Isabella Gomez has come of age during the era of stand up paddleboarding's explosive growth, and her timing couldn't have been better. The young surfing phenom from Florida has taken the SUP world by storm, winning world titles as a teenager and advancing women's paddleboarding to the next level.
Gomez, who's gone by Izzi her whole life, essentially grew up in the ocean. Born in Holmes Beach, Florida, her grandparents own the oldest surf shop in the state, West Coast Surf Shop, and Gomez was raised in the surf culture.
A jock growing up, she played baseball, soccer, basketball, and tennis (her dad is a tennis pro), but it was surfing that interested her the most. "I pretty much grew up surfing," she says. "I was always in the water." She got her first stand up paddleboard when she was six – a giant, 12ft board during the early days of SUPing. "Stand up paddleboarding was exploding in places like Hawaii, but in Florida, we had no idea what it was," Izzi says. "I just knew I wanted to try it out." She took to the longer board right way and after a couple of years competing on a shortboard in the NSSA junior competitions, she started entering competitions on a SUP around 12.
In 2013, she qualified for the SUP World Tour, entering her first event at Turtle Bay in Hawaii. "I was nervous and I didn't do very well in my first contest," she admits. But she quickly made up for it and ended up winning the last two events in that season's tour, the Huntington Beach Pro in California and La Torche Pro in France. Not bad for a 13-year-old rookie.
By 2014, she was an athlete to watch on the SUP World Tour and she delivered, winning four out of the five stops that season and collecting her first World Title. She was just 14 years old, the youngest champ in the tour's history.
Being a SUP World Champion at the age of 14 has its perks, and in 2015, Gomez appeared in the action sports flick The SUP Movie. She also got invited to be the lone female SUP athlete to represent America at the ISA World Junior Surfing Championships, held in Sayulita, Mexico, where she helped bring home the gold for the USA.
"That was one of my most stressful wins, but it was also really fun," she says. "You're there with your team and you're not just competing for yourself."Read more