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An interview with April Zilg
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An interview with April Zilg – 
professional athlete
“April Zilg is fast becoming one of the most dominant performers on the 2019 APP World Tour, after her distance and overall wins in New York, followed by an impressive performance in some of the most competitive sprint racing yet on the APP World Tour in Osaka." – APP News [Association of Paddlesurf Professionals], September 22, 2019
April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
An interview by Robert B. Butler, North Carolina Press Release
This interview with April Zilg may be republished in whole or part without attribution


April, congratulations on your amazing achievements on the 2019 Association of Paddlesurf Professionals World Tour. Will you share with us some of your season highlights and your forecast for the rest of the tour?

“Season highlights would include visiting some of the biggest cities in the world and being allowed to paddle in places that you otherwise wouldn't be allowed. I'm very happy to have won the distance event in New York - which gave me the overall win for the event. I went into the Japan event with a lot of confidence and was able to take the win in the sprint event, and tie for first place in the points.”  

What an incredible success with your APP world rankings in 2019: #2 in the Overall women’s category; #2 in Sprint; #3 in the Distance races; and you’re ranked in the top-15 in Women’s Surf. How do you feel about this accomplishment; how did you make it happen; and where do you plan to be at the end of the tour?

“For my first year on a professional circuit, and not having a lot of international racing experience, I feel great. I'm right where I'd like to be, having a blast, and learning a lot about being able to travel and race – travel is hard on the body. The only way to make this happen has been proper nutrition and consistency in training.”  

With three back-to-back titles, you’re the defending champion in North Carolina’s elite 6.5-mile Surf to Sound Challenge. As I recall, you were planning on going for title number four in 2018 when the race was canceled due to Hurricane Florence. Will you be on the starting line in 2019?

“I will be on the starting line, but I'm unsure of which race I would like to enter in 2019. The SUP race is one of my favorites because you get to head out through the surf. But, Surf to Sound Challenge is including more outrigger canoe events, and they'll have the 11-mile OC-1 race Saturday morning as well. I love paddling and racing my Puakea Designs Kahele and may jump at the opportunity to race that. I've been trying to attend more outrigger events in 2019, and those have truly been the highlight of my season.”  

What is unique about Surf to Sound Challenge and how did this race fit into the development of your professional career?

“I enjoy the combination of ocean and flatwater paddling. I do attribute my win in New York to the conditions present in that race. I enjoy races where paddlers have more balance to focus on, and more conditions to work with. Paddling and racing in North Carolina has developed my abilities to race in rougher waters and find bumps that actually enable me to go faster than I would be able to in flat water alone.”  

April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
April Zilg, USA (center) – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
April Zilg, USA – Courtesy of Cody Silvester
What are the key attractions of Surf to Sound Challenge to the amateur or elite paddler?

“The key attraction for everyone is the sense of community. Having been to many events, the ones that celebrate the novice paddler and the local paddling community are always the best. Elite paddlers can look forward to challenging conditions as well as substantial competition. It’s always great to see where you stack up at the end of a summer of paddling with local and regional competition.” 

Who will be the top athletes to watch in the 2019 Surf to Sound Challenge?

“On the men's side in the SUP division you'll keep an eye out for Larry Cain. In the OC Froth race, I'd bet on Jimi Spoto from California. In the women's SUP, Stephanie Shideler will likely be down from New York and has also had a phenomenal first year on the APP World Tour.”

Do you have a home-court advantage at Surf to Sound Challenge? 

“Having been in California for 2 years now, I think my home-court advantage is slowly dissipating. Also, the waters are different every day. There are a multitude of wind and tide combinations that always make paddling waters around Wrightsville Beach and Wilmington a challenge.”

You are also the reigning champion for the 9-mile Blockade Runner Flatwater race at Surf to Sound Challenge. Will you defend your title in this race?

“I may opt for paddling the SUP in the 9-miler on Sunday if I opt for OC on Saturday. If not, I may flip-flop that combination. I like to paddle all the craft and need to get in plenty of practice for next season.”

April Zilg, USA – Courtesy of Corey Curtis
April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
How would you compare Surf to Sound Challenges to the Carolina Cup and other races on your calendar?

“Surf to Sound is a great primer for Carolina Cup. If people are considering doing the Graveyard Race at the Cup, they should most certainly come and sample the Surf to Sound as it is a half-graveyard.  The number of ocean races has been small on my calendar this year, which is why I'm so excited to get home and compete. I get a little bored and disenchanted in the flats.” 

The Carolina Cup, one of the largest races in the world, is a crucial qualifying race for the APP World Tour. In 2017 and 2018 you finished in the top five; in 2019 you finished in second place. The buzz in North Carolina is that 2020 is your year to capture the championship. What are your thoughts about the 2020 Carolina Cup?

“I'm very proud of my 2nd place finish this year, and I feel like no matter what happens I've accomplished my goal. The first year I entered the money island race I did not finish. I've clawed my way up onto that podium, and I'm happy to have gone from an overweight, couch potato who couldn't finish, to 2nd place in the 13-mile Graveyard. In accomplishing that goal, I've set my sights on a new challenge that may or may not help my Carolina Cup performances, but I'll still be there to compete.”

What are your thoughts about the rest of the 2019 season and your professional prospects for 2020?

“I'm just trying to finish the 2019 season strong and get my name out there. In 2020 I'm shifting my focus to training for the unsupported Yukon 1000.” 

Participating in the APP World Tour and qualifying series must be a costly proposition. Do you and other athletes cover this with sponsorships and prize money? If not, is there a way fans or local companies who want to help can participate?

