Welcome back to the ‘FourTwentySix,’ the oddly-named new column on SUP Racer that aims to find the “stories behind the stats” by performing deep analysis of the world rankings database.
One of the main goals of the SUP Racer World Rankings is to find the world’s number one paddler. It’s a complex system that uses a lot of algorithms and a lot of results from around the world. There are currently 6000+ paddlers and 100+ events in the system, but underpinning the entire leaderboard is a simple idea: That a paddler’s “Best 5” results of the year will determine their total world ranking points.
But the “Best 5” method only tells part of the story…
The current system favours big results more than consistent results. That’s how Danny Ching held onto a top 15 ranking despite hardly racing at all. It’s the same way that Lincoln Dews, who had a mixed season and only raced seven times (about half as much as his rivals), ranked at the pointy-end of the table. Lincoln had world-class results in China and Paris, which propelled him up the leaderboard, but he didn’t enjoy the consistency (or the regular competition) of some of his rivals.
So I thought it might be interesting to look beyond the “Best 5” and try to uncover who the most-consistent paddlers of the year were.
And what I came up with is the “B-Team World Rankings.”
The B-Team World Rankings are an athlete’s total points from their 6th-10th best results of the year. It looks beyond the big results and shows how deep they went into the season. And apart from being a fun little statistical sideshow, this B-Team leaderboard (which you can find down below) is the best method I’ve found to objectively measure consistency.
You’ve gotta be consistent, or rather: consistently good, to rank near the top of the B-Team rankings. Athletes who peak at just a few events can still rank high on the SUP Racer World Rankings, but you can’t hide a lean season on the B-Team leaderboard.
On the leaderboard (which you’ll find down below), I’ve included both the “B-Team” (6th-10th best results of the season) and the “A-Team” (‘Best 5’ results aka the real world rankings). I’ve also added a virtual “Best 10” points score, which combines the A & B teams into a Super Team. The ‘Best 10’ is obviously a more accurate ranking than the B-Team (which ignores an athlete’s best five performances), but the real question is whether ‘Best 10’ produces a more accurate ranking than the ‘Best 5’ system we currently use.
I’ll address that point in a moment, but firstly: Who are the most consistent paddlers of the season?
If I had to hand out an award, I’d say it was Vinni, Titou and Boothy.
Vinni and Titou are the most-prominent movers on the B-Team leaderboard. World number four Titouan was only a fraction of a result from being world number two on the main leaderboard, and according to the stats he had a more consistent year than #3 Bruno and #2 Connor. This is highlighted in both his “B-Team” score, which is second only behind Boothy, and his “Best 10” ranking (also #2 by a considerable margin).
Vinni’s move up the leaderboard — he’s currently #7 in the world but the Brazilian would be #3 on the “B-Team” and #5 on the “Best 10” — is no surprise either. Vinnicius is both a workhorse and a traveler; he goes to a lot of races and he gets a lot of good results. He still needs to improve by 1-2% to challenge Boothy for the top spot, but Vinni has been nothing if not consistent over the past 12 months (a serious improvement from his earlier years where he was a rollercoaster who would either 3rd or 30th).
Ty Judson is another big mover on the B-Team, jumping +4 to #5. That’s largely thanks to his endless summer in Europe where he not only raced nearly every weekend but hit the podium nearly every time. Ty also moves +2 to #7 on the “Best 10” ranking to highlight that he’s a genuine contender for the top spots in 2020.
Martin Vitry and Tom Auber also make a big move, each jumping +7 spots on the B-Team leaderboard thanks to their consistent work ethic.
But without a doubt the most impressive athlete is still Michael Booth. His “B-Team” score is almost as good as Titou/Connor/Bruno’s “A-Team” total, while his combined “Best 10” is a mammoth 716 points — more than 200 ahead of Titou and more than double everyone outside the top six. This isn’t just consistency, this is sheer dominance.
Statistically speaking, Boothy’s season 2019 was simply extraordinary, and it’s yet another sign that he’s the world’s best paddler right now (not that we needed any more proof).
The women’s “B-Team World Rankings” also rewards the workhorses: Susak Molinero (+3) and Amandine Chazot (+4) crack the top four, leapfrogging the athletes that had big results but not a lot of results in season 2019: Seychelle, Sonni and April.
Susak had a breakout year last year, moving from “journeywoman” to genuine contender in the space of six months. The Spaniard started hitting the podium consistently instead of settling for her usual 4th- or 5th-place finishes. And she was a tireless campaigner. While Susak still hasn’t cracked the top five on the main leaderboard (currently #6), the B-Team rankings highlight her strong work ethic and willingness to travel-to-compete. I’m excited to see what she can do in 2020.
Amandine is a similar story. She does a lot of races and gets a lot of podium spots without the flashy big results of the top three or four women. So while the world rankings only have her pegged at #8, the B-Team leaderboard better highlights Amandine’s deep consistency and even deeper talent.
Fiona Wylde easily jumps up to #2 on the ‘Best 10’ system, leapfrogging Seychelle who had a much shorter season. Interestingly, Fiona even dethroned Olivia on the “B-Team” leaderboard, however the Frenchwoman is still be world number one under a Best 10 formula.
While all this talk of “B-Team World Rankings” is just a bit of unofficial fun, it does raise an interesting question: Should we increase the number of results that count for each athlete in 2020?
The rationale for including “only” the best five results was to give every paddler a chance to rank fairly. The more results we count, the harder it is for paddlers to reach the minimum threshold. And it’s been “best 5” ever since I started the SUP world rankings way back in 2013, so I’m hesitant to change it.
On the flipside, the fewer results we count, the less predictable (and, some would argue, the less accurate) the world rankings become. Because if we only count a few results, it only takes one or two big performances to jump up several spots on the leaderboard. This lessens the value of consistency, which one could argue is a more important criteria.
So, should we reward consistency throughout the season? Or do we keep it easier to reach a minimum number of results?
I’m leaning towards the former — I feel we should increase the number of counting results.
My thinking is this: There are 6,224 paddlers in the database and only 199 have 5x or more results, so it’s already only a tiny percentage that completely fill in their score sheet. Most paddlers are on there simply for recognition, not a top ranking.
Would it make that much of a difference if instead of just 3.2% completing their Best 5, only 2% completed their “Best 7” or “Best 10” results? In the overall scheme of things, probably not, but it would reward the athletes who perform all year long against those who peak sporadically.
The other point is that 2020 will have at least twice as many races as 2019 after we add more Regional Paddle Leagues next month, which gives every paddler more opportunities to fill out their score sheet. We could also look at splitting “combined” events (separate course/distance race that produce one overall ranking result) into two separate results.
But the most important question is this: Which system is more accurate? “Best 5” or “Best 10”? Or perhaps a “Best 7” or “Best 8” would be the magic number.
I’ll make a final decision on the World Rankings formula for 2020 this week — I aim to release the full criteria before the first major race of the season (the GlaGla Race in France on 18 January).
Until then, here’s a quick comparison of “Best 5” vs “Best 10” — scroll down for the full “B-Team World Rankings” leaderboard.
2019 Men’s World Rankings “BEST 5”
1st: Michael Booth (430.25)
2nd: Connor Baxter (316.58)
3rd: Bruno Hasulyo (314.35)
4th: Titouan Puyo (308.00)
5th: Lincoln Dews (259.23)
6th: Arthur Arutkin (256.43)
7th: Vinnicius Martins (228.63)
8th: Enzo Bennett (223.50)
9th: Ty Judson (216.84)
10th: Casper Steinfath (201.80)
2019 Men’s World Rankings “BEST 10”
1st: Michael Booth (716.00)
2nd: Titouan Puyo (503.21)
3rd: Connor Baxter (461.54)
4th: Bruno Hasulyo (430.87)
5th: Vinnicius Martins (379.68)
6th: Arthur Arutkin (377.49)
7th: Ty Judson (350.99)
8th: Enzo Bennett (331.08)
9th: Lincoln Dews (298.73)
10th: Daniel Hasulyo (293.73)
2019 Women’s World Rankings “BEST 5”
1st: Olivia Piana (404.00)
2nd: Seychelle (342.50)
3rd: Fiona Wylde (339.50)
4th: Sonni Hönscheid (313.88)
5th: April Zilg (301.58)
6th: Susak Molinero (267.08)
7th: Espe Barreras (237.88)
8th: Amandine Chazot (216.25)
9th: Lena Ribeiro (208.65)
10th: Jade Howson (194.58)
2019 Women’s World Rankings “BEST 10”
1st: Olivia Piana (628.83)
2nd: Fiona Wylde (593.10)
3rd: Seychelle (456.20)
4th: Susak Molinero (449.79)
5th: April Zilg (432.78)
6th: Sonni Hönscheid (405.88)
7th: Amandine Chazot (391.88)
8th: Espe Barreras (312.00)
9th: Caterina Stenta (307.33)
10th: Yuka Sato (305.61)
Men’s “B-Team” World Rankings
“B-Team” = total points from an athlete’s 6th-10th best results of the season
“A-Team” = total points from an athlete’s 1st-5th best results of the season (this is the same total points score as the real World Rankings)
“Best 10” = total points from an athlete’s 1st-10th best results of the season
Based on the 2019 SUP Racer World Rankings
Women’s “B-Team” World Rankings
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