Connor Baxter and Fiona Wylde have made it a clean sweep for Team Starboard at the Gorge Paddle Challenge in Hood River, Oregon today.
Fiona, the three-time defending champ, was once again unstoppable as her home course turned on the downwind conditions. Fiona’s fourth-straight DD crown cemented her reputation as not only the Queen of Hood River but also one of the most-talented bump-riders in the sport.
The victory tops off a big year for the Starboard superstar, with Fiona claiming four victories in Europe before returning home to take over the reigns of the famous JET (Junior Elite Team) training squad in Hood River from Gorge Paddle Challenge founder Steve Gates.
Behind Fiona, the women’s top six was identical in both runs, with Annie Reickert edging out April Zilg and Amandine Chazot to finish runner-up while Jade Howson and Seychelle rounded out the top half a dozen as the conditions fired down the famed Columbia River Gorge.
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4 in a row!!! 🙈🤩🥇 I couldn’t be happier to have won my 4th @gorgepaddlechallenge Double Downwinder today!! It was so much fun surfing bumps and sharing the river with all of these amazing ladies! . But…. the best part was my grandma who raced in her first viento run today at the age of 77! She had the biggest smile on her face and earned a standing ovation when she got third in her age group. Just goes to show, when one is having fun, all are having fun!! . Tomorrow is the course race! It’s going to be an epic day with tons of races, from grom to elite and everything in between! Come down to the waterfront part to cheer us on! . Photo: @gorgeusphoto 💯
Interestingly, Fiona finally ditched her beloved All-Star and began using the Starboard Ace this year (the Ace is Starboard’s traditional downwind model), whereas Connor is still riding the All-Star.
But Connor’s return to the top of the Oregon podium, which he last claimed in 2016, was much tougher than his teammate’s.
Fresh off his gold medal performance at the Pan-Ams in Peru, Connor took the opening leg of the Double Downwinder before keeping defending champ Noic Garioud within his sights on the second. Noic was quickest on the second run but the former world number one narrowly held on to win the overall by just 17 seconds.
Last year’s runner-up and Noic’s fellow New Cal wunderkind Clement Colmas took third this year as the young guns stepped up.
Connor and journeyman Josh Riccio were the only “men” in the top seven who are older than 21, with 16-year-old Keoni Sulpice from Tahiti and French duo Tom Auber and Alex Bicrel joining Noic and Clement at the pointy end of the field. While Connor and Noic were in a field of their own, every other position within the top nine finishers changed hands between the first and second runs.
Connor’s victory is his first major win of the season outside of the Pan-Ams, and it cements the Hawaiian’s reputation as the G.O.A.T. after a string of uncharacteristic misses in the past 18 months. The result also keeps the young guns at bay for at least one more season…
But everyone was somewhat upstaged by a couple of other young names, with giant-killing foil brothers Jeffrey and Finn Spencer finishing both of the eight-mile (13km) downwind runs about 15 minutes faster than the race boards.
Jeffrey narrowly held off his younger brother to claim the foil title, while Titouan Galea joined Noic and Clement in celebrating New Caledonian paddling by claiming third ahead of Austin Kalama Trent Carter and Paul Jackson.
There were just 27 competitors who completed the elite men’s Double Downwinder, a sharp drop from previous years. While there were several big names missing from Hood River this year, much of that drop coincides with the rise of a foiling division that saw 20 starters this year. It’ll be interesting to see if events such as the Gorge and Molokai move the foil race to a separate day in order to stem the bleeding in the race board divisions.
Here are the full results from the Hood.
Women’s Double Downwinder
|12||Kimberly Barnes||1:12:36||1:10:53||2:23:29||USA||Flying Fish||Masters|
|13||Jenn J Lee||1:11:34||1:13:41||2:25:15||USA||NSP||Open|
|14||Maddie Miller||1:11:53||1:13:30||2:25:24||USA||Flying Fish||Open|
Men’s Double Downwinder
|2||Noic Garioud||0:55:19||0:54:58||1:50:17||New Cal||Sunova||17U|
|3||Clement Colmas||0:55:35||0:55:39||1:51:14||New Cal||Starboard||18-39|
|18||Eri Tenorio||1:03:09||1:03:06||2:06:15||Brazil||Flying Fish||18-39|
|20||Jean Letourneur||1:05:55||1:01:56||2:07:51||France||free agent||18-39|
|21||Leif Bergstrom||1:04:47||1:03:56||2:08:43||USA||free agent||18-39|
|22||Steve Miller||1:04:58||1:04:59||2:09:57||USA||Flying Fish||40-49|
|24||Jake Graham||1:07:33||1:07:15||2:14:48||USA||Flying Fish||18-39|
|28||Guilherme Dos Reis||0:59:38||DNS||3:59:38||Brazil||SIC||18-39|
|29||Darrell Horton II||1:17:45||DNS||4:17:45||USA||SIC||40-49|
Foil Double Downwinder
raw results available on PaddleGuru