This Saturday, 29th November, sees the start of what will probably be the biggest week of SUP racing Australia has ever seen. In the space of eight days, Western Australia will play host to four different ocean races. It’ll also play host to pretty much all of Australia’s finest paddlers plus a bunch of elite internationals. While Hawaii is home to Downwind Month in July, this could be Australia’s answer: Aussie Downwind Week.
Australia has always been an anomaly in the SUP racing world: The land down under has produced a solid chunk of the world’s elite athletes, however its racing scene is a relative minnow compared to what’s happening in California/Florida/Hawaii/Europe/etc.
But that could change with the following four events lining up in a row for the first time:
Saturday November 29th: The Doctor (UPDATE: Get the results and recap from “The Doctor”)
Sunday November 30th: Fig 2 Fig
Saturday December 6th: The Stand Up Surf Shop “King Of The Cut”
Sunday December 7th: The Mandurah Duel
All four should be great events, however the Stand Up Surf Shop King of the Cut is the one I’m most excited to follow. While “The Doctor” and the smaller Mandurah Duel are great events, they’re both primarily surf ski races. Meanwhile the Fig 2 Fig looks like a lot of fun but seems to be more of a social paddle.
So the King of the Cut (or just “KotC”) will be the headline act in terms of serious racing. The race, which follows a 24km course that produces some of the quickest downwind times ever seen, will also be offering the most serious prize purse in Australian SUP history.
Thanks to the very generous support of Stand Up Surf Shop (the full event title is the Stand Up Surf Shop King Of The Cut), there’s $16,500 cash up for grabs at this year’s KotC.
That kind of money is in line with the BOP (the Battle of the Paddle has $27k total, but that’s spread between Elite/Distance/Relays). The top guy will score $5k and the top girl $3,000, which is exactly the same as the BOP Elite Races in Cali and Brazil.
There’s also $5,000 waiting for the men’s winner at The Doctor, courtesy of Starboard Australia. The Doctor has a smaller overall prize purse than KotC, however they’ve front-loaded the cash to make it more enticing for the pros.
This means that it’ll be a $10k pay week if any of the guys can do a clean sweep…
The King of the Cut, which is being organised by SUPWA (Western Australia’s governing body for SUP) has attracted virtually all of Australia’s elite paddlers this year.
Defending champ Beau O’Brian will be fired up to go back-to-back. One of the world’s best bump riders, Travis Grant, returns to Oz from his new home in Hawaii. While the Queensland crew are sending international stars (and downwind experts) Jake Jensen, Lincoln Dews and Paul Jackson out west for the week.
The Queensland boys are a mighty competitive bunch. No matter which event they’re at, these guys love nothing more than to beat each other, which I’m sure will add an extra dimension to the race. Though I’m also sure the local West Oz paddlers would love nothing more than to bring the confident Queenslanders down a peg or two. West Oz is home to some serious talent of its own, including the Tardrew brothers Ben and Marcus.
Western Australia’s Downwind Week has attracted a few big international names as well. Zane Schweitzer will make an appearance as will his Starboard teammate and Italy’s #1, Leo Nika. Fellow Starboardee Tomoyasu ‘Tomo’ Murabayashi from Japan will be in town next week while the endless nomad, Belar Diaz from Spain, has already arrived in Perth.
On the women’s side we’ll likely see a showdown between the well-known Aussie trio of Angie Jackson, Karla Gilbert and Terrene Black. Angie has come into her own this year, Terrene is the 2013 Molokai-2-Oahu champion, while Karla Gilbert is one of Australia’s most recognisable ocean athletes from her all-star surf life saving career.
They’ll be given good a run for their money by New Zealand’s Penelope Strickland (3rd in this year’s M2O) and the UK’s top female (and another Starboardee) Marie Buchanan.
To make it even better, we’ll also have live, play-by-play coverage of the King of the Cut race here on SUPracer.com.
Even though I’ll be getting my ass kicked in Tahiti that weekend, I’ve teamed up with the excellent organising team behind the King Of The Cut to bring you a KotC Live Blog.
Similar to what you saw at the Battle of the Paddle and Molokai, we’ll have live updates from out on the water every minute – who’s leading, who’s making a move, etc – along with regular photos that should give you a good glimpse into this big race.
All the Aussie crew seem pretty amped about these two weekends of back-to-back racing, with the King of the Cut the definite headliner. With a wave of positive momentum, great organisation and some serious prize money behind it, the King of the Cut could be Australia’s first big international event. The race isn’t six star level yet, but I have a feeling it very well could be within 12 or 24 months…
We’ll have full full coverage right through Aussie Downwind Week here on SUPracer.com and don’t forget LIVE COVERAGE of the Stand Up Surf Shop King Of The Cut on Saturday December 6th (that’ll Friday evening, 5th December, in the USA).
While you’re waiting, here’s a cool clip from last year’s KotC (the action starts around the 3:50 mark):