Dion Laurent has found himself in plenty of challenging situations during his sporting career, but nothing could prepare him for the task that confronted him when he arrived in Balatonfured, Hungary, this week.

30-year-old Laurent, the goalkeeper for the Dominica national football team who regularly has to stare down opposition strikers in front of packed stadiums, recently decided to try his hand at paddling. He was thrilled when his local federation nominated him to take part in an ICF development camp.

But somewhere along the line there was a breakdown in communication, and Laurent turned up in Hungary expecting lessons in kayak paddling. He was somewhat shocked to learn the camp was for stand up paddling, which he had never done before.

After coming so far it would have been crazy not to give it a go. And under the watchful eye of the ICF’s experienced coaching team, including two-time world champion Olivia Piana, the Dominican took to the board and headed onto the water.

“My association signed me up thinking it was a kayaking event, and only after arriving I found out it was stand up paddling,” Laurent said.

“I was very much surprised. I had only read about SUP before, so this was the first time I have been on a board

“I was very excited. It’s been a great experience to be working alongside a world champion. I’m a little bit nervous, I don’t know what to expect, but I am here so I will embrace the opportunity and give it my best.”

Laurent is one of 20 participants from around the world taking part in the ICF SUP development camp. Among the group were athletes from Iraq, India, Moldova, Chile and Peru.

Frenchwoman Piana, who won gold in both the sprint and the technical races at the 2019 ICF SUP world championships in China, joined Austria’s Christian Taucher and Israel’s Ran Gaash as coaches at the camp.

“At the beginning he was very shaky, but after some advice he was standing on the racing board and I realised he is talented,” Piana said.

“We did two training yesterday, and he will do his best and it’s a good opportunity to take stand up paddling in his country.”

Piana said the coaches were very pleased how quickly all the camp participants embraced the sport. All 20 athletes will now take part in this week’s world championships.

“I think everybody was happy with the tips we gave, because we came from different backgrounds, from flatwater, ocean, surfing. It’s always nice to share your occupation with people,” Piana said.

“The good thing in this new sport is we are a community, like a family, and when people come from outside we all support them. From the first one to the last one we are all together, that’s why we love stand up paddling.

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