Below is a great article from TotalSUP on Erika Benitez preparing for the ISA World SUP Championship races.
At 16 years old, Erika Benitez who trains in Southern California, is a young prodigy who has already won 3 Mexican national titles. The teenager, who is a potential future star 0f SUP Racing, introduces herself and the forthcoming season.
Congratulations on your 3rd consecutive Mexican national title! How do you feel after such an achievement?
Thanks! I am so happy and honored to know that I’ll be representing Mexico for a second time in the ISA Worlds.
Can you tell us more about yourself?
I am Erika Benitez, I am currently 16 years old; my hometown is Long Beach but I live in Stanton. Since 2012, I have been training with The Paddle Academy run by Mike Eisert, my number one coach, and I occasionally train in Long Beach and Bolsa Chica. I’ve always been connected with the ocean, it’s something that my dad has passed on to me. I was 12 years old when I started to race in SUP. At 9 years old, my dad introduced me to the sport. One day in Long Beach, he was paddling by himself; as I watched him, I also wanted to jump on the board and try paddling for the first time. There is a video of me and my dad paddling around Mother’s Beach in Long Beach back in 2009. Since then, I have been passionate about the sport and racing.
What type of racer are you right now ? And What race would you like to become? Do you also SUP surf?
I consider myself an Elite Junior SUP Racer but I am training hard to become a professional SUP athlete. I have raced in almost every condition possible: upwind, downwind, flat water, and in waves. I am comfortable in long distance and sprints. I love racing in flatwater, because you can truly see how fast you are without the help of wind to push you. No, I do not SUP surf regularly, but when I do, you can’t get me out of the water. Catching waves is infectious, ask anybody on my paddle team.
What events are you focusing on in 2017? And why?
In 2017, I’m planning to travel more to races such as the Olukai downwind competition in Hawaii, the Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge in Oregon, ISA World’s in Denmark, and more. And, the reason is because I would love to meet new people and reach a higher level of racing. But the main reason is to keep enjoying this beautiful journey.
Who is your main equipment sponsor and what boards do you use?
My main equipment sponsor since I was about 14 years old, has been Brawner Boards. I’ve never had a sponsor so involved and supportive in what I do. The team behind the company is not only people I talk about boards with but they have become part of my family. Damian Brawner (the owner) always supports all of his team riders whether they surf or compete in SUP. He has traveled with our SUP team to almost every competition we go to, including international ones. He’s much more than my sponsor but he’s is my family, like a second dad, always by my side, taking care of me. My shapers, Greg, Daniel Mungall and Rick Rock, have created the fastest and coolest looking boards that I have ever ridden. They always hear me out when I have an issue with a board I’m riding or if I have a new idea for a future board. I’m so grateful to be around such an amazing and talented group of people that have now become part of my family.