While any of the world’s best paddlers were competing at Huntington Beach this weekend, there was another race taking place in Jersey, an Island with a rich paddling heritage. The event, the Battle of the Rock, is the brain child of John Harvey and was first held in 2013.
Following his success at the Heritage Race on the Island in the summer, Greg Closier took no time in returning to Jersey and brought ISA World Champion Titouan Puyo and Vincent Verhoeven along with him. The three Frenchmen were using the event as part of the training regime for the Battle of the Paddle.
Some of the UK’s best had also traveled over here to the Island, competing against the very competitive local crew that includes Aaron Rowe (who unfortunately fell ill during the event), Andre Le Geyt, fresh from the SUP 11 City Tour, Alan Fernandes, Gary Smith and Chester Mackley.
Saturday dawned hot and sunny with glassy conditions for the five mile technical race at St Brelade. Titou showed his power to win the 12’6 class ahead of Greg Closier, with Vincent Verhoeven winning the 14ft class ahead of the UK’s Ryan James. The race and the heat drained many of the competitors ahead of the distance race later in the day.
After lunch and a mere two hour break, the Elite paddlers were on the start line again for the 8.5 mile long distance, which took in numerous scenic landmarks on the Isle.
The wind had begun to increase a little and offered some bumps to glide on, particularly after the half way mark. A tough head wind greeted the paddlers for the last mile, particularly for those towards the back of the pack. This made the final stretch to the beach tough for the tired paddlers (who would have paddled 14 miles or so during the day) but everyone agreed it was a great race.
Again there was no stopping Titou who came home in 1st place.
Around 60 competitors took part in the two-day event, with some as young as six years old jumping on race boards. There were open classes and juniors too and the standard of paddling was high. The future is very bright for the Island.
Sunday’s race was held at St Ouen, on the west coast, in order to take advantage of a new long period 2ft clean swell from ex-Hurricane Edouard. However the wind increased significantly by the start of the race and was blowing around 20 knots cross/offshore.
A number of buoys were set right in the waves, with others just outside the break to ensure plenty of opportunities to surf. There was lots of carnage for the paddlers at the back when one of the bigger sets came through at the start, as well as the usual chaos on most of the buoy turns that were right in the surf.
As with the two previous races, Titouan Puyo dominated and crossed the line ahead of Greg Closier and Vincent Verhoeven, who both caught the same wave in to finish. Ryan James was again 2nd in the 14ft class followed by Franck Le Ven, with Chester Mackley coming home in 4th as the first local paddler on the day.
With the French team heading off for the Ferry the prize giving took place soon after the race; the request was then made to go for a quick beer but the unanimous call was for cheesecake. The local crew duly obliged and headed off a nearby cafe.
The weekend was a huge success and the Jersey Paddle Club are hoping the event will be even bigger in 2015.
Photos courtesy Tim Rowe, Mark Juste and Windmadness