Costa Rica didn’t fare particularly well in most of the events in the World Standup Paddle and Paddleboard Championship in Nicaragua, held in early May. But in the SUP technical women’s race, which took place May 11, the Tico delegation earned its first medal at the games after paddler Jenny Kalmbach took home a bronze.
“I had a game plan and I stuck to it,” said Kalmbach, who was born and raised in Costa Rica but resides in Kona, Hawaii.
Kalmbach attempted to get ahead early and stay out in front during the 3-mile race, but after leading in the first lap, the day’s heat took a toll. She soon got passed.
“I couldn’t keep the pace I wanted to keep, but I held on for third,” she said. “When I came in, I had nothing left. I had given it everything I could.”
Kalmbach was defeated by Shakira Westdorp of Australia, who took first with a time of 31 minutes and 27 seconds. Lina Augaitis of Canada finished second at 31 minutes, 33 seconds. Kalmbach finished the race just 13 seconds after Augaitis.
Her Tico teammates – while honored and thrilled to be at a world championship for the first time ever – didn’t quite measure up. No Costa Rican advanced to the finals of the surf or distance competitions, which also took place during the second weekend in May. For the SUP distance men’s race, Rolando Herrera and Erick Zamora came in 24th and 30th, respectively, out of 32 competitors. For the SUP distance women’s event, Edith García placed 12th of 14.
Kalmbach has a bit of an advantage thanks to the fact that she lives in the birthplace of SUP. She started practicing the sport many years ago as a surf instructor, and eventually garnered the attention of more than a half-dozen sponsors. Kalmbach participates regularly in international competitions. On July 27, she’ll be competing in a 32-mile race from Molokai to Oahu.
To prepare, she paddles three or four times a week and cross-trains at the gym, running and riding her bike. Before races (and every morning, actually) she eats avocado on English muffins. “It’s good not to mix things up on race day,” she says.
Kalmbach very much wanted to win at the ISA World Championships and hear the Costa Rican national anthem blare over the loud speaker as she accepted a gold medal. But she took solace in third place.
“You learn way more from the ones you lose than the ones you win,” she said.