Following the unofficial “season ending” race on the weekend, the World Series Finals at Turtle Bay in Hawaii, there’s been a bit of movement on the SUP Racer World Rankings.
Though, interestingly, it was actually those who didn’t race at Turtle Bay that reaped the biggest rewards. That includes Titouan Puyo, who jumps back into the top 5, and Arthur Arutkin, who makes his debut in the exclusive top 10 club at the expense of Fanatic team mate Jake Jensen.
Turtle Bay scored 45.0% on our Race Index in 2014, which made it the equal sixth most competitive race last season. But this year, in what was a much lower-than-expected turnout (only 17 guys and 6 girls on the start line), the event scored just 30.5% on the men’s Race Index. That makes it only the 14th most competitive race of 2015, and it means the top performers from Turtle Bay 2014 were going to lose points this week no matter how they performed.
Those top performers last year were Kai Lenny (1st), Mo Freitas (2nd) and Jake Jensen (3rd). Kai repeated his victory on the North Shore on the weekend, however he still saw his overall points tally drop by 14.50% as a result of the Race Index differential.
Mo Freitas decided to skip Turtle Bay entirely this year, which saw him slide 22.05 points and out of the top five (which in turn gave Titou a free ride back in). Mo did pick up a win on the weekend, taking out a clean sweep of the Battle of the Bay up in San Fran, but unfortunately that didn’t count for the rankings.
But let’s not forget that his win in San Fran comes just a week after his heroic victory at the most competitive race of the year (Mo won the surf race at the Pacific Paddle Games), and that he also swept the field at one of the hardest events of the year, the Payette River Games (PRGs and PPGs; Mo likes his acronym events). So no matter what the rankings say, I think we’d all agree that one thing is pretty clear: Mo Freitas is one of the best paddlers in the world right now.
Though perhaps the most significant loss this week came from Jake Jensen, who dropped 13.80 world ranking points and slid out of the world’s top 10 completely.
This is the first time Jake has ever been ranked outside of the top 10 since we started the SUP Racer World Rankings. It’s also quite a fall from grace for the Aussie considering he began the year ranked #4 in the world. At the time Jake was even ranked ahead of his compatriot Travis Grant (who started the year at #5), but in the past ten months Travis has gone in one direction while Jake has gone in the other (Trav is now ranked #2, and at one point briefly held the top spot).
To his credit, Jake is the first to admit 2015 has been a horror year, and he sounds pretty keen to get back in form and take on the world in 2016.
There has been a silver lining for the Fanatic crew, with Jake’s slide giving his team mate Arthur Arutkin a “free ride” up the rankings and inside the top 10 for the first time. Arthur didn’t actually compete at Turtle Bay this year – he was at home racing in the 14′ French Championships (where he finished runner-up to fellow Top 10 Frenchy Titouan Puyo) – and didn’t see his overall points change up or down at all this week.
But no matter how he got there in the end, Arthur thoroughly deserves a spot alongside the world’s best paddlers. The young gun has shown genuine promise for the past couple of years but has only fully matured as a competitor in 2015. This year he kept pace with the likes of Connor and Titou on the Euro Tour, and had plenty of other stellar podium results across the globe.
Look for Arthur to shine again at next month’s official ISA Worlds selection event in France, where he could very well repeat the double victory he scored at the 2014 nationals. With a clearer criteria in place for Team France this year (after their poorly-handled selection process saw Arthur miss a spot on Team France at this year’s Worlds), look for France’s top 10 heroes, Arthur and Titou, to make a strong case to represent their nation and go for gold in 2016.
Another non-starter at Turtle Bay who got a free ride this week is Georges Cronsteadt, who moves back up to world #9 after Jake’s slide. Despite the new wave of Tahitian young guns entering the stand up paddling world, Georges is still holding down the fort for the Polynesian islands.
One of the big movers who actually did compete at Turtle Bay is Bullet Obra, who finished third behind Kai and Connor and jumps +27 places to world #36 as a result. And that’s despite the young charger from Hawaii holding just three scores out of a possible best five results, which means he’ll easily move even higher 2016 if he continues this solid form.
It was a similar story on the weekend for Bernd Roediger (+27 to #49) and South Africa’s Ethan Koopmans (+15 to #51).
Unfortunately the women’s event at Turtle Bay had a very small turnout, with his six women on the start line. That’s nothing against Turtle Bay or the World Series in general; low numbers in the women’s elite races has been one of the stories of 2015 around the world. There is a serious problem on the women’s side of the sport right now, and I’m not sure anybody has an immediate solution. But that’s a post for another day.
The women’s race at Turtle Bay may have been small but it did include some mighty fine talent, with the likes of Candice, Fiona, Sonni and Angie all competing (that’s four of the current top five in the world). That was enough for the event to punch above its weight and score 28.5% on the Race Index, but it still wasn’t enough to change any of the positions inside the women’s top 10.
With the international race season drawing to a close, there will only be minimal changes to the World Rankings between now and the start of the 2016 season. The only events that are likely to have an impact on the rankings are the Paris Crossing and King of the Cut (and possibly The Doctor as well), both of which fall on the same weekend in early December. Most of the pros will be on holidays by then anyway, and those that are left will be split evenly between France and Western Australia. So I’d expect both events will only score around 20.0% each.
