In the recent episode of Red Bull's No Small Feat, we watched as Issi Gomez transitioned from the world of SUP Surfing to the elite level big wave realm. She wasn't however the first athlete to switch ocean disciplines mid paddle. Here we look at some other cross over surf stars.
Kai Lenny started surfing at four, windsurfing at six and SUPing at seven. Before he had turned 10 he had added kite surfing, tow-in surfing and foil boarding to his growing collection of water sports. By the time he was 20 he had carved out a career as a professional waterman, winning multiple SUP world titles, a runner up in the Moloka'i-2-O'ahu paddleboard race and sponsorship and titles in windsurfing and kite surfing.
When he turned his eye to big wave surfing more success followed. He finished as runner-up on the Big Wave Tour (BWT) in 2017, was World No. 3 in 2018 and this year claimed the men's cbdMD XXL Biggest Wave Award Winner for a wave ridden during the Nazare Tow Challenge. Oh, and he's 27.
Gomez got her first stand-up paddleboard when she was six, and made the SUP World Tour when she was 14. In her rookie year she collected her first SUP World Title, the youngest champ in the tour's history. In 2019 she claimed her 5th straight title, which catapulted her above Kai Lenny for the most World Titles captured and events won.
In the last few years Gomez has concentrated on big wave surfing at Pe'ahi and was awarded an invite into the cbdMD 2019 Jaws Big Wave Challenge. Her transition into the big wave realm, as captured in No Small Feat, is just starting, but we can expect that future success will come her way.
Before Kai Lenny made the leap from open ocean paddleboard racing to big waves, it was Jamie Mitchell who was the flag bearer. The Australian won Molokaʻi-2-Oʻahu Paddleboard World Championships a record 10-times between 2002 and 2011.
Based in Hawaii throughout he also became increasingly known for his big wave acumen. Post paddleboard career he competed on the BWT winning two events and finishing as the World No.5 in 2016.
Less common is the transition from professional surfer to other water sport disciplines. However in the middle of 2012, half way through what would be a World Title winning year, Parkinson swapped his 6'2" JS for a 11-foot paddleboard and completed the Molokaʻi-2-Oʻahu race. He paddled with his trainer Wes Berg completing the grueling 26-mile Ka'iwi Channel crossing to finish a remarkable third in his division.
"I found myself thinking, you know, I'm a surfer, not a paddler. What am I doing here?" Parkinson said afterwards. "There were hills and valleys like I've never felt before, but to finish was a one of my proudest achievements."
Australian triathlete Clint Kimmins has probably the most dramatic crossover story. At age 20 he was a professional surfer with the talent to become one of the world's best. However after a 2004 late-night bar brawl in Queensland, Kimmins was jailed for six months. He spent time in prison training and upon release took up triathlons.
Success quickly followed and by age 33 he was racing around the world in the professional ranks. He never lost his passion and talent for surfing big waves though and has ambitions to become the first person to win a big wave event and triathlon titles in the same year.