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231119_GeorgiaSchofield_ICF_SUPWorldChampionships_IMG_9961 (1)


June 27, 2024



Marie Buchanan reports on her double gold medal haul from the ICF Worlds in Thailand in the 50-Plus distance and tech divisions.

Words: Marie Buchanan. // Photos: Georgia Schofield.

The build-up

2023 was an unusual year for me in terms of my normal training plan and race schedule leading up to the ICF Worlds in November.

At the beginning of the year, I sustained an acute, chronic (new on old) injury to my hamstring, which stopped my usual winter training for a few months, delaying my usual April start to the SUP race season. My first race wasn’t until July at the GB SUP event in Falmouth, which happened to be the one national team selection event of the year.

This was a two-day event consisting of all three disciplines; sprints distance and technical racing! I approached this event with little to no expectation – other than to avoid re-injuring myself, while using it as an opportunity to see where I sat amongst one of the most competitive UK ladies line-ups yet!

It was a great surprise when I came away with two podium finishes (second in Distance & third In Technical), which qualified me for a place in the English team and the opportunity to compete at the 2023 ISA World Championships, as well as the European Championships later in the year.

The recovery process seemed to have a positive effect. My body and hamstring felt stronger than prior to my injury, which was brilliant news and obviously a welcome relief. It was just the confidence boost I needed! I then went on to compete at the ISA Worlds in France in September, which was my first time competing at an ISA Worlds in an open age group since the ISA Worlds in 2018, and it was great to put myself up against an incredibly young and competitive field, while getting back into the racing zone. I was delighted to make it through and into the technical race finals in challenging conditions, eventually placing 15th overall… not bad for a 50-year-old!

I had planned to compete at the European Championships in October, which would have been my last event prior to the ICF Worlds a month later. However, my plans changed when I came down with COVID on my return home from France. I decided to do the sensible thing and pull out of the European Championships to allow myself the best possible chance of a full recovery in time for the ICF Worlds in Thailand, in November, which was my key event of the year.

Although this was disappointing at the time, ironically I think it ended up working in my favour. Normally when the race season begins in April, by the time you reach November you are often feeling raced-out and ready to hang up your race paddle for the winter! Having my race season cut short meant that I went into the ICF Worlds fully recovered, fresh and very eager to race again, albeit a little unprepared compared to my usual pre-race routine!

Dropping out of the European Championships wasn’t all bad as it allowed me to attend one of my favourite local races, the Waterborn’s ‘SUP the Creek’. A great weekend of racing where I was pleased to win both the technical and distance races, the perfect test and confidence booster before heading to Thailand for the ICF Worlds, which were now just 3 weeks away!

Getting there

This was my first ever trip to Thailand and for me it would be a whirlwind visit with just two weeks to fully focus on the competition. With such a narrow window, I decided to head out to Thailand a week a head of the competition, giving myself the best chance to familiarise myself the race venue, local conditions and my race equipment.

After a five-hour car journey, leaving home in Devon at 4am, I took a direct flight from London Heathrow to Bangkok. Flying by myself to an unknown country was a pretty big deal for me, so thankfully, I was greeted upon arrival in Bangkok by a representative from the ICF who’d arranged my taxi transfer for the two-hour drive to my hotel in Pattaya, which was a huge relief after nearly 24 hours of travelling!

Myself, together with a large number of international competitors, including many of my fellow British teammates, stayed at the D Varee Hotel. This was the main event hotel conveniently located right next to the event site at Jomtien Beach. An incredible thirty storey building with two outdoor pools, an air-conditioned gym and wonderful ocean facing balcony rooms. With my balcony room view overlooking the main racecourses, and just a two minute walk from the hotel lobby to the beach race site, it couldn’t have been more ideal!


Arriving in Thailand on the 10th November, from the wet and windy UK winter to high temperatures (30+ degrees Celsius) and humidity (76%) was a bit of a shock, which required careful body management! During the four days leading up to the start of the competition, I kept my on-water practice sessions relatively short, making sure I was protected from the sun and staying on top of my hydration. The last thing I wanted to do was to begin my competition in a state of dehydration. Having our fully air-conditioned hotel in such close proximity to the event site and board storage was just perfect and it really helped me to stay on top form, being able to make the most out of my pre-event practice days and preparations.


Thanks to incredible support from Starboard and Starboard UK, I had a brand-new 2024 Starboard Allstar and Starboard Lima Paddle waiting for me at the D Varee Hotel on my arrival. The whole Starboard team (with their HQ in Bangkok) were so welcoming and helpful. On day one in Pattaya, we were greeted by members of the Starboard team at our hotel to deliver to us our equipment, making sure we had everything we needed to be able to perform at our best when it came to race time! This certainly made all the difference. Not only making my trip to Thailand possible, but also giving me the best outcome possible! I really can’t thank Starboard enough.

