While the racing season has officially ended in Hawaii, California and pretty much everywhere else in the world, Australia’s summer of SUP has only just begun. And it’s going to start with a bang: Next week, Western Australia will play host to six downwind races in the space of just 11 days, which collectively form Aussie Downwind Week.
Officially known as Wardan Marr Week (“wardan marr” means “sea breeze” in the local indigenous language), the highlights of Downwind Week are two of the biggest and best races in the country: The Doctor and the King of the Cut.
The King of the Cut has become Australia’s premiere international event over the past couple of years, and the 2015 edition looks set to attract most of the country’s finest along with a few international imports. The race, whose full name is the Stand Up Surf Shop King of the Cut (named after the local retailer that’s footing much of the $17,000 odd prize purse), is a 24km downwind run often described as the “best in the country” when it’s firing.
Aussie Downwind Week begins with the weekly warm-up event, the Triple S (Thursday update: Molokai hero James Casey just took out today’s Triple S race), before moving on to one of the real classics on the Aussie calendar: The Doctor.
The Doctor is a grueling, 28km crossing from Rottnest Island back to the mainland near Western Australia’s capital, Perth.
Named in honour of the Fremantle Doctor, the nickname for Perth’s daily onshore trade winds, The Doctor is kind of like Australia’s answer to Molokai. The event, which is primarily a surf ski race but has attracted a solid SUP division for the past five years, has a rich history and was one of the first SUP races in Australia to attract foreign talent.
Both The Doctor and King of the Cut will have an impact on the men’s World Rankings, with The Doctor likely to score around 19% and KotC 21% on our Race Index.
So, who should we look out for on the podiums?
The safe money is on world #2 Travis Grant and his vanquisher from 12 months ago, Beau O’Brian, to battle for the wins, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see an upset from one of Australia’s trio of fast rising challengers: Matt Nottage, James Casey and Michael Booth.
Then you’ve got a quartet of more seasoned international competitors that could definitely pull one out: Lincoln Dews, Jake Jensen, Paul Jackson and Toby Cracknell. Also look for Sydney downwind dark horses Sam Parker and Dave Kissane, as well as local brothers Marcus and Ben Tardrew, to make a push. I hear Marcus and Dave will be on their unlimiteds in both The Doctor and King of the Cut, in an attempt to steal line honours from the main 14 foot division.
That’s already 11 world class guys representing the home team alone, while there’s probably a few West Oz locals that will feel they can keep pace with their East Coast rivals.
The international contingent includes Maui’s downwind supremo, Jeremy Riggs, Tomo from Japan, Italy’s #1 (and world #15) Leonard Nika. Leo will be joined by his newly-minted Starboard Dream Team buddies and (11 City Tour pace-setters) the Hasulyo Brothers, who’ve been camped out in W.A. for the past few weeks and should know the place like the back of their hand come race day.
Many of the crew will be in town the whole week, while a few are flying in just for King of the Cut. Good luck making the top 10 in that one.
On the women’s side I’d pick world #5 Angie Jackson to go back-to-back, though if Terrene Black and Karla Gilbert get on the plane I’m sure they’ll give her some very stiff competition. One of Europe’s rising stars, world #22 Ane Zulaika, is in Australia for a Gold Coast summer training camp and will be a chance to podium next week.
It’s not all about the pros though: Sunday’s Ship2Shore event (formerly known as the Fig2Fig) is billed as a “celebration of downwind paddling,” where beginners are chaperoned by the pros and encouraged to get their first taste of bump riding.
Hats off to Western Australia’s stand up paddling club, SUPWA, for getting this great festival of downwind paddling happening. Hawaii may have the world famous Downwind Month, but I get the feeling Aussie Downwind Week (or Wardan Marr Week) will start catching up pretty fast.
No matter what happens, we’ll keep you posted with full results over the coming days.
(Oh and on a side note: How big is the weekend of December 5th & 6th going to be?! We’ve got the King of the Cut in Australia, the epic Ironmana challenge in Bora Bora, and the world’s largest race, the 500-strong Paris Crossing, happening at the same time over in France. I get the feeling my fingers are in for a workout…)
Wardan Marr Week (aka Aussie Downwind Week)
#1. The Triple S – Thursday 26th November
#2. The Doctor presented by Starboard – Saturday 28th November
#3. The Shorehouse Ship2Shore – Sunday 29th November
#4. The Triple S – Wednesday 2nd December
#5. Stand Up Surf Shop’s King of the Cut – Saturday 5th of December
#6. The Duel – Sunday 6th of December
Here’s how the King of the Cut looked 12 months ago, when Beau O’Brian defeated Travis Grant and the rest of Australia’s finest. Beau took out the Aussie Downwind Week Double last year, claiming both The Doctor and KotC.
And here’s the official intro to Aussie Downwind Week, aka Wardan Marr Week: