Fernando Stalla has just put on an incredible show to win the 2014 Payette River Games and claim the $10,000 winner’s prize ahead of defending champion Ben Sarrazin. Candice Appleby scores the same amount for being the quickest of the women.
That was an amazing end to an awesome weekend. Fernando waited until the final seconds of the final round of the final event to claim the overall victory, winning the SUP Cross with a spirited fight through the whitewater. His win in the SUP Cross A Final gave Fernando the overall victory by the narrowest of margins, with defending event champion and ultimate dark horse, Boga’s Ben Sarrazin, just one point behind.
Fernando finished the event on 34 points after his 7th in the Downriver Sprint and 1st in the SUP Cross, while Ben took 33 points from his 5th and 4th place finishes. Coming home third was the always-smiling Mike Tavares on 32 points.
All three of those guys edged past one of the hot favourites, Kai Lenny, who was knocked out earlier today by the extremely impressive Spencer Lacy. Kai still had a chance for the overall win if he placed high in the men’s SUP Cross B Final, however a very uncharacteristic fall sent him down the rapids and out of contention.
Kai, who’s impressed with his whitewater skills all week, finished tied for 4th place with the Downriver Sprint champ Slater Trout, as well as the impressive dark horses Peter Bartl and Spencer Lacy.
Fernando didn’t start as the favourite but this was still a well deserved victory. The Rogue team rider was practicing on the river literally all day everyday before and during the event, doing run after run through the whitewater until he nailed it.
Fernando is well known on the elite tour, however this is by far his biggest and most prestigious win. For it to come on the river in the middle of America, miles away from his beloved ocean, probably makes it that much sweeter.
The men’s SUP Cross finals was some of the most exciting racing I’ve ever watched.
Classic race. So exciting and unpredictable.
The A Final was the main event but the C Final was even more fun to watch. While all of this weekend’s SUP Cross heats featured 3-6 paddlers, the C Final was a 10-man destruction derby, with positions 11th-20th (and some very valuable overall points) on the line.
After the pre-event favourite Kai Lenny was bumped down to the B Final (where his hopes of an “if everything goes my way” win were snuffed out by that rare mistake) and Slater Trout was knocked to the C Final (after winning the Downriver Sprint and putting himself in the best position coming into the SUP Cross), the main contenders were Fernando, Ben and Mike. The other two finalists (Spencer and Eric) had low results in the Sprint that basically ruled them out of the overall win.
Ben Sarrazin was in the virtual lead, having bested both Fernando and Mike in the Sprint. The defending champ has been the ultimate dark horse this week, flying under the radar but still cruising through every race.
None of us really gave Ben the respect and authority he clearly deserved coming into this event. In fact Ben could have won the overall title by simply finishing within one spot of Fernando and three spots of Tavares) in the final. Given his form in the earlier rounds that seemed a big chance, but then Fernando pulled out the race of his life and both Mike and Spencer snuck in between to produce the final result.
But no matter what the result, it went a long way to highlighting just how skilled these river guys are. Ben Sarrazin was crushing it, I’d barely heard of Spencer Lacy before this weekend but that kid is a freak on the whitewater (he single-handedly knocked Kai Lenny out of contention). The river rats such as Mikey T, Dan Gavere and Masayuki “Yacu” Takahata had all the moves. Even several of the kayak guys, such as Dane Jackson, Andrew Holcombe and Eric Giddens showed absolutely incredible form standing up.
This was a very entertaining, interesting and eye-opening race.
And that was just the men’s side of the draw. In the women’s race it was Candice Appleby who survived the whitewater carnage best. Candice looked extremely focused all week, seeking advice from the river pros and determined to prove she could cut it on the river the same way she’s dominated many ocean and flat water races.
Candice started the event as the favourite, after showing in practice that she’s not only fast in the flat water (which was crucial in the Downriver Sprint race) but also quite adept at handling the whitewater rapid as well (absolutely critical for the SUP Cross race).
But despite Candice’s newfound river skills, it didn’t go all her own way this weekend. The Surftech star overcame a 2nd place in her favoured Downriver Sprint race to come back and take the overall title with a win in the SUP Cross final. Despite a smaller field in the elite women’s competition compared to the elite men, the top girls certainly put on a great show for the crowd at Kelly’s Whitewater Park.
Also showing plenty of talent but falling just a little short was Fiona Wylde, who won the Downriver Sprint and took an early lead in the SUP Cross before settling for fourth. Fiona was very impressive this weekend and probably gave Candice the stiffest competition. Apparently the only thing bigger than Fiona’s talent is her always-on smile.
Gillian Gibree was consistent all week and finished just a few points behind in third. Gillian and Natalie Zollinger had practiced the whole week leading up to the event, with their hundreds of runs down the rapids paying off during the finals but not enough for the big prize. Also impressive was former Olympian Rebecca Giddens, who showed supreme whitewater skills across the rapids (as did her husband and fellow Olympian Eric Giddens).
The racing just ended moments ago here at Kelly’s Whitewater Park, so we’ll have a full recap later. For now, here are the overall results.
The 2014 Payette River Games (otherwise known as “Carnage On the River”) have been quite an amazing event. Over the past few days we’ve watched many of the world’s best paddlers try to find their balance in the tricky, technical rapids here at Kelly’s Whitewater Park in Cascade, Idaho.
And that’s just the SUP racing. The PRGs are so much more than a stand up paddle race. This is an entire festival in the Idaho countryside, packed with random events and full of fun.
Jim Terrell and Jamie Mitchell winning the Raft Cross with an epic performance, mastering their inflatable raft across the tricky rapids and defeating a couple of local hotshots to claim what was perhaps the crowd-favourite-event of the weekend.
