As if the biggest weekend of the year needed any additional spice, we’ve now got a little extra sizzle courtesy of The Paddle League.
After a season that officially began in Tahiti six months ago to the day, the battle for the inaugural Paddle League Men’s World Title will be decided by two Aussie athletes and one big weekend of racing in Southern California.
The Pacific Paddle Games presented by Salt Life is the setting for the title fight between current ratings leader Michael Booth and his compatriot Lincoln Dews (ranked #2 in the world). And the equation is fairly simple: If Lincoln wins the PPGs and Boothy misses the podium, David will snatch the crown from Goliath at the final race of the season.
The Women’s World Title will be secured by Germany’s unstoppable force Sonni Honscheid regardless of this weekend’s results. More analysis to follow next week.
The men’s field is rolling deeper than ever this year – 8 different athletes have shared the 10 event wins on The Paddle League World Tour – but Lincoln and Boothy have been the clear standouts. No other athletes have a shot at the title at this point (though it must be mentioned that Titouan Puyo and Connor Baxter are only narrowly out of title contention after very solid seasons — they’ll definitely be among the favourites this weekend).
Boothy’s path to glory has been clear: He was victorious in Carolina two weeks after that infamous runner-up finish in Tahiti. Victory in Bilbao (where Lincoln was runner-up) was matched a fortnight later by a runner-up finish in Germany (where Lincoln was the victor–you seeing a pattern here?). In a season that counts an athlete’s best five results, Boothy already has four major point scores on the board.
Lincoln has shown he’s the best in the world on his day, meaning he’d be a deserving world champion, but he hasn’t maintained the same consistency of his fellow Aussie. Lincoln was victorious in Germany, finished runner-up in Bilbao and Hossegor and hit the podium in Japan. But he also missed out on any serious points after fading in Carolina and Tahiti then retiring injured at Molokai.
But where Lincoln has been less consistent he’s arguably been harder working.
The DEEP/Quickblade team rider has thrown his hat into the ring twice as often as Boothy on The Paddle League World Tour, and that dedication could pay off this weekend.
Boothy has raced 10 times on The Paddle League’s broader platform in 2018, however most of those appearances were at the Regionals. He’s only raced 4x “majors” — Tahiti, Carolina, Bilbao and Germany — compared with 8x for Lincoln.
All of this counts for little though. The only thing that matters is who’s holding the #1 ranking come Sunday afternoon when the season officially draws to a close.
So who’s your money on?
The PPGs is an “overall” event that combines results from the distance and surf races — all of the prize money and Paddle League points are based on the overall result, which means you’ve gotta perform in both disciplines.
I’d say Lincoln has the slight edge this weekend (in the surf race at least; Boothy will be hard to match in the distance), but the rankings equation strongly favours the current ratings leader. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lincoln overpowers his compatriot in Dana Point, but to do that and also defeat the other 50 international athletes while keeping Boothy at least two spots behind him is going to be a mountainous task.
We all love a good underdog story, but if I was betting with my head I’d put money on Boothy to retain the number one spot and clinch The Paddle League World Title.
Whichever way it goes, you can watch the title fight as it happens with SUP the Mag’s Facebook Live stream of the Pacific Paddle Games.
The event kicks off 8:30am Saturday morning with the distance race before we spend the rest of the weekend where things get most exciting: In the waves for the surf race.
The surf race qualifiers are lunchtime Saturday before the semis and finals take place on Sunday. The men’s final is pinned at 4pm Sunday California time, and I’ll be there calling the action alongside Dave Kalama and Beau Hodge. View the complete PPGs event schedule over on the official site, and tune in on Facebook all weekend to watch the season-ending showdown.
WORLD TITLE SCENARIOS
Lincoln Dews must win the Pacific Paddle Games to have any chance of clinching The Paddle League World Title. He’s the only athlete that can stop Michael Booth from claiming the crown.
– Lincoln wins the PPGs and Boothy finishes 4th or worse; Lincoln wins the World Title
– Lincoln wins the PPGs and Boothy finishes 3rd; tied for points and both will be crowned world champion
– Lincoln wins the PPGs and Boothy finishes 2nd; Boothy wins the World Title
– Lincoln doesn’t win the PPGs; Boothy wins the World Title
If any of the other current top 10 men win the Pacific Paddle Games, they can potentially finish the season…
Titouan Puyo (currently ranked #3) can finish no higher than #3 in the world
Connor Baxter (currently #4) can finish as high as #2
Noic Garioud (#5) can finish #3
Marcus Hansen (#6) can finish #3
Daniel Hasulyo (#7) can finish #4
Travis Grant (#8) can finish #3 not competing
Bruno Hasulyo (#9) can finish #5
Mo Freitas (ranked #10) can finish #5