Noa has always been around the water.  Even when he was less than a year old my wife used to put him on the bench in front of her while she was steering dragonboat practice.  And he went with us on the race trips to different locations around the world, always watching.  He spent summers on the beach being tended to by our ohana of “aunties” that watched over him at outrigger events while we were out racing in the ocean. 

Like most dads (I think), I tried pretty hard to steer him into the land sports that I enjoyed as a youth- Tennis and Baseball.  Sadly Noa, and his mom, always thought that the point of tennis was to see how far you could hit the ball over the fence.  He dutifully gave baseball a try and joined little league.  He had a beautiful natural swing, but simply wasn’t interested in the finer points of the game.  At seven years old he came to me and said “dad, I just don’t like these land sports, and would rather stay with the water sports.”  Thus ended my hopes of a major league pitcher in the family, and that year we enrolled Noa in the flatwater Olympic Kayak program here in Mission Bay.  He has never looked back.  Back then he was just tall enough for his feet to reach the pedals of the smallest boat as long as he had a pfd behind him like a booster seat. From there came water polo, winter races on the OC-2 and surfski, outrigger, more dragonboat, and ultimately SUP racing when he turned 11

Because of this early start most people perceive him to be much older than he really is.  In SUP he was racing against (and beating) adults by the time he was 14.  At 13 he was the stroker for a men’s outrigger crew across the Catalina Channel, and had participated on several USA junior Olympic Kayak teams.  He made the men’s elite final at PPG as a 16 year old.  And last year, his senior year in High School, he was on three USA teams in three different paddling disciplines (Outrigger for the Tahiti long distance world champs, Norway as part of the USA SUP team, and China as part of the USA Premier team for dragonboat).  All of that on top of his High School water polo and surf teams- not to mention studies.  That was an incredible accomplishment for a 17 year old and unfortunately it was done quietly without much notice.  To top it off he was invited to the “Iron Mana” waterman’s event in Tahiti last December as a last minute addition, and he ended up second overall!  That event consists of va’a canoe, paddleboard, SUP, swimming, and prone.  So you would have to say that water sports are in his blood.

I would be remiss not to mention the incredible coaches and mentors that Noa has been blessed to have in his life.  Those include “EJ” Johnson, Olympian Chris Barlow, Watermen Laird Hamilton and Chuck Glynn, Ron House, Bob Pearson, Candice Appleby, Danny Ching, and a huge ohana of family friends and incredible athletes.  Now he has started college, and will graduate with two degrees at just 21 years old- younger than most of the paddlers that are now competing at the world level in SUP, OC, or Kayak. Noa  will be back competing before you know it, and will have all the time in the world.  

Name: Noa Hopper
Age: 18
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Sponsors: Hurley, 404, Mauijim, FCS, CarboPro, Quickblade Paddles.
Accomplishments SUP: 1st @ USA National Team Trials
4th fastest paddler on Earth 200m- Lost Mills, Germany
1st Molokai 2 Oahu Relay
2nd Overall @Ironmana -Waterman Tahiti World Tours
3x National champion 1000m K1, 
2x National Champion 1000m K2
USA Olympic Hopes team Athlete

RIS: What’s your toughest race?

Noa: Carolina Cup 2017 – The horn blew and we ran down the beach with our race boards. Just as I threw my board onto the water and began to stand up I looked down and realized I had dropped my paddle back on the beach. I remember looking down at my hand and just sighing like “ahhh yeah so that just happened.” half a second later I was back up the beach with my paddle and so determined to make it back into the top pack. The first three miles of the Carolina Cup is downwind so it wasn’t too hard to pass people. By the time we hit the inlet I must’ve gone by at least 40 people, securing myself a spot back in the top 15. Fast forward after 8 miles of Flatwater grinding into a headwind I was next to the two Tahitians sitting in 11th overall. as we paddled over a sandbar I misjudged my position and ended up up snapping my paddle in half on a submerged rock. I had to prone paddle 2 miles back to the race venue where someone gave me their paddle so I could complete the final four miles of the race. 


RIS: Favorite race? 

Noa: Molokai to Oahu. Its 32 miles of surfing… enough said.


RIS: How many countries have you visited for competitions?

Noa: Visited over 30 countries for SUP


RIS: Favorite travel destination?

Noa: Spain. Girls are cute & great at dancing. 


RIS: Do you listen to music? If so, who is on your playlist?

Noa: Landon Macnamara, Bo Napoleon & Katchafire.


RIS: Who do you usually train with? 

Noa: I train by myself. 


RIS: What does a normal training day consist of? 

Noa: Early morning paddle 6-8 miles then breakfast, gym for a few reps to keeps the ladies happy, poke for lunch, running the dog then maybe a little swim in the afternoon to keep it loose.


RIS: Name 1 thing you could not live without 

Noa: Air… ruins all my dreams of living underwater.


RIS: Name 6 things you always travel with:

Noa: 1 boardies – 2 surfwax – 3 spare burrito – 4  journal – 5 Nikonos film camera – 6 pencil… i like to draw


RIS: What are your goals for 2018?

Noa: Become instafamous! jk…. I already am. jjk…. for real though, I really want to learn how to foil. Looks like the perfect combo of “woohoooooo” and “im gonna die” 


RIS: If you could paddle with anyone, past or present – who would it be & where would it be?

Noa: If I could paddle with anyone I’d normally say Laird Hamilton but i actually used to be sponsored by him. We’ve been paddling a couple times and it was intimidating to say the least. So taking Laird back I’d definitely want to paddle with 2010 Alana Blanchard. Think it’s pretty self explanatory.


RIS: Will we see you at the Revolt Surf Series or Sunday X3 Paddle Race series this summer?

Noa: I loved going to all of the RVLT Pro Am Series the last couple years but I actually just moved to Australia for University. If I’m back in California around the dates of the comps I will absolutelyTHE INTERVIEW

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