December 8, 2016
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

2017 ISA Worlds: Dates for Denmark Confirmed; Big Changes to Event Format Being Considered

Casper Steinfath

3x ISA gold medalist Casper Steinfath, pictured here holding the Danish flag after his victory in Fiji last month, will be looking to add a fourth title at home in Denmark next year (photo: Been Reed/ISA)

After the announcement of Denmark as host for the 2017 Worlds back in August, the ISA has finally confirmed dates for next year’s championship event – September 1st-10th – while there are potentially some big changes to the event format as well.

The 2017 Worlds will be split between the capital city, Copenhagen, and the small town of Vorupør, which is next to the village of Klitmøller on Denmark’s famous surf coast known as ‘Cold Hawaii’.

The flat water distance racing will happen in Copenhagen on the east coast within the first few days, then the whole show will move over to the west coast for the surf contest and course race.

Denmark is an amazing country. Copenhagen is one of the coolest cities in the world, and the remote surf coast on the Atlantic Ocean has some beautiful beaches and, believe it not, some pretty decent waves as well (so long as the North Atlantic wants to cooperate). Vorupør was traditionally a fishing village but is now known for its unspoilt beaches and surrounding nature.


Believe it or not, Denmark has waves. This is Vorupør, host of the SUP surfing and surf racing at the 2017 Worlds (photo: Cold Water Mag)

No, Vorupør won’t quite be the same as surfing Cloudbreak (pack your wetsuit) but it’ll definitely be a unique experience that I’m pretty sure the athletes will love.

Oh and the Danes certainly know how to throw a party.

Though if history is any guide, this split location isn’t ideal and will probably cause a few headaches for the teams (who could forget the logistical nightmare of Nicaragua 2014). However I assume the Danes will be running a pretty tight ship next year, so hopefully the effort of moving from one side of the country to the other – it’s a five hour drive between Copenhagen and Vorupør – won’t be too much of a hassle.

And hey, at least this way everyone gets to see two very different sides of a great country; Copenhagen (population: 562,379) is literally a thousand times bigger than Vorupør (population: 591).

The reason for the split location is pretty simple: The event needed Copenhagen involved to have any hope of getting funding, and it needed the west coast involved to have any hope of getting waves.


Changes to the ISA Event Format Being Considered

While the official press release doesn’t mention it, there will almost certainly be some changes to the event format next year. Nothing has been finalised yet, but I know the following options are all being considered:

– Women will (finally) have equal gender participation. I believe this is guaranteed for the SUP racing, where there will be two women from each nation in each race, and may be extended to the SUP surfing.

– Prone paddleboarding is potentially getting dropped from the program. This seems to be a rumour every year, however I know the ISA discussed it during their executive meeting in Fiji. They haven’t made a final decision yet, but if the ISA does drop prone it’ll probably be because participation is considered too low (very few countries actually have prone specialists, and the ISA Worlds fail to connect with the prone community in some of the major nations). The ISA may also be trying to make room for additional athletes in other disciplines (eg. adding more women to the SUP racing) while keeping the size of the overall event manageable.

– The SUP racing events will probably adopt the “anything up to 14ft” board class, which would align the ISA with the majority of other major events around the world that have already set the standard. This would be a smart move considering racing in Europe is almost completely 14′ these days.

– There will potentially be a third SUP race in addition to the distance and course races, though I doubt it’ll be the 200m exhibition sprints we saw in Fiji.

Hopefully the ISA confirms all these details asap, with several teams starting to plan for next year’s event and a couple of them already having selected their athletes as well (Australia held its Denmark qualifying event before Fiji).

We’re also hoping the ISA can make the racing more exciting and introduce some fresh new formats and courses for Denmark 2017. The action in Fiji, particularly in the short course, felt a little stale. Plus the standard event format of “course race + distance race” has been around for so long¹ that I feel we’re way overdue for a refresh, especially if the ISA wants to showcase our sport to the International Olympic Committee and convince them it can be an exciting spectator sport.

Fiji Tavarua

We’ll be swapping the South Pacific for the North Atlantic next year (photo: Sean Evans/ISA)

Apart from the points listed above, the big change I see coming in 2017 will be the number of nations participating. While this event has always hovered around the two dozen nations mark (there were 17x in 2012, 22x in 2013, 27x in 2014 and again in 2015, and 25x in Fiji this year), I expect there will be a massive jump in Denmark.

Given its location within Europe and just how easy it will be to reach – there are probably two dozen nations that can drive to the event – I’m predicting there will be around 40x nations. That would be a record not only for the SUP world championship but for any event in the history of the ISA.

Having upwards of 40 (or perhaps even more) nations competing is an exciting prospect — it’ll certainly help foster the great “Mini Olympics” vibe that’s always been unique to The Worlds. The fact the second half of the championship is happening in a small seaside town will only add to that atmosphere; the population of Vorupør will almost double during the event.

It will also be very interesting to see how the team standings fall into place next year, especially after the emergence of France as a title contender in Fiji (the Frenchies, in a possible sign of things to come, would have actually won the 2016 Worlds if prone wasn’t part of it).

The other thing to note with these dates is that the classic 11 City Tour, one of the longest-running races in the world and arguably the greatest challenge our sport has to offer, should get a nice little bump in participation after Denmark. The 11 Cities crew actually moved their 2017 dates back a week to make room for the ISA, with the Tour now set for September 13th-17th in the Dutch province of Friesland. That’s only a seven hour drive from Vorupør, and I’ve already chatted with a few likely ISA athletes that plan to do the double.

Anyway, we’ll keep you updated with all the news on the 2017 ISA Stand Up Paddleboarding World Championship in Denmark, and hopefully we’ll have final details on the event format sooner rather than later.

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Copenhagen’s iconic ‘Nyhavn’ — the city will host part of the 2017 ISA Worlds

¹ The “course race + distance race” format was created at the 2nd annual BOP back in 2009 and has been copied by virtually ever major event around the world ever since. It worked well in helping give the sport a standardised format in the early days, but perhaps it’s time for a change.