Interview with SUP Organizer at the ICF

Hoichan Kwon is in charge of the SUP Flatwater disciplines at the ICF. Forward looking to the ICF Worldchampionships in Hungary we had the opportunity to do an interview.

Aloha Hoichan, thank you so much for taking your time for the Stand Up Magazin. I am in a quite unique position here. I been in the SUP business since 2010 but never had the chance to speak to someone from the International Canoe Federation. You can imagine that I have lots of questions. I am not even sure if we have the time to cover everything here. Let’s maybe just stick with the reason why we got in touch the up coming ICF SUP World Championships and I ad some other questions a bit later on.

Please explain us really quick your position of Regional Coordinator at the ICF. As I understand you are in Tokyo right now.

Hi Mike, my official title has been a bit outdated now. I’ve been in charge of running SUP under the flatwater disciplines at the ICF since our inaugural world championships in 2019 in China. I do have other tasks at the ICF but I’d say that majority of my time is spent working on SUP. As you may know, we have many different paddling sports that we govern but luckily I get to focus only on SUP for the moment which has allowed me to make some significant improvements for the ICF. I do work on some other disciplines as well but mainly just as support which puts me in puts me in various parts of the world each week. For Tokyo 2020, I’ve been filling in for our event manager who has been on maternity leave since April. My main role here and leading up to it has been dealing various logistics ICF family which includes ICF staff, board members, and all the officials.

Since you are actually at the Olympics we could make the whole topic of this conversation about SUP and Olympics but I think we have to save this for another time. Lets talk about the upcoming event in Hungary. The ICF SUP World Championships on the Balaton Lake.

Can you give us a bit of an idea on what athletes can expect there?

If everything goes according to plan then athletes should expect the most professionally organized SUP competition. The main coverage we will provide for the open category race will be unlike anything seen before. The races will be on live national TV and also will be streaming internationally. As it will be live on national TV, we have heavily invested in the new technologies that will be displayed along the new TV graphics. We’ve established a fantastic group of officials (around 30) that are bringing their unique expertise in SUP and competition management. I’m very excited to showcase what we have been working on and I hope people will join for the festivities.

If I am not mistaken, the SUP races were going to happen at the same time when they have a Lake Swimming event there?

Ummmm I’m not really sure about this… originally we were going to combine the competition with the Balaton lake crossing festival but decided not to for various reasons including safety.

OK yes I think that is what I had in mind. Can you explain to us a bit how the ICF chooses event venues for the SUP Races? What are the criteria?

We have a strict bidding process outlined on our website however, SUP is in a unique situation as we were not able to take any bids until the CAS case was settled. All bids come through out national federation members then it is voted by the ICF Board of Directors. All event bids must meet the standards and regulations set by the ICF which is outlined by discipline here

I’m very excited to say that we will shortly announce the host cities for 2022 and 2023 ICF World Championships so stay tuned!

In terms of Athletes, we had your PR a few days ago that Michael Booth and Connor Baxter are confirmed. I also heard that Fiona Wylde is coming. Do you have any other names on the roster that we can communicate already?

I’ve personally talked to Olivia and Lincoln but have not gotten a confirmation yet. We want to   encourage all of our previous world champions to come defend their title so we try to provide full financial support. what I’m hearing through the grapevine, everyone who is anyone will try to come, given there are no travel restrictions. I hope the best of the best will be allowed to travel to compete.

Apart from the bigger names in the sport, I see that anyone can participate in the event. I personally think we will see many local athletes from the surrounding countries like Germany, Austria, Switzerland beyond. This will make this World Championships very open and accessible. Most events of this magnitude usually require some sort of selection process on a regional base.

Can you elaborate why the ICF is taking a different approach?

We understand that SUP is an open sport and about accessibility. That is why we are dabbling with board size and weight regulations. I’ve been contacting various brands and athletes to see their perspective on the matter. We wont implement anything new this year but are considering for the near future. Obviously, without such regulations, boards will become more and more specialized and expensive which I already think has become an issue, and although we want to make it open to everyone, we do want to keep in mind that it is a world championships so we want to keep the competition level high. So depending on the number entries we plan to run preliminary races for both technical and sprint races for qualification into the main race.

Can you see this to change in the future?

And if so what would be the reasons?

In the near future, we want to establish the ICF world ranking point system in order to easily qualify for the world championships. Having the ranking system would solve lot of our problems we are currently facing now. I would like to remain open but it’s hard to run a world championships with over thousand participants. We will see…

Since you are in Tokyo at the Olympics right now. What is the status of paddle sports at Olympics in general?

Of course personally, I absolutely believe that SUP should be in the Olympics. We have many channels with the IOC, including our president (long time former IOC member and also president of World Games) and our vice president (president of Paris 2024).  Although the CAS decision was to give ISA the authority on an Olympic level, I think both organizations should work together to make it happen. Personally, I don’t see why there should be any disputes going forward, both organizations should encourage to participate in each other’s events for the development of the sport.  

How big do you think are the chances for Olympic inclusion for France 2024?

I believe the program for Paris games have been finalized a long time ago…..if the sport continues to grow and the two organizations join forces, I have high hopes for SUP in LA 2028!

I think for now we let it at this, and I am looking forward to maybe have some more talks about SUP and the ICF in the near future.

Thank you very much for your time.