The past 31 days have seen a string of massive races light up the second half of the season, with Molokai, the JM Survivor Race at Huntington and the Gorge Paddle Challenge giving us plenty of great stories, highlights and leaderboard shake-ups.
But now that we’re in the middle of a three week lull, let’s take a breather and have a look at what’s coming up next. While the next major isn’t for another month – the Pacific Paddle Games – next week we’ve got two big races that’ll showcase two very different versions of our sport.
From 7th-11th of September it’s the classic 11 City Tour in Holland, a truly unique event that offers one of the toughest challenges in the world of paddling. The 11 Cities is a five day stage race that covers more than 200km of canals and lakes in the rural Dutch province of Friesland, with a Tour de France-style leaderboard keeping track of the accumulated daily times (winners usually sneak in just under the 24 hour mark).
The 11 Cities challenge is as much mental as it is physical, with many a strong paddler having been broken over the years (2016 marks the 8th annual edition).
We’ll have a lot more to say about Holland in the days ahead, but for now let’s take a closer look at the other big race happening next week: The Mynavi Japan Cup.
Now in its second year, The Japan Cup has quickly become one of the most significant events in Asia, and certainly the most lucrative. In fact, The Japan Cup will probably go down as the third richest SUP race in the world for 2016, with a total prize purse of around $29,000 USD, or three million Japanese Yen to be exact, which includes around $10,000 for the top guy.
That’s not a bad payout for a weekend’s work.
The Japan Cup is a two-day affair, with a long distance race and a survivor-style knockout sprint competition (world ranking points are based on the combined results), along with the usual open races and junior showdowns. The event takes place in Chigasaki, about an hour south of Tokyo, which is apparently the birthplace of surfing in Japan.
Last year’s champion (and newly-minted world number two) Mo Freitas will return to the Land of the Rising Sun to defend his title, though he’ll have a trio of top ranked Aussies to contend with this year. Michael Booth (world number seven), James Casey (#12) and Toby Cracknell (#13) are all set to compete, though the one to watch could be Japan’s national champion Kenny Kaneko (currently under-rated at #26 in the world), who showed last weekend in Hong Kong that he’s in world-beating form after dispatching with Kai Lenny and Casper Steinfath in a grueling 21km grind.
I’m still waiting to see which of the top women will take on Japan’s finest, but I know a couple of top-ranked ladies are currently looking at plane tickets to Tokyo.
Though perhaps the biggest highlight of the race will be witnessing the progression of the local athletes.
Japan is home to one of the most vibrant, stoked-out and fastest-growing paddling communities in the world. Combine that with the extremely warm hospitality that visiting visiting paddlers receive, along with the cultural and culinary delights this nation has to offer, and The Japan Cup sounds like a pretty good stop on the international circuit.
You can get more info about The Mynavi Japan Cup over on the official site, and while we’re waiting for race day, here’s a rad little recap from last year’s event.