Islander paddles his way to elite status
People have been using long sticks to propel floating boards across the water for thousands of years. But modern stand-up paddle-boarding has seen a recent explosion of popularity on the U.S. mainland.
Islander Joe Cerdas, who first mounted a stand-up board in 2006 and “got serious about it” in 2012, was in the first of wave of Texans who saw possible careers as professional athletes in the burgeoning sport. Cerdas, 26, is among, or at least closing in on, SUP racing’s elite.
It’s hard to say exactly where Cerdas ranks among the best. The young sport lacks an overall governing organization. Instead, several organizations are staging major races and the athletes are free to compete where they like.
Cerdas is modest about his own place in the sport.
“Most of the really elite racers still come from Hawaii, Australia, Mexico and France,” he said.
Still, his stock went up sharply about a year ago when he took second place in the Battle of the Paddle-Brazil, held in September 2013 at Cabo Frio near Rio de Janeiro. That win, and a respectable 36th overall out of about 350 racers in a Battle of the Paddle-California, helped him land some new sponsorships, but those have not been life-changing, he said.
“I still have a full-time job and train in my free time,” Cerdas, who is married and has two children, said. “I train basically five days a week — a lot of paddling to keep the technique, some running in there; a lot of gym work.”
Cerdas figures he’s about midway in his career with another five to eight years left.
“The sport is taking off so quickly and none of us really knows where it’s going,” he said. “I’ve been competing for about three years now and I feel like I’m ready to make a big push.”
He plans to compete in a new series of races billing itself as the “SUP Champions Tour,” which may help define who’s the best of the best.
But Cerdas says he’s not worried much about rankings.
“On any given day, anybody can beat you,” he said. “You catch a wave wrong and they catch it right and that’s it. That’s one of the things I like about it. I just like to get out there and race. It’s a lot of fun.”