SANTIAGO, Chile — Maui surfer Zane Schweitzer has struggled with the devastating wildfires in the island he and his family live. The American did not forget the thoands of people suffering back home after he won a gold medal in the stand-up paddleboard final of the Pan American Games in Chile.
“Maui! This is for you!,” Schweitzer said in the waters of the Punta de Lobos after beating Brazil’s Luiz Diniz by 16.00 to 10.23 in Monday’s final. The competitions took place on Punta de Lobos beach, one of South America’s best surf breaks, near Pichelimu, a city 205 kilometers (107 miles) south of Santiago.
The American jumped to the gold medal position after scoring 8.50 on his fourth and final wave in the final day of surfboarding competition in Chile.
“This is for my family, for my Lahaina community and to represent the United States. It’s fantastic to represent the sport of paddling at such an important event,” the 30-year-old surfer said. “I feel really stoked to win it in a real wave, a nice point break left. There were some solid waves.”
Schweitzer celebrated his win with A surfing teammates Connor Baxter and Candice Appleby, who each won gold medals in the stand-up paddleboard race event.
Baxter secured his second Pan American gold medal ending his race in 12 minutes, 49.90 seconds to beat Peru’s Itzel Delgado. Appleby claimed the top spot clocking 15 minutes, 24.90 seconds, with Costa Rica’s Jennifer Kalmbach getting the silver medal.
Nicknamed “Zaniac” and “InZane” by his teammates, Schweitzer took advantage of his experience of a big wave surfer in Chile. After he returns, he will once again get involved in building nearly a hundred of what he calls “tiny home accessory dwelling units to help relieve the pressure.”
The American competed at the Pan American Games for the first time, which is part of the program of the multi-sports event for the second consecutive time.
Before the competitions began, Schweizer wanted to grow plants in the region.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to give back to a special place. Very grateful to be competing here,” he said.
Schweitzer, who is also a book writer, began windsurfing at age 9 and stand-up paddling at 13.