grandpas can do it, kids can do it. You can be at a race and have the top pro in the world in the race and an old lady, an old man and young kids competing, too. There's elite, open and youth races all at the same event."

There are also many different disciplines of SUP, allowing participants to find their niche.

"People are doing long distance flat-water races," Appleby explained. "Open ocean channel crosses, races down the rapids in rivers, SUP surfing in big waves and small waves, sprint racing, races in and out of the surf. People are even doing yoga classes on boards that are anchored with leashes."

Appleby has tried just about everything, but she specializes in SUP racing, which is decided by fastest time, and SUP surfing, which is judged. SUP surfing is run like other surfing competitions but the competitors catch the waves when they're already standing and use the paddle to do more radical maneuvers.

"I love everything in the ocean," Appleby said. "Recreationally I love SUP surfing, but on the competitive side of things I like that SUP racing isn't subjective. When you race it's whoever crosses the finish line first wins. There are reasons why I like both of them."

Appleby's love for the water has translated into a lot of hardware. She's competed in SUP events for seven years and her list of career accomplishments is a mile long. In fact, if the ocean were ink and the beach paper, you'd empty one and fill the other trying to write them all down.

Here are just a few: SUP Magazine's 2012 Female Paddler of the Year, SUPConnect.com's 2012 Miss SUP, four-time Battle of the Paddle Champion (the de facto world championship of SUP), the first woman to beat men in a pro SUP race, the only woman to beat the men in a professional SUP surfing event and the winningest athlete in SUP, male or female.

In the world of stand-up paddling, Appleby is Abby Wambach, Serena Williams, Brittney Griner and Danica Patrick all rolled into one. She's talented, fiercely competitive, tremendously well-respected and a true ambassador of the sport. Oh, and she's also not afraid to leave the guys in her wake.

Appleby learned how to surf when she was 9 years old and living in Glendora, Calif., an inland city about 45 miles from a beach. She competed in a surf contest at 10 and two years later her dream came true when her family moved an hour southwest to San Clemente to live the beach lifestyle full time.

Appleby helped the San Clemente High School surf team win the national title in all four years she competed. After graduation, she packed up her boards and headed to Hawaii, where she earned a degree from the University of Hawaii at Manoa while continuing to compete, winning a state title in shortboard surfing and a national title in the longboard.

It was in Hawaii she first discovered stand-up paddling, watching a handful of people doing it on the west side of Oahu in the winter of 2006. She spent the next summer in Waikiki borrowing big rental surfboards that mirrored SUP board and went about teaching herself the sport. By the end of the summer she was competing with, and often beating, the men.

In the years since, Appleby has made a name for herself as the "Queen of SUP." She has more than a dozen sponsors and boasts her own signature paddling attire from Street Waterwear, four signature board models with sponsor Surftech (and another to come next year) and a signature racing fin coming out in 2014.

Appleby moved from Hawaii back to San Clemente two years ago and trains and competes full time while also running Performance Paddling, the business she started with her boyfriend, Anthony Vela, who is also a top professional ocean athlete. The company offers private coaching, clinics, corporate and team-building events and kids' camps. It's also a way for the couple to give back to the SUP community.

"We wanted to help foster the next generation of athletes in our sport, so we started the Performance Paddling Competition Team," Appleby said. "This is all voluntary time from Anthony and me. We coach the top 23 young SUP athletes around the country, ranging in age [from] 7 to 17."

Atilla Jobbagyi

"I love everything in the ocean," Candice Appleby says. "Recreationally I love SUP surfing, but on the competitive side of things I like that SUP racing isn't subjective.

In May, Performance Paddling put on the first all-youth SUP event, The Junior Pro & Youth SUP Fiesta. Appleby was proud to offer an equal purse for the boys and girls competitions.

"Some people say there's fewer women [racing] than there are guys, so the guys [should win more money]," Appleby said. "Well how are you ever going to encourage more women to do it if they know there's no end result or future for them? I wanted to put on a professionally run event for youth to show young people that there's as much a future in it for the young girls as the young boys."

Appleby was also "stoked" that Ocean Minded, her first sponsor as a young competitor, offered to be the title sponsor for the Fiesta.

"Ocean Minded was the first sponsor that I ever had since I was 13," Appleby said. "It's great that we get to continue to promote their message, which is protecting the ocean and keeping it clean. So the title sponsor was my first sponsor ever and the event was at Bolsa Chica in Huntington Beach, the location of my very first surf contest when I was 10 years old. It's kind of everything coming full circle for me."

Unlike the stereotypical surfer who's protective of her waves and doesn't want newbies crashing her favorite beaches, Appleby welcomes any and all to join the SUP community.

"I enjoy seeing new people take to the sport because I love it," she said. "It's given me a great lifestyle and I try to share it with as many people as I can. It's so fun, but it also helps people get really healthy, fit and feel good. They're so stoked that they go and share it with other people."

Appleby hopes to keep competing for many years (an ASP World Title in longboarding is on her to-do list), continue training young athletes through Performance Paddling and keep introducing people to SUP.

"My mom always told me 'Do what you love and the money will come,'" Appleby said. "I took that advice to heart and that's what I'm doing now."

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