As a quick refresher: Any race in the world that scores above 15.0% on the Race Index automatically counts for points in the SUP Racer World Rankings. The higher the Race Index score (i.e. the more competitive a race is, and therefore the harder it is to win), the more points that are on offer for the athletes.
Here’s a look at the ten biggest races of 2015 so far (this is the men’s list; check out our Race Index feature to see all 33 men’s races and 26 women’s races from the past 12 months that are included in the rankings system).
|82.5%||2017 Pacific Paddle Games||Connor Baxter||14'|
|70.0%||2017 Gorge Paddle Challenge - Double Downwinder||Bernd Roediger||14'|
|70.0%||2017 Carolina Cup||Titouan Puyo||14'|
|54.0%||2017 Maui Pro-Am||Mo Freitas||12'6|
|50.0%||2017 Molokai-2-Oahu||Travis Grant||Unlimited|
|50.0%||2017 SUP World Cup||Connor Baxter||14'|
|47.5%||2017 Japan Pro-Am||Connor Baxter||12'6|
|45.5%||2017 ISA Worlds: Beach Race||Mo Freitas||12'6|
|45.0%||2017 ISA Worlds: Marathon||Bruno Hasulyo||12'6|
|44.5%||2017 Hossegor Paddle Games (EuroTour)||Connor Baxter||14'|
Looking at the winners above, you can clearly see the “big four” athletes are still dominating: Connor, Travis, Danny and Kai. Though special mention goes to Kelly Margetts, who won the third most competitive race of the year to break the mould.
This leaderboard also shows the Pacific Paddle Games have continued where the Battle of the Paddle left off, instantly becoming the most competitive race of the year (though Doheny was slightly down from the 92.0% the BOP Elite Race achieved at Salt Creek in 2014).
The Carolina Cup has thoroughly reinforced its status as the anchor race at the beginning of the season, finishing as the second most competitive race of the year. The Gorge race, which is actually two races in one weekend (though we may look at combining it into an “overall results” for next year to make sure it doesn’t have a disproportionate impact on the rankings; at the moment that’s dictated by an event’s prize money – if the prize money is split between two separate races, so are our points), rounds out the top three.
Other notables include Europe’s biggest and most competitive elite-level race, the Lost Mills, as well as the ISA Worlds and the most successful event of the World Series’ roller-coaster, four-stop season, the Huntington Beach Pro.
It’ll be interesting to see which events are on top next year…
I’m also playing around with the idea of introducing “protected events” in 2016, which would guarantee a minimum amount of points for some of the most important events on the calendar. I’ve been considering this kind of thing ever since the SUP Racer World Rankings began, but I received a catalyst this year in the form of Molokai 2 Oahu. The 2015 men’s solo Molokai race was only worth 31.0%, well below what I feel it deserved.
The reason for Molokai (as well as other specialty events such as the Payette River Games) receiving a low score is because the Race Index only considers how many of the top paddlers are on the start line. And the higher an athlete’s ranking, the heavier weighting they contribute to an event’s Race Index percentage.
The Race Index ignores all other factors, including one that I think is very important: Prestige. Winning Molokai is unofficially considered the most prestigious performance of the year, and this year Travis Grant’s heroic win (he crossed the line 15 minutes ahea dof second place) only gave him 31.0 world ranking points. That’s less than many events that hardly make a blip on the international radar, so I think we need to tweak the formula a little.
So despite being the one who created this whole system, I’m the first to admit the World Rankings has a few flaws. But exactly which events get “protected status” in 2016, and how many points they should be awarded as a minimum, is up for debate.
I’ve already been running a few different scenarios through the algorithm, and I’ll work with the top athletes and events to figure that out best solution for next year. Criteria for the 2016 World Rankings will be announced in December.
Until then, here are the top athletes as they stand right now.
|8||-||Kelly Margetts||113.60||-||9||Australia||Lahui Kai|
|1||-||Annabel Anderson||207.75||-||10||New Zealand||Lahui Kai|
|9||-||Penelope Strickland||67.74||-||5||New Zealand||Zenith|
And as a little bonus if you somehow managed to read all the way through this lengthy post, here is the current top 10 from the Battle of the Brands.
|1||-||Starboard||624.54||-3.00||4||Connor Baxter, Titouan Puyo, Fiona Wylde, Beau O'Brian|
|2||-||Naish||440.30||-9.63||4||Kai Lenny, Casper Steinfath, Kody Kerbox, Manca Notar|
|3||-||SIC||408.23||-4.40||4||Sonni Hönscheid, Lina Augaitis, Georges Cronsteadt, Kenny Kaneko|
|4||-||Lahui Kai||375.87||-||4||Annabel Anderson, Kelly Margetts, Lincoln Dews, Jayden Jensen|
|5||-||404||284.39||-||3||Danny Ching, Niuhiti Buillard, Travis Baptiste|
|6||-||Infinity||253.01||+4.00||3||Candice Appleby, Slater Trout, Alyson Fromm|
|7||-||Fanatic||226.93||-13.80||4||Jake Jensen, Arthur Arutkin, Davide Ionico, Silvia Mecucci|
|8||-||NSP||224.39||+8.38||2||Travis Grant, Vincent Verhoeven|
|9||-||Rogue||204.22||-7.31||4||Bicho Jimenez, Fernando Stalla, Rachel Bruntsch, Josh Riccio|
|10||-||Riviera||200.76||-||4||Shae Foudy, Shelby Taylor, Sophia Bartlow, Chance Fielder|