Olivia Piana Joins Black Project and Helps Develop New Women’s Paddles
2018 was a banner year for champion SUP racer Olivia Piana by all standards. The French star claimed victories in standup paddle races around the world, winning the Euro Tour and finishing #2 in the Paddle League World Rankings behind Black Project teammate and new World Champion Sonni Hönscheid. To round out a stellar season, Piana will head to China next month representing France on the world stage at the ISA SUP World Championships.
Just before the 2018 Pacific Paddle Games Olivia joined Team Black Project, and even before it was made official she was impacting our latest paddle development for women. To help you get to know the newest champion on our team, we caught up with her for some insight into life, racing and equipment.
BP: You had a tremendous season in 2018. What was your strategy?
OP: 2018 was an amazing season; I competed in 15 wonderful races around the world! Off-season training is very important to managing that many races so I spent three months in Portugal this winter training as hard as I could in a variety of disciplines—SUP racing, SUP surfing, shortboarding, foiling, outrigger canoeing and bodysurfing. Portugal is one of the best places in the world to practice, and paddling among cliffs, sea caves, turquoise water and sun made the effort easier.
What was the most challenging aspect of competing this season?
The most challenging part is all the determined, strong, talented and awesome women going faster and faster on the water! I am happy to live in this time of our sport pushing women’s recognition.
What was the most rewarding part of this season?
I learned a lot about board and paddle shapes through exchanges with my friends and sponsors, and gained confidence in the development of my equipment as a woman team rider. That’s been super rewarding. Sports gear for women is different and since 60 percent of the SUP customers are women, let’s make some women-friendly gear! Joining Team Black Project allowed me to give feedback and to develop new, women-specific race paddles for next season. I am so excited to work with this company!
You helped design two new women’s Hydro paddle models which are being released for 2019, featuring reduced-diameter shafts constructed with the all-new silver TEXCARBON material. How did that factor into your decision to join the team?
Listening to the expectations of athletes and customers is key to success in building good equipment. I like how Black Project treats and listens to its paddlers, and uses that input to design its products. This is definitely a brand I can support, and one that really supports me.
Why do you prefer a reduced-diameter shaft? What type of paddler benefits from that design?
I’ve always liked reduced-diameter paddle shafts because the grip is easy and pleasant. Comfort makes a big difference after a few miles of paddling. With skinny shafts it’s easier to paddle, release and open with the lower hand. The challenge is making a reduced-diameter shaft that’s also rigid and harmonious to perform well in races, but the TEXCARBON material handles that. All smaller-handed paddlers will enjoy the new HYDRO paddles with reduced diameter shafts. And it’s the perfect paddle for women!
What is your go-to Black Project fin?
Just like with the paddles, I had some good feedback from my racer friends with fins. I found that I like the SONIC most for open water and surf conditions. The TIGER works very well for me in flat water.
What are your expectations for next season?
I’m really looking forward to getting these new paddles in my hands, training hard and doing my best to get some good results. Beyond expectations the most important is to be surrounded by professionals and friendly people. We will definitely share some good times!
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Choosing a SUP Race Fin: Advice from World Champion Connor Baxter
Choosing a SUP Paddle: Advice from World Champion Mo Freitas
Words: Mike Misselwitz & Olivia Piana
Pics: Sean Greeley Photography & Rand Marino
Follow Olivia Piana on Instagram @oliviapiana