SUP world champion Izzi Gomez coming to Vail for GoPro Mountain Games
Sixteen-year-old stand-up paddleboard world champion Izzi Gomez documents her travels on Instagram @izzegomez_.
VAIL — Izzi Gomez is traveling the world as a professional stand-up paddleboarder, and growing up along the way.
The two-time SUP world champion and gold medalist recently celebrated her Sweet 16 like any professional, sponsored athlete would.
“Honestly, I just went and ate dinner with my mom, brother and one of my friends. It was kind of mellow,” said Gomez, who will be in town competing in the GoPro Mountain Games this weekend.
Born and raised in Jupiter, Florida, and now living in California, the young phenom is looking forward to her time in Vail, as far away from an ocean she might get.
“It’s pretty much the only time I go to a place like that,” she said, having traveled all over the world for competitions. “It’s so cool, though, because the vibe is awesome and it’s a cool little town. It’s just a total change of scenery for me because I’m always at the beach and the ocean.”
‘I CAN DO IT’
When stand-up paddleboards first started coming out, her parents bought the first one in Jupiter for their surf shop.
“People were just so crazy, saying, ‘Oh my gosh, what is that?’” she said.
When Gomez turned 12, her older brother, Giorgio, was getting into it and she brought her can-do attitude to the new sport.
“He got into it,” she said, “and then I said, ‘OK, well if he can do it, then I can do it.’”
Gomez progressed quickly thanks to her surfing skills and “it just kind of took off from there,” she said.
“All of a sudden she just kept progressing out of nowhere,” said Giorgio, a professional surfer who travels to different contests with his sister. “I definitely still try to teach her so she’s still at the top of everyone — do stuff that’s really innovative that the guys are doing.”
LOOKING FOR INSPIRATION
How does one of the youngest stand-up paddleboard athletes who is already a world champion find inspiration?
“It’s difficult because I’m one of the youngest ones in the sport right now,” she said. “There’s not a lot of women in it, but it’s growing. It’s been hard to find a mentor. I just look for my inspirations outside of my sport. A lot of it comes from the surfing world tour.”
Gomez serves as an ambassador for the sport, with almost 20,000 followers on Instagram (izzigomez_), and she’ll be ripping through Gore Creek during the Mountain Games.
“To have someone like her in it is a benefit because it draws more people into the sport,” said Ken Hoeve, local stand-up paddleboard enthusiast. “The whole sport is about being fun, and she keeps it fun, but at the same time, she’s the best at it.”
‘ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE’
Gomez’s bubbly personality spills into her passion for singing and songwriting. She said it’s hard to travel with a full-size guitar, so she brings smaller guitars on trips and takes advantage of time at home to “chill and play,” she said.
“I’m always singing in the car and randomly,” Gomez said. “I just love to sing.”
As the Female Paddle of the Year Award winner in 2015, she received recognition, as well as a small, very fitting prize — a ukulele.
“She’s at the top of the game already right now,” Hoeve said, “and she’s so young, she can do anything she turns her attention to.
“The thing that’s amazing about her, I think, is she’s just a really friendly, funny, happy-go-lucky person,” Hoeve continued. “When you see her, she just over-the-top exudes friendliness.”
Gomez will head to Florida to teach surf camp after the Mountain Games before going to Montana for a Red Bull event. She’s also got most of the professional Stand-up Paddleboard World Tour competitions coming up at the end of the year.
“Anything is possible,” Gomez said. “You can do whatever you set your mind to and put your heart to. That’s what I did, and everything ended up working out pretty well.”
Reporter Ross Leonhart can be reached at 970-748-2915 and email@example.com. Follow him on Instagram during the GoPro Mountain Games at colorado_livin_on_the_hill.
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