November 7, 2022
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

If the ISA Worlds were like the Olympics, Team USA would be on top of the medal table

I was fascinated by the Olympic medal table as a kid. I recall following it quite obsessively during the first Summer Games I watched live on TV, Barcelona ’92, and long before we had Wikipedia I scoured encyclopaedias (remember those?) with historical medal tallies dating back a hundred years. Who could forget the 1912 games when Sweden almost topped the table and Australia & New Zealand competed under the united “Australasia” flag?

This might explain why I’ve always maintained an unofficial medal table for the ISA Worlds. Given the ISA’s obsession with the Olympics – it’s essentially the whole reason for their existence – I’m surprised they don’t keep a table of their own, but that just means I get to nerd it up and do a little photoshopping.

So I now present you with the unofficial 2022 ISA Worlds medal table. (And I strongly emphasise the word “unofficial” — Team France are still the actual champions, I don’t question that, and Team Spain are the actual vice champions. This medal table is just a fun little novelty.)

Most notably Team USA jumps from third to first when moving from a points-based system to one sorted by most gold medals. Though, somewhat ironically, that’s only because I’m following the non-US system of medal tables. Internationally, the Olympic medal tables are ranked first by “most golds” then most silver and most bronze. However, the United States Olympic Committee and wider media generally rank by total medals first (the conspiracy being that China started kicking their ass in gold-first tables so they changed the formula). Indeed, if we applied the USA’s own thinking, France would move back ahead of them with 12 total medals.

Team USA also benefited from winning two prone golds, which inflates their total. Minus prone, the U.S. would still be on top with three golds (because Japan also won a prone race). But I suspect prone paddleboarding will be dropped from the ISA Worlds in 2023 or 2024 (seriously, why is it still there?), so if we’re looking at SUP-only results then the medal table is much tighter.

After the first few days of competition, I really thought the U.S. would win the teams title for the second time (they first got it in Mexico 2015). Connor and April won the sprints then Candice wound back the clock to claim gold in the surf race. The Stars & Stripes underperformed in the distance, which opened the door, but the final nail was the team relay disqualification (one of their prone paddlers forgot to run around a flag on the beach from what I hear). Team USA needed to win the relay and have France finish third or lower, but in the end the Frenchies won both the relay and the teams title (so the DQ from Team USA didn’t matter in the end anyway – France was going to win – though it did allow Spain to leapfrog them on points).

Team France may be relegated to third place on this experiment but given they won the most medals and scored the highest points (you know, officially winning the event and all) they’ve cemented their position as the current dominant force in world paddling — taking the crown long held by Australia — and repeating their overall team trophy from El Salvador 2019 (the previous ISA Worlds).

Team Spain was only 32 seconds away from second place on the medal table – that’s the gap Espe finished behind Candice in the surf race final – and overall they can hold their heads very high after a stellar week. The future of paddling definitely sounds Spanish to me. Plus that epic Duna-Espe 1-2 finish in the distance race gave Team Spain the unique honour of the only gold & silver result all week. Another footnote: If we take out prone, and if the women’s surf race result had flipped (those 34 seconds), Spain would have actually been on top of the SUP-only medal table such was their depth of talent this year.

If you’re not excited about Spain, you’re not excited about SUP.

Team USA was number one, at least as far as gold medals were concerned; Zane, Connor and Candice (photo: @pablofrancostudio)

The overall team standings in Puerto Rico, at least ranked by official points, was a mirror of El Salvador three years ago when France, Spain and Team USA took the top three spots. The big change this year, and the standout performer in Puerto Rico in my opinion was Team Japan. They won medals in just as many events as the United States (9 out of a possible 15), which was one better than Spain (8 out of 15) and only one behind the mighty French (who medalled in 10 out of 15 events). Japan were clearly led by their youth, which is a very positive sign of things to come for the land of the rising sun. They finished sixth in El Salvador three years ago, fourth this year in Puerto Rico and second on SUP Racer’s unofficial medal table. Pretty soon they could be fighting for top spot.

But perhaps the most interesting performance came from Team Australia who limped home with just two minor medals in a similar result to El Salvador 2019 (where they won a lone silver). But I don’t blame the Aussies. Although the sport has dropped off a bit in my home country (we no longer have the beloved 12 Towers, for example) I squarely put this embarrassment at the feet of the ISA. Inconvenient locations, lack of flexibility with national federations and an utter dearth of communication with athletes has led to this event being skipped by many big names. The fact that Team Australia helped pioneer the ISA Worlds and was virtually unbeatable from 2012-2018 (losing the teams title just once to the USA in ’15) further highlights just how big of a hole the green & gold have left. Just like El Salvador three years ago, the Aussies only sent a skeleton squad to Puerto Rico. In its current form, Australia might not hold off France and Spain once prone paddling is taken out of the equation (Australia is literally unbeatable in that discipline) but still… the Aussies in 9th on the medal table and way down in 17th on points is a bad look for the ISA and its marquee event, which in turn is not a good look for the sport.

Paddletics aside, I hope you find this Olympics style medal table somewhat interesting. Might have to do a “Battle of the Brands” medal table tomorrow just to spice things up a bit 😅

Duna vs Espe, Spain vs Spain, NSP vs Starboard… (photo: @waterworkmedia)