The event consisted of three race disciplines; sprints, distance and technical races held over 5 consecutive days (15-19th November). I competed in all three disciplines with distance and technical races being my main focus. Having brought home gold and silver medals from the 2022 ICF World Championships in Poland, competing as a then 49-year-old in the 40-Plus category. Having turned fifty earlier in the year, I would now be competing in the 50-Plus division, so my competition was completely new and unknown to me! Of course, I was aiming to podium again, but results are never guaranteed and everything was to play for!


Event registration opened three days before the competition and the organising committee had everything running like clockwork, which made the process a breeze. The whole event was so impressively organised – with over 1,000 competitors, 50 countries represented across four age groups (Junior, Open, Master’s 40-Plus, Master’s 50-Plus).

The competition kicked off with the 200m sprints, which took place at RTAC (Rowing and Canoeing Association of Thailand) lake, which was a 45-minute coach ride away. The venue was amazing with great facilities and a professionally run 200m sprint course. Sprint racing isn’t really the thing I’d trained for, but it was a good warm-up for my main events, and a great experience overall as well as and a lot of fun!

The racing

Over the five days of competition, I raced eight times; four sprint races (Day one and two), one 10km distance race (Day 3), two technical heats (Day 4) and the technical finals all on Day 5. With no recovery days between events, it was a very intense five days. My strategy was to focus on each event, one race at a time, and then prioritise my recovery. Eat, drink, race, re-hydrate, refuel, sleep, repeat! The level of competition throughout each age category was incredible, and in actual fact the best I’ve experienced at an international competition. It was amazing to meet competitors from so many countries and be part of such a well-represented event.
I competed in all three disciplines – starting with my weakest – the sprints. I had mixed form in the sprints finishing 6th in a strong field. My next event was the distance event – taking my position on the right side of the line, and with a textbook beach start, I was able to lead rounding the first buoy – I then used my years of experience to dynamically asses the conditions taking an inshore line and ultimately leading from start to finish – finishing over five minutes ahead of my next competitor and crossing the line alongside fellow Starboard team rider, Noic, who won gold in the men’s. I was overwhelmed to be greeted by Svein [Rasmussen] the founder of Starboard.

The next day I competed in the technical event and was chased all the way by Marlene from New Zealand (Marlene is eight years older than me and an inspiration). Again a good start put me in the lead, but it was on the beach transition that I managed to extend my advantage and hold on for a strong second lap  before ultimately taking gold!


To win golds in both the distance and tech was one better than I achieved in 2022 in Poland – where I won gold in the distance (possibly the most challenging race ever), and despite leading from the start in the technical, I went too wide on the finish and allowed Suzanne Lier to snatch the gold. To be met by Svein as I crossed the finish line was incredibly special and that will live with me forever. In 2022, our Queen had died the evening before the final, so the National Anthem was incredibly emotional, but the circumstance also made it hard to celebrate –  whereas in 2023 I was able to enjoy both medal ceremonies and I felt on top of the World!

The standard of racing was exceptionally high – while having in excess of 40 over fifty female athletes giving their all was awesome and inspiring and shows age is no barrier to competition!
Unfortunately, the schedule did not allow me to watch many other events. Once I had competed, recovery for subsequent heats / finals was my top priority with particular focus on hydration and nutrition, so generally I either retired to my room or a hotel sun lounger to ensure I was in the shade. Thankfully, due to a large screen on the beach I was able to watch my teammates events when the schedule allowed.


As a self-funded athlete, I had used my available time and resources to maximise my time in Thailand acclimatising pre-competition, so sadly I left immediately after the racing had finished. I did not even make the party! Even so, I loved Thailand and will definitely be back for a holiday!

On arrival in England, after twenty hours travelling, I was driven straight to the BBC TV studio for an interview, which was broadcast that night and the following day I was interviewed live on BBC Breakfast radio, which was a great way of promoting our sport.

I called in to Starboard HQ in Devon on the way home and celebrated with them in the evening. I enjoyed fish and chips with my partner in our local pub and a well-deserved glass of wine.

In many ways it has been six months of continuous celebration and the incredible journey continues with me being confirmed as a Starboard International Dream Team rider for 2024.

In the two months leading up the event I was over the moon to receive an invitation to Starboard’s welcome/Tiki party at their HQ a few days ahead of the start of the ICF Worlds competition. This was a not to be missed opportunity, and to say I was very excited was an understatement! Having been a Starboard rider for fifteen or more years, this was a dream come true! From the moment we arrived in Thailand, it was incredible to meet in-person the team behind the brand, see where the magic happens and get a behind-the-scenes insight into the brands passion for taking care of the environment and their very latest product innovations. A magic experience and a big highlight of my trip to Thailand – aside from the racing of course!

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