That victorious feeling. Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Black-Schmidt/SUP Magazine

If you’re a fan of standup paddling, you know the name Candice Appleby. Often referred to as the Queen of SUP, Appleby’s SUP resume is stacked with World Titles, PPG victories, and ISA gold medals. Over the past twelve years, the San Clemente local has always been a force to reckoned with at the elite levels of SUP competition.

Candice Appleby felt the thrill of victory after winning the Women's Pro Technical Race at #PPG2018. Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Black-Schmidt/SUP Magazine

In 2017, something changed. Although still one of the top racers in the sport, Appleby was nowhere near championship form. Of course, this led us to wonder: Was age starting to take a toll? Was the level of competition getting too high? Or was her heart simply not in it anymore?

Fast-forward to 2018 and Appleby reasserted herself as a championship competitor after securing huge wins and leading Team USA to a second-place finish at the ISA’s. We caught up with Appleby between workouts to find out what sparked her comeback and plans looking forward.

You’re often referred to as the “Queen of SUP.” Does that title come with any added pressure?

I believe that pressure is a privilege and to be referred to as the “Queen of SUP” is an honor that comes with great responsibility. There was definitely a time when I allowed pressure to affect me in negative ways. In the early years of my SUP career, I was finding my self-worth in winning, which was pretty unhealthy. Thank God, I’ve come to learn that my worth has nothing to do with winning or losing and I don’t let the pressure to perform cripple me anymore, but rather encourage me.

At this point in my career, I don’t feel that I have anything left to prove competitively, so really I choose to not feel pressure in that way. But I do feel a great responsibility to continue to represent the sport in a positive way and encourage camaraderie, equality, and unity amongst the athletes, especially the women.

You’ve won a lot of races and titles throughout your career. What changed in 2017?

2017 was one of the hardest years of my life—I was pretty heartbroken from a lot of personal losses. I struggle with depression, as well, and it was just a really hard year, but also a year of growth. I’m a pretty emotional athlete and I paddle with my heart, so when my heart is broken, sometimes my paddling is too.

All focus for Appleby. Photo: Courtesy of Aaron Black-Schmidt/SUP Magazine

All the other girls were on fire as well! I can’t just say that I had a bad year; lots of other women had a great year and they were all so hungry to win. I’m so proud of that and I don’t want to take any attention away from all those amazing performances.

Fast-forward to 2018 and you’ve made quite the comeback. What led to last year’s impressive rebound?

Honestly, God gets all the glory for my comeback this year. Early in 2018, I kind of thought that I was done. 2017 was such a slump of a year with results and 2018 didn’t start off that great.

I thought that maybe my body was just ready to be done and I was in a good place in my head about it. I started to make my exit plan towards retirement and was grateful looking back on my twelve years of racing. But God had other plans. He totally resurrected my spirit and gave me the confidence again that I needed to get winning results. Ultimately, it was an adjustment in my spirit that led to my victories.

Which race from last season are you most proud of?

I think the event I’m most proud of is the APP World Tour New York SUP Open. I found my gear again during that race around the Statue of Liberty and that launched what you could say was my comeback. My mind and spirit was right going into that race and it was the first time in a long time that I knew I was going to win before I got on the water.

Candice Appleby claimed the win over teammate Shae Foudy in the Pro Women's division. Photo: Courtesy of APP World Tour

And I can’t leave out PPG. Honestly, it kind of baffles me that I won that race again. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way; I just feel so blessed that God gave me that victory because I know that it’s a gift from Him.

Faith is a big part of your life, as well as your athletic career. How has it helped you?

My faith in God is everything to me. If it weren’t for my relationship with Jesus, I would never have accomplished the things that I have, comeback from hard times, or grown in ways that I didn’t know were possible over the past few years.
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When I’m training and competing, I know that I’m fueled by a power that is much greater than myself and that allows me to dig deeper with confident assurance. My identity is secure in who I am in Christ, so win or lose, I’m okay. I know that He created me with the purpose to share who He is in our SUP community and beyond. I’m pretty blessed by the purpose He gave me.

What are your plans/goals for 2019?

I’m really excited about all that 2019 has in store. I plan on competing full-time on the APP World Tour for racing and will do a few of the surfing events as well.

My biggest focus will be preparing to represent the USA in both SUP Surfing and Technical Racing at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru this summer. And of course, I’ll be mixing in a few of the long-running core SUP races like Carolina Cup and the Santa Monica Pier race. My goal is to get my body to a place of being more mobile, so that I can keep doing this sport and enjoy the process. It’s going to be a great year!

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