“It is insanely expensive to travel and compete, and male athletes tend to have more sponsorship money than the females. Any North Carolina businesses wanting to support a world traveling paddle athlete should definitely reach out for my sponsorship deck. If I wasn't on the podium earning winnings this year on my first world tour, I would be unable to continue to compete at this level due to the financial burden. For my first ISA World Championship event last year I was grateful to receive help from local Wilmington businesses like Epic Food Company, Slice of Life, and Palate, in addition to help from individuals in the paddle community.”  

April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
Aside from SUP and surf, what else is happening in your life?

“I'm learning a lot about nutrition and wilderness first aid in preparation for the Yukon 1000 event. A lot of the time I'm not building mileage, I'm reading and taking online courses. I'm finishing up this year with a few coaching clients, and then I'll be cutting back on that as well in order to focus fully on the huge task at hand.”  

How is the move to California working out? Any plans to move back to North Carolina?

“The plan is always to return to NC one day.”

Is there anything you’d like to tell your friends and fans in North Carolina?

“I love and appreciate the support I get from everyone back home on social media. I don't always have time to reply, but I read it all and it helps me stay motivated. Especially when people watch the live feeds of the APP World Tour and comment while I'm competing, those are the best to re-watch. If people would like to follow along with my Yukon1000 preparations, they can do so at my website ( and also sign up for my newsletter. I'll be sharing tips and tricks for ultra-distance paddling and nutrition along the way via my social media channels, and in a YouTube series called "Road to Yukon." 

Did I omit anything you would like to cover?

“Nope, thanks a ton, and I hope you have a fantastic week.”

Thank you, April.

Note: North Carolina Surf to Sound Challenge is organized by the Wrightsville Beach Paddle Club and sanctioned by the World Paddle Association. This event attracts amateurs and professionals from North America to a key year-end series of races and clinics featuring paddleboard, outrigger canoe, kayak, and surf ski. All races begin and end on the ocean or sound at host hotel Blockade Runner Beach Resort. Dates: November 1-3, 2019.​​​​​​​

(more photos and press materials)
April Zilg, USA – Courtesy John Carter / APP World Tour
2019 Surf to Sound Challenge returns following Hurricane Florence hiatus
Five-time and three-time Surf to Sound Champions Larry Cain of Canada and April Zilg of NC/CA – Courtesy of Robert B Butler
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, NORTH CAROLINA – Canceled last year following one of the worst hurricanes in state history, North Carolina Surf to Sound Challenge rebounds in Wrightsville Beach, November 1-3, 2019.

“Hurricane Florence was a direct hit at Wrightsville Beach with over $20-billion in damages in our state,” said Mark Schmidt, Race Director. “Wrightsville is back, stronger than ever, and we are glad to welcome back the paddling community for the 9th annual Surf to Sound Challenge.”

Surf to Sound Challenge, sanctioned by the World Paddle Association, attracts amateurs and professionals around North America to a key year-end series of races and clinics featuring paddleboard, outrigger canoe, kayak, and surf ski. All races begin and end on the ocean or sound at host hotel Blockade Runner Beach Resort.

Organized by the Wrightsville Beach Paddle Club, the 2019 Surf to Sound Challenge racing schedule includes:

–The Froth, an 11-mile longboat endurance race for advanced athletes in ocean canoe, surf ski, and kayak. The course consists of Bank’s Channel, Masonboro Inlet (twice), the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway, and Mott’s Channel.

–The Blockade Runner Flatwater Championship, a 9-mile endurance challenge for experienced paddlers, including standup paddleboard, prone, and a separate start-time for 6-man ocean canoe (male, female, and mixed team entries).

–The Surf to Sound Challenge, a 6.5-mile course for elite paddleboard and prone competitors. The race begins through the ocean surf, onto the Atlantic Ocean, plying the rushing waters of Masonboro Inlet, into Banks Channel, and to the finish line on flatwater.

–The Harbor Island Outer Loop, a scenic 3.5-mile race circumnavigating the island and designed for beginner to intermediate standup paddleboard and prone athletes.

–The Kid’s Race, for paddleboarders 6 to 14, is on the soundside. All kids are winners in this fun event. 

–The Corporate Challenge Relay, a relay sprint with six four-person teams using identical equipment in a standup paddleboard race from the soundside beach, around a buoy in the channel and back. The gear for this competition provided by the Wrightsville Beach Paddle Club (One Design boards by SIC, plus paddles, leashes, and flotation devices).
North Carolina Surf to Sound Challenge 6.5-mile ocean to flatwater course – Courtesy of Aerial Images ILM and Peter Newman
Current title-holders for both the 6.5-mile Surf to Sound Challenge and 9-mile Blockade Runner Flatwater Championship are Olympic Gold Medalist Larry Cain of Canada and native North Carolinian April Zilg. Zilg is ranked second in the world by the Association of Paddle Professionals in the Women’s Sprint and Overall categories.

“The downwind run was really fun,” said Larry Cain, after winning his fifth Surf to Sound Challenge elite men’s title in 2017. “We got to the jetty in an incredibly fast time. But as we made the turn, it was the typical Carolina grind, facing lots of current and a pretty strong wind.”

“It was a slog. We were hit pretty hard,” said April Zilg, capturing her third consecutive title in 2017 in the elite women’s division. “I was struggling to hold above four miles-per-hour.”

A portion of the proceeds from North Carolina Surf to Sound Challenge will be donated to The Plastic Ocean Project, whose mission is to address the global plastic pollution problem to create a more sustainable future.


Mark Schmidt, Race Director
Phone: 910-620-6914

Robert B Butler
Communications | PR

Permission granted for redistribution – photo credits required

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Aerial photo of 2017 Surf to Sound Challenge starting line – Peter Newman / Aerial Images
An interview with April Zilg

An interview with April Zilg

An interview with April Zilg by Robert B Butler North Carolina Press Release

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