St. Maarten prepares to host Pan American Championships

St. Maarten prepares to host  Pan American Championships

The St. Maarten Canoe Federation will host the 2020 Pan American Ocean Racing Championships March 28.  (Tim van Dijk photo.)


SIMPSON BAY--St. Maarten will host the 2020 Pan American Ocean Racing Championships. The competition will be merged with the annual St. Maarten Canoe Federation Soualiga Challenge Reloaded to be held March 28. The paddle will be a 24 kilometer race from Isle Fourche, St. Barths to Simpson Bay.

  “Sea conditions for the course will vary,” said Stuart Knaggs of the St. Maarten Canoe Federation.  The first 500 meters is usually calm. Thereafter one can expect a quartering swell of .5 to 1.6 meters for 2.5 kilometers until table rock.

  Once in open water a large following sea can be expected with swells from one to 2 meters. 

  The Pan American Championship will be divided into either Surfski single or Surfski double.

  As the name implies the long paddle vessels are capable of surfing waves. Thus, the popularity of the Soualiga Challenge.

  The Soualiga Challenge Reloaded portion of the paddle will be open to several other classes.  Paddlers can choose to use Outrigger canoe, stand up paddle and foiling stand up paddle board,

  Prior to the storm of 2017 the Soualiga Challenge had grown over a 14 year period into one of the top paddles in the Caribbean. Local paddlers were able to go head to head with some of the region’s top paddlers as well as many international stars.

  The Soualiga Challenge traditionally started at St. Barths and finished in Oyster Pond. Captain Oliver’s had been the venue for the boat haul out, food, drink and of course the prize giving.

  Captain Oliver’s was destroyed by the storm and has not been rebuilt. A new course had to be devised with a new finish line and award ceremony venue.

  Simpson Bay was selected and in 2019 Soualiga Challenge was Reload.

  “We were asked if we wanted to host the first Pan American Ocean Racing Championships,’ said Knaggs.  “While that is quite an honor, we just were not sure we could pull it off.”

  St. Maarten was represented at the first Pan American Ocean Racing Championships by Juan Pablo Piscione and Lidwien Weitenberg. The first edition was held was in Salvadore de Bahia, Brazil and featured 90 registered competitors.

“We feel very proud to go to the very 1st Open Ocean Surf Ski Pan American Championship and represent SXM,” said Piscione.

  He like Knaggs would have like to host the Championship but also realized the Island was not ready.

 ‘We have it All’ on this beautiful Island to practice the accelerating Surf Ski Sport. A National Federation, good coach, great equipment and plenty of clean blue ocean around us,” said Piscione.

  “The organization did also a great job by introducing Salvadore to the paddlers,” said Weitenberg

“for example, with a cultural tour and parties. Everybody we met was very friendly, tried to speak a few words English (that was more than I could speak Portuguese). We got tips for the best route from the local paddlers, with explanation about the circumstances on different parts of the race.”

 Pablo ended second in his age group and 32nd man overall. His time was 1.56.51.

  Weitenberg finished first in age group and 5th woman overall. Her time was 2.12.23.

  The pair returned home happy with their results and news, “The St Maarten Surf Ski Federation has a nice opportunity of having first refusal on the organization of the second Pan American Championship on 2020.”

    Now the race is on as organizers prepare to welcome the region’s top paddlers to Soualiga Challenge Reloaded.

   For entry details see