While we’ve enjoyed a nice little post-Molokai pause in proceedings, it’s now time to get back into it and focus on the big races happening in the second half of the season, and two of the biggest are set to form a massive double header over the next two weeks: The Jamie Mitchell Survivor Race at Huntington Beach this Sunday, then the iconic Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge in Hood River, Oregon just six days later.
We’ll have plenty more to say about the Gorge next week, but this week it’s going to be all about the JM Survivor Race in southern California, which is shaping up to be not only one of the most competitive contests of the year but also one of the most exciting and innovative.
Officially known as the Waterman’s Festival presented by Quiksilver Waterman Collection (though simply referred to as the JM Survivor Race in the stand up paddling community), the one day show, which is the brainchild of paddling legend and big wave hero Jamie Mitchell, will feature swimming, prone paddleboarding and open SUP races alongside the main event, the elite Survivor SUP Race.
That headliner is expected to attract one of the most stellar fields of the season, with Connor Baxter, Travis Grant, Mo Freitas, Titouan Puyo, Michael Booth, Casper Steinfath and Candice Appleby just some of the names we’ll see on the water this weekend. (My early Race Index calculations peg it somewhere north of 40%, perhaps even 50% if a couple more top names join in at the last minute.)
Mitcho, the former BOP Elite Race winner and two-time ISA gold medalist, won’t be getting back on the race board this Sunday, instead he’ll be in charge of setting the course and the knockout format (including a few interesting little tweaks that he’ll unveil later this week). And from past experience I can confidently say that Mitcho in charge means two things: Paddlers are in for a very tough challenge, and the crowd is in for a very entertaining show.
This Sunday isn’t all about the pros though: Outside of the main event, there’s a series of “Dash For Cash” races, which are exactly what they sound like, as well as the “Classic” races, which includes a standard 5 mile course similar to the “Open Races” you see at other big events.
But while there’s something for paddlers of all levels, the most exciting part of the day is definitely going to be Survivor Race.
For the uninitiated, the JM Survivor Race is a fast-paced format that requires a unique mix of skill, strength and endurance along with a strong dose of strategy. Each “race” is a short, sharp, single lap in and out through the surf; The last finishers are dropped, while the “survivors” begin the next race just a few minutes after the winner crosses the line (meaning, in a cruel twist, the longer you take to finish, the less rest you get in between laps).
You can learn more in our original announcement about the 2016 JM Survivor Race.
The clip below, which goes way back to the first ever JM Survivor Race at Waikiki 2012, gives you a little glimpse of what to expect, including the signature “Le Mans” style start with the paddles in the sand.
While SUP Racer will obviously be focusing on the stand up paddling, Jamie has extended his unique format to include dedicated swimming and prone paddleboarding survivor races, which are completely separate from the SUP race (though you’re welcome to enter all three if you’re feeling particularly fit). This pays homage not only to the lifeguard background that JM (and many other top SUP athletes) have enjoyed, but also the traditional ocean racing culture of southern California.
And as we talked about last month, the Waterman’s Festival JM Survivor SUP Race will also be Open Board Class, i.e. there are no board classes — the stand up paddle competitors are free to race whatever they think suits themselves (and the conditions) the best. It’s another interesting little tweak on an event that’s selling itself as something fresh and innovative.
I’m really excited to find out how this all unfolds, as I believe it really has the potential to help elevate the sport of stand up paddle racing to an exciting new level. That’s exactly what Jamie has set out to do with the Watemran’s Festival — he mentioned the phrase “next level” half a dozen times when I spoke to him.
SUP racing can be a little boring at times, to put it mildly, with only the hardcore fans willing to sit and watch most races. But if we want to grow the sport beyond the tribe and attract more interest from more mainstream sponsors, media and fans, we’ve gotta make our sport more exciting. And I think the “Survivor” is one of the most exciting SUP race formats there is, especially when combined with the kind of short, sharp, consistent waves that Huntington is famous for.
I really think it’s time for stand up paddling to get more daring and innovative with racing formats. We’ve seen what Jacko’s Super Lap has done in a few big events this year, and I’m hoping the Quiksilver JM Survivor Race can take things to another new level.
But while the event will be one of the most competitive races of the year (as well as one of the most lucrative — there’s a massive $30,000 prize purse, with a good chunk of that going to the stand up paddlers), Jamie isn’t promising the world — he’s the first to admit this year’s inaugural event is simply just a first step, and that if all goes well there are much bigger and better things in the pipeline for 2017 and beyond.
So if you want to be part of the festivities and see what all the buzz is about, get down to Huntington Beach this Sunday (the full schedule is below) and get out on the water. Or just sit back and watch the entertaining action from the grandstand.
(But if you do want to compete, don’t be one of those paddlers that stands on the beach filling out paperwork 10 minutes before the race — go and register online already.)
Presented by Quiksilver Waterman Collection
Featuring the JM Survivor Race
– Sunday August 14th
6:30-10:00am Athlete check in
745am- Briefing for 1 Mile Swim
8:00am- Open Water 1 Mile Swim
9:00am- Briefing for Open and intermediate SUP races
9:15am- Open 5 Mile Prone & SUP Paddleboard Race
9:30am – 1 Mile Intermidiate Race
11:00am- Briefing for JM Survivor Swim Race – Mens and Womens
11:15am- Survivor Swim Race Womens (30 min)
11:30 am – Briefing for JNR Lifeguard Races
11:45am- Survivor Swim Race Mens(30 min)
12:15pm- JNR Lifeguard Races (45 min)
1:15pm JM SUP Survivor Briefing – Mens and Women’s
1:30pm Survivor SUP Womens ( 45 min)
2:15pm Survivor SUP Mens (45 min)
3:15pm Briefing survivor Lifeguard
3:30pm Survivor Lifeguard (45 min)
4:15:pm Briefing – DASH FOR CASH
4:30pm DASH FOR CASH – SWIM
4:50pm DASH FOR CASH – SUP
5:00pm DASH FOR CASH – LIFEGUARD