By Daniel Langhorne, Special to the Independent
Laguna Beach High School senior Jade Howson recently brought home two gold medals from the stand up paddling world championships in El Sunzal, El Salvador.
The 17-year-old Laguna Beach girl took gold in the Women’s Stand Up Paddling Sprint, beating more experienced female paddlers, as well as the girls junior technical race at the 2019 Surf City El Salvador International Surfing Association’s World SUP and Paddleboard Championships.
“It’s always a little bit nerve-wracking going into that event but it was really fun, so I’m glad I went,” Howson said.
Over the last six months, Jade has maintained a more consistent training schedule and has been running more under the watch of her coach, Mike Eisert of The Paddle Academy. When she’s not studying or training, Jade works as a lifeguard at the Laguna Beach High School pool.
Team USA SUP manager Candice Appleby said it’s been a pleasure to watch Jade grow up from being a “tiny little grom” to a world champion over the last five years.
“Jade is obviously young, but her dedication to the sport is quite mature for her age,” Appleby said. “She also has a fierce competitive spirit and the ability to focus under pressure which makes her a threat in a competitive environment.”
Appleby also described her mentee as a well-rounded, level-headed and talented young woman outside of her athletic achievements.
In the wake of her gold medal performances, Jade was named Athlete of the Year for the 53rd annual Laguna Beach Patriot’s Day Parade scheduled for March 7, 2020. The parade’s organizers decided to renominate this year’s honorees because the 2019 event was canceled due to rain.
Last year, Jade paddled through the tropical waters off Hainan island in China to win the title of world champion in the girls U-18 division at the International Surf Association’s World SUP and Paddleboard Championship.
Jade has narrowed her list of preferred colleges and universities to those on the West Coast or Hawaii so she can continue her education and paddling careers.
“Hopefully, when [standing up paddling] gets to the Olympics one day, I can compete,” she said.