Here’s what happened at the invite-only, $100,000 “Iron X” event in Australia

 

Courtney Hancock and Caine Eckstein have won the ‘Iron X’ multi-discipline paddle race on Australia’s Sunshine Coast today, beating an all-star field of ocean athletes to win the invite-only, $100-000 specialty event.

The inaugural edition of Iron X (aka “the biggest race you’ve never heard of”), which combines traditional surf lifesaving (known as “ironman” in Australia but better described as “lifeguard racing” for the rest of the world) with SUP and crossfit to create a five-discipline test of skill, strength and endurance.

SUP and crossfit (“ninja warrior-style beach workout” is probably a better term) joined the traditional trifecta of ironman disciplines, prone paddleboarding (“board”), surfski (“ski”) and swimming. The board/ski/swim format has been a staple of the Australian sporting landscape for decades, and Iron X has garnered plenty of buzz (and a bit of controversy) for spicing things up in a quest to return to the sport’s 1990s golden days as one of Australia’s favourite TV spectacles.

But while much was made of SUP’s inclusion in the event it was still a format that heavily favoured the ironmen and women. The SUP superstars who competed in the nationally-televised spectacle – including world number one Michael Booth and 2018 #1 Lincoln Dews – put up a good fight but were ultimately out-muscled by several of the top athletes from the Nutri-Grain Ironman/Ironwoman pro series.

Lincoln looked good early, leading the race and looking a solid chance for a famous (and very lucrative–$25k for the winner) victory before falling on the overhead bars. Lincoln eventually limped over the line at the back of the field just behind Molokai champion James “Jimmy” Casey.

The best of the SUP-recognised athletes finished 6th and 7th respectively with Ironman-turned-SUP-athlete Jackson Maynard edging out world number one Michael Booth.

Caine Eckstein — who set a world record for doing 7620 chin-ups in 24 hours and whose brother Shannon is one of the greatest ironman athletes of all time — dominated the back-end of the race to win by more than a minute from Nutri-Grain regulars Kendrick Louis and Tanyn Lyndon.

The women’s event was a lot closer with less than half a minute separating the top five. Finishing fifth was a name that should be familiar to SUP aficionados, Jordan Mercer. Jordie has won more ISA medals than any other athlete (virtually unbeatable in the prone events) and has dabbled in international SUP races. She’s one of the current Queens of surf life-saving but has battled multiple injuries over the past couple of seasons.

 


 

Iron X 2020: Men’s Results

 

Iron X 2020: Women’s Results

 


 

I’ve been off the grid the past week so I couldn’t follow Iron X as closely as I would’ve liked, but I’m very interested to see what the reaction is from athletes and fans–both in the SUP and surf life-saving communities. The initial posts on Insta from the likes of Boothy, Jimmy and Jordie seem overwhelmingly positive (a “catalyst for resurgence” for the sport of surf-life saving was Jordie’s summation).

Iron X has is a big experiment and an incredible opportunity for SUP to be