Jamie backed it up with a win for the ages in the Lumberjack Axe Throw tournament. Quite surreal watching a 10x paddleboarding World Champ, who’s never thrown an axe in his life, show perfect form against a bunch of hardcore locals who, from the look of their outfits at least, had clearly done this before.
From the spectacle of the “Long Board Race” – where 17 footers attempted the rapids – to watching the kayakers get absolutely pummeled in the in the “8 Ball” event (we’ve gotta introduce this to SUP racing, seriously… just look at that hit below), there was so much happening at this event. It definitely felt more like a festival than a SUP race.
We also scored some unreal weather right through the event, which made it even more fun to hang out on the river and watch people eat it going down the rapids.
But perhaps the best moment of all was watching blind Brazilian surfer Derek Rabelo surf the river wave. This kid has been blind since birth but somehow managed to stand up on the fast-flowing stationary wave, aka the giant rapid that took us all out in the SUP racing. I watched dozens of guys try to surf this wave all week and most of them couldn’t get to their feet before being washed down the river, so to see a blind kid do it was pretty darn inspiring.
Watching Derek’s father helping his son experience the joy of surfing was a tear-jerker for many in the crowd. When he finally got to his feet, Derek received the biggest cheer of the entire event. Though it’s entirely surprising that he made it – this kid has surfed Pipeline already…
Finally a huge thanks to the founders of Kelly’s Whitewater Park and the PRGs, Mark & Kristina Pickard, race director Jeff Banks and the scores of local volunteers who worked so hard to put on a great event for us. The hospitality shown to the paddlers was beyond generous and, despite a small hiccup in the timing on day one, this event was one of the best organised races I’ve ever been a part of. Looking forward to the 2015 event already…
2014 Payette River Games: Overall Results
ELITE MEN (Sprint race result / SUP Cross result)
1st: Fernando Stalla – 34 points (7th/1st)
2nd: Ben Sarrazin – 33 points (5th/4th)
3rd: Mike Tavares – 32 points (8th/2nd)
=4th: Kai Lenny – 30 points (2nd/10th)
=4th: Peter Bartl – 30 points (4th/8th)
=4th: Spencer Lacy – 30 points (9th/3rd)
=4th: Slater Trout – 30 points (1st/11th)
8th: Andrew Holcombe – 24 points
9th: Eric Giddens – 23 points
10th: Dane Jackson – 23 points
11th: Jamie Mitchell – 21 points
12th: Kelly Margetts – 18 points
13th: Dan Gavere – 14 points
14th: Kody Kerbox – 11 points
15th: Anthony Vela – 11 points
16th: Travis Grant – 10 points
17th: Gaetan Sene – 9 points
1st: Candice Appleby – 39 points (2nd/1st)
2nd: Fiona Wylde – 37 points (1st/4th)
3rd: Gillian Gibree – 36 points (3rd/3rd)
4th: Rebecca Giddens – 35 points (5th/2nd)
Men’s SUP Cross
Men’s A Final:
1st: Fernando Stalla – 20 points
2nd: Mike Tavares – 19 points
3rd: Spencer Lacy – 18 points
4th: Ben Sarrazin – 17 points
5th: Eric Giddens – 16 points
Men’s B Final:
6th: Dane Jackson – 15 points
7th: Andrew Holcombe – 14 points
8th: Peter Bartl – 13 points
10th: Kai Lenny – 11 points
Men’s C Final:
11th: Slater Trout – 10 points
12th: Dan Gavere – 9 points
13th: Travis Grant – 8 points
14th: Luke Hopkins – 7 points
15th: Jamie Mitchell – 6 points
16th: Anthony Vela
Women’s SUP Cross
1st: Candice Appleby
2nd: Rebecca Giddeons
3rd: Gillian Gibree
4th: Fiona Wylde
Men’s Downriver Sprint Race
1st: Slater Trout (10:29.5) – 20 points
2nd: Kai Lenny (10:29.8) – 19 points
3rd: Kelly Margetts (10:32.8) – 18 points
4th: Peter Bartl (10:34.7) – 17 points
5th: Ben Sarrazin (10:37.7 – 16 points
6th: Jamie Mitchell (10:41.6) – 15 points
7th: Fernando Stalla (10:48.7) – 14 points
8th: Michael Tavares (10:50.3) – 13 points
9th: Spencer Lacy (10:54.9) – 12 points
10th: Kody Kerbox (11:07.8) – 11 points
11th: Andrew Holcombe (11:08.5) – 10 points
12th: Gaetan Sene (11:08.9) – 9 points
13th: Dane Jackson (11:20.7) – 8 points
14th: Eric Giddens (11:27.2) – 7 points
15th: Anthony Vela (11:30.8) – 6 points
16th: Dan Gavere (11:42.50 – 5 points
17th: MacRae Wylde (11:58.0) – 4 points
18th: Dave Boehne (12:06.0) – 3 points
19th: Travis Grant (11:14.8 + 1 minute penalty) – 2 points
20th: Masayuki Takahata (12:30.5) – 1 point
Women’s Downriver Sprint Race
1st: Fiona Wylde (11:26.7)
2nd: Candice Appleby (11:31.7)
3rd: Gillian Gibree (12:17.6)
4th: Louise Jull (12:21.0)
5th: Rebecca Giddens (12:21.4)
6th: Natali Zollinger (13:07.4)
7th: Brittany Parker (13:36.3)
8th: Haley Mills (13:41.2)
9th: Nikki Gregg (14:00.5)
10th: Jayne Saunders (14:08.9)
11th: Kelsa Gabehart
12th: Jenny MacArthur
13th: Annie Chamberlain
14th: Courtney Kerin
15th: Ashley Bean
16th: Jen Chrimes
17th: Hannah Hill
18th: Jen Kjellesvik
19th: Kristin Thomas
20th: Ruth Ebens