Battle Of The Paddle: Five Big Names That *Won’t* Be Racing This Weekend…

Battle of the Paddle

There are less than 48 hours until Battle… 48 hours until the world’s best line up at Doheny for the sixth annual Rainbow Sandals Battle of the Paddle California.

However… not ALL of the world’s best paddlers will be on the start line this year. As happens every year, a few of the top names are out for one reason or another. This year that little group just so happens to include three past Elite Race champions…

This isn’t necessarily major news on its own, as we said, this happens every year. However with the recent Battle of the Paddle drug testing announcement, we thought it prudent to put this out ahead of time and make it clear why each of these athletes are pulling out, lest there be any sneaky whispers on the beach come race time.

So take a deep breath: Here are the paddlers you won’t be watching compete in the Elite Race on Saturday afternoon (apologies if we missed anyone, but these are the five we know of…).

Travis Grant

Travis injured his knee while surfing on Oahu a few weeks ago, and while he can still paddle, he can’t run… at all… which is a fairly major requirement in the Elite Race given the soft-sand chicane in between each lap. The reigning Molokai champ is in town and tossing up whether or not to do the Distance Race on Sunday, but even if he doesn’t have to run, Trav’s paddling is weakened right now because he can’t put too much weight on one knee. He’s basically paddling on one side.

The major bummer is that Travis has been in career best form lately and was a serious threat for the Elite Race title this year. Until he went down with this latest injury, I had Trav as a definite for the Top 5 and one of the hot favourites for the win… To add insult to injury, the Aussie battler missed the 2012 BOP California with an elbow injury. There’s something about this race and his joints that just don’t suit Travis well.

Battle of the Paddle Travis Grant

Travis Grant crosses the line to win the 2011 Battle of the Paddle Hawaii

So the reason Travis isn’t competing this year is simple: He’s injured. However I’ve already heard one or two people (half) jokingly say “Oh wasn’t it convenient Travis hurt his knee right when the whole drugs thing got announced.”

Well, there are a few things wrong with that…

For starters, Travis is perhaps the most respected paddler in the world among his peers. He’s the last guy in the world that would cheat.

Secondly, Travis went down with the knee injury a couple of days before this whole “OMG they’re drug testing!” issue came up.

Third, Travis has been drug tested more vigorously than any other athlete in the sport of SUP racing. Period. The guy won a Gold at the inaugural ISA World Champs in Peru last year, which resulted in an instant, post-race drug-test followed up by a random test nine months later (when an anti-doping agent quite literally turned up at his door unannounced and demanded a sample). To our knowledge, Trav is the only SUP racer who’s ever done out-of-competition anti-doping testing.

All three of those points combine to make these stupid little rumours seem downright ridiculous.

Reason: Injured
2012 result: Injured (…yeah he’s a bit unlucky when it comes to this race)
Best result: Winner 2011 (BOP Hawaii)
MORE:  Travis Grant Injures Knee, Set To Miss BOP

*****

Candice Appleby

Candice Appleby Battle of the PaddleThe Queen of the Battle of the Paddle will not attempt to reclaim her crown this weekend.

After losing her BOP Elite Race title to Annabel last year, Candice has been training hard and determined to get back to the top, however a serious injury combined with the pressure of this race has forced her out.

Candice, like Jamie (see below), is not someone who would enjoy competing in the biggest race of the year at anything less than 100% fitness. But don’t take our word for it, read about the champ’s BOP withdrawal in her own words.

Reason: Injured
2012 result: 2nd
Best results: She’s won the Elite Race four times…
MORE: Candice Appleby: “Why I’m Not Racing The BOP This Year”

*****

Jamie Mitchell

Jamie Mitchell, the 2009 Battle of the Paddle Elite Race Champion and one of the biggest names in the world of paddleboarding, will not be racing this weekend…

I know Jamie well and can tell you right now that he decided to pull out of this race weeks ago. In fact he’s been tossing it up for months: A grueling travel schedule has led to a serious lack of training the past 18 months, which, combined with new opportunities above and beyond the sport, all meant that suddenly the BOP Elite Race wasn’t the most important thing in the world and wasn’t worth the stress.

Connor Baxter, Jamie Mitchell, Danny Ching

Jamie (center) battled all the way with Connor Baxter (left) and Danny Ching (right) during the 2011 Battle.

Jamie actually changed his mind (briefly) about not racing, after the drug testing news came up and out of fear of what the whisperers might whisper. But in the end he decided anyone starting a rumour wasn’t worth listening to, and stuck to his original decision not to race.

While the rest of the world’s elite entered the high stress environment of Southern-California-the-week-before-the-Battle, the 10x World Champ has been relaxing on Namotu. So while he won’t be racing on Saturday, Jamie will probably have a bigger smile than anyone else on the beach (he actually doesn’t even get back from Fiji until Saturday night…). A stellar return in 2014 perhaps?

Reason: Lack of training + travel commitments
2012 result: 7th
Best result: Winner 2009

*****

Matt Becker

Just about everyone on the beach at the Battle of the Paddle knows who Matt Becker is, despite the fact he’s never won the event. Matt is one of the most likeable young paddlers in the sport and when he’s not hanging out on Maui, charging Mavericks or podium’ing at SUP races across the States, he’s probably doing something else in the ocean…

But unfortunately all that time in the sun has come at a price, with a melanoma showing up on Matt’s chest and surgery 72 hours before the BOP forcing him out of the water and out of the race.

UPDATE: Matt’s melanoma was actually genetic, not from sun exposure. He went in for a regular skin check-up and was told he had a spot of cancer that had to get removed immediately. Kinda heavy. Also goes to show we should all be having regular check-ups even if we bathe ourselves in sunscreen.

Reason: Injured
2012 result: 24th
Best result: Top 10 finish in 2010

*****

Brandi Baksic

The perennial bridesmaid is a permanent podium fixture at the California Battle of the Paddle, however it looks like Brandi’s four year streak of top three finishes is set to end, with the San Clemente local likely to sit this one out. It’s not 100% certain if Brandi is out or not, and if she does decide to race she’ll start one of the top favourites for sure, but right now it doesn’t look Brandi is racing. UPDATE: We forgot to mention that just like Travis (and Jamie), Brandi was also tested in Peru.

Reason: Fallen in love with outrigger and out of love with SUP
2012 result: 3rd
Best results: 2nd in 2010 and 2011, 3rd in 2009 and 2012

UPDATE: Brandi also shared her thoughts for not racing on Facebook…

Brandi Baksic Battle of the Paddle


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