Massive congratulations to Starboard Dream Team rider Zane Schweitzer for taking out the win a the Pan American Games Santiago 2023. It’s been a tough few months for the Maui-based waterman, so this one was both an important and emotional win for Zane. Here’s his recap of how his win in the SUP Surf at Pan Am’s went down, and what this meant for him.
“These last three months since the Wildfires of Lāhainā have been extremely challenging to the spirit, my family along with lifestyle and my career to say the least. Working to provide some sort of structure, comfort and security for my immediate family and as well my loved ones in our beloved Lāhainā town turned into a full time job for community resilience. When everything you know and love is threatened, priorities become clear..
As time flew by and with the trauma and stress from it all, before I could even realize it I had missed 3 major world championship events, lost sponsors, and our business with Maui Sports Adventures. Fortunately, our coach, manager and psychologist with Team USA reached out to me to see how they could support me through these tough times and encourage me to attend the Olympic Sanctioned Pan American Games that I Qualified for last year. I’ve pushed myself as an ambassador of the sport of Stand Up Paddling and a multi-sport professional waterman for over 15 years and the Olympics has always been the goal. The Pan American Games is the next stepping stone to that vision and I feel honored and humbled to represent my ʻohana along with lāhui of Lāhainā for Team USA.”
With 2 months of no training or even the thought of taking time for myself surfing, I packed and said my aloha to my ‘ohana, including my wife Kimberly and our newborn son, Kāheleāwai. Knowing that the location for our competition is famous for its solid XL left hand point breaks, it made the choice and packing easy. I brought my Starboard SUP 6’8” Pro, 7’0” Pro, 7’11” Sunset board along with two of my thickest wetsuits and big waves leashes and was on my way with my lifelong friend and teammate Connor Baxter who is also from Maui.
Arriving to Chile with the whole team, including our team coach Duane Desoto, Hawaiian Waterman and Longboard Surf World Champion was surreal. It felt great to have a solid representation of Hawai’i with us and we quickly got settled in with a training routine getting familiar with the cold arctic climate and the many personalities of the ocean and waves of Punta De Lobos in Pichilemu. With Connor Baxter and Candice Appleby as our SUP Racers, Cole Robbins as our Longboard Surfer and myself as the SUP Surfer, we had a solid team with a more than experienced coach. The swell was solid, and we didn’t see one day that was smaller than 3-4 foot Hawaiian, with the larger days upward of 10’ plus! I felt so at home and excited to be competing at a real wave, with solid conditions- not to mention a left as so many events over the years seem to always be at right- and an amazing lineup of athletes. My prayers were for my loved ones in Lāhainā, but I felt my spirits already getting charged once more being back in the ocean.
Over the period of 12 days I went on to compete from round one, all the way into the finals with wins across-the-board, and the highest single wave scores and total wave scores of the entire event. A huge confidence booster to say the least and a missive success to bring home to Lāhainā, my ʻohana and contributing towards the overall success and win for Team USA. It all came down to the wire on the final day of October 30th, where our team earned 3 Gold Medals! Candace and Connor Baxter’s race suited their expertise as the racecourse was of classic “Technical Surf Race” fashion, while I was awarded the Gold Medal in Sup Surfing. It was epic to be around friends and compete again with top athletes from so many different countries representing their sports and nations for Shortboard, Longboard, SUP and Paddle Racing- there was non-stop action!
The final day of action for all the Surf and race events finished with insane conditions- the biggest waves we had during the whole event, some up to 8-12ft Hawaiian (20-24’). We were allowed JetSki assist, and the ability to have back up equipment tied off in the channel which was a huge help as the wave was very long, and the current was pretty strong. Felt amazing to have so much aloha and support from the local Chilean Community of waterman including big wave surfers Ramon Navaro, and Rodrigo Farias along with the local lifeguards and ocean safety teams such as David Ávila.
Huge mahalo for all the support from our team Coach Duane Desoto, our Team Manager Tracy Axel, Health physician Jacob and our coordinator Rebecca. Adventures are special and unique and I can’t forget to not take that for granted. So many of my friends back home have never even left Hawai’i.. We shared this trip with an amazing group of people, in a beautiful location- after all it’s the people, culture and energy that make a place beautiful. Grateful for the experience and will take it home to share with my family, mahalo e ke akua!