When North Hall High senior Edward Surles arrived at the Arges River in Pitesti, Romania, on Aug. 2 — the morning of the International Canoe Federation (ICF) Junior and U-23 Canoe Sprint World Championships — he had a good feeling about he and partner Jonathan Grady’s chances.
As Surles and Grady prepared to compete in the 1,000-meter junior duos race, they discussed the day’s perfect conditions. The water was completely flat, but a slight back tailwind would provide a helpful push for all participants.
“We were talking, and we decided to put it all out there in the heat,” Surles said.
The two competed hard, and in the first heat of the junior 1,000-meter duos, their time of 3:56 was good enough for a second-place finish. Surles was pleased with the result — a personal best. But he had no idea he and Grady had just set a national record.
The finish was the all-time high mark for any junior American duo team in the 1,000-meter race.
“When our coach said that we broke the record, we were kind of surprised to be honest,” Surles said. “At first I didn’t really believe him, because it was a good time, but I didn’t realize it was that good.”
Surles took a moment to savor the accomplishment, a high point in his world-class paddling career that began back in the fifth grade.
“I really just felt content,” he said. “I’ve spent a lot of time working for it. To achieve it felt good.”
Surles originally got into canoe/kayak when he was given a flyer in school advertising the Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club. He signed up, and quickly found himself enjoying the sport.
By the time he was 14, Surles had made a name for himself, taking second in the juvenile men’s 1,000-meter race at the national championships in Oklahoma City. He was then invited to Hungary to compete on a national stage, where he finished eighth representing the U.S. in a pool of athletes from over 20 different countries.
“I guess I realized about then I should probably take it to a higher level,” Surles said.
Surles was selected to compete in Romania following U.S. national team trials earlier this year, but before shipping out overseas, he was invited to join the national team training camp in Gig Harbor, Washington (just outside Seattle) where he spent most of the past month. The team flew out for the world championships on July 22.
The trip began on a low note, with Surles and several other U.S. athletes suffering from a bout of food poisoning, but the illness was not enough to slow down Surles or Grady, who had recovered enough by the day of their race to put in a record- setting performance.
Now, Surles turns his attention back to the competition in the US.
In addition to starting his final year at North Hall, Surles is also currently in the midst of competing in the American Canoe Association National Championships on Lake Lanier, where he took first place in the junior 1,000-meter race on Wednesday. He’s set to participate in the duos 1,000-meter on Thursday.
Surles said his recent experience in international competition played a major role in his more recent success, and the training he did in both the Pacific Northwest and Romania will be invaluable as he continues his paddling career.
“I definitely believe it helped,” he said. “It was a lot more training with other canoeists, and it helped me push myself harder, I believe.”