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Olympic Federations Fight For Ownership Of Stand-Up Paddle Boarding

Jun 28, 2017
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The next Summer Olympics are still three years off, and already the competition has begun for stand-up paddleboarding.

KRISTIN THOMAS: What is stand-up paddling? Well, it's a hybrid sport. It's the most versatile watercraft that's ever been.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Kristin Thomas has been racing on paddleboards since 2010. To race, you need two things - a 10-foot board, like a surfboard, and a paddle, like a long canoe paddle, to propel you through the water. And it's those two things - the board and the paddle - that have caused a controversy.

SHAPIRO: See; the Olympic governing bodies of surfing and canoeing are both fighting to own this sport. Stand-up paddleboarding is a candidate for inclusion in the Olympics, and the canoers and the surfers both want to control the sport if it becomes part of a Summer Games. Chris Stec of the American Canoe Association naturally thinks the International Canoe Federation, or ICF, should claim stand-up paddleboarding.

CHRISTOPHER STEC: They already have the Olympic sports of sprint, which is essentially flat water for both canoes and kayaks. And they also have slalom, which is white water for both canoes and kayaks. And something that everyone might not know about is the ICF also has ocean racing, which is exactly what it sounds. It's for craft that use a paddle to compete out in the ocean.

SIEGEL: Surfing's world body thinks stand-up paddleboarding should be theirs.

FERNANDO AGUERRE: We're the boarding mother sport. So of course, you know, we are cool people.

SIEGEL: Fernando Aguerre is the president of the International Surfing Association. And he says they've been hosting stand-up paddleboard races for years.

AGUERRE: This is not a canoe. This is not a kayak. Sure, it might look similar. But you know, you can play soccer with basketball. And you can play soccer with a volleyball. But they're not the same sport.

SHAPIRO: Aguerre also says stand-up paddleboarding is part of Hawaiian culture, and Hawaii is a capitol of surfing.

SIEGEL: In the end, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will make the ultimate decision. Kristin Thomas, the stand-up paddleboard racer, says she wants the court to compromise.

THOMAS: It would be wonderful I think to be in the Olympics with both groups.

SHAPIRO: No matter what the court decides, Thomas is confident there will eventually be stand-up paddleboard Olympians.

THOMAS: We're big enough, and we're in so countries. We fit the mold very well for an Olympic sport. And I know we will be in the Olympics at some point in time.

SIEGEL: So if you have a dream of standing on water and at an Olympic podium, start training now.

(SOUNDBITE OF KLANGKARUSSELL'S "SONNENTANZ") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.