Student rides to third place in World Surf Kayak Championships

In August, Penn State student Lindsay Usher found herself face to face with six-foot waves off the coast of Portugal with nothing to protect her but a paddle and a kayak. Luckily, she had been in this situation before, and she knew how to handle the surge of water. She soon found herself at a wave’s crest, visible to the crowd on shore. There were cheers as she rode the wave in and she was awarded third place in the women’s longboat division of the World Surf Kayak Championships.

Over 150 competitors turned up to face the waves at the biennial championship, which took place in Santa Cruz, Portugal. Twelve teams represented countries with coastlines worldwide: Japan, Portugal, two teams from the United States, several teams from the United Kingdom, the Basque Country and Australia. Usher, a graduate student in recreation, park and tourism management, was part of the US East Surf Kayak Team and was one of only three team members to place in the competition this year. Contestants had 20 minutes to ride 10 waves and were judged based on the size of the wave, the length of the ride and their surfing style.

This was Usher’s third entry into the World Surf Kayak Championships, having previously competed in Costa Rica in 2005 and Ireland in 2003. This was the first time she placed.

“I’m pretty excited about getting third place. I had done fairly well in the past, but it had been frustrating to not have made finals,” said Usher.

Usher first began surf kayaking as a child at the Outer Banks, N.C. A family friend brought a kayak down and she ended up playing with it in the water. Eventually her family bought their own kayak. She continued to practice, gradually introducing herself to more difficult boats and waves and entering harder competitions. She plans to compete again in the 2011 world championship, which will be held on her home surf in Outer Banks.

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Last Updated November 18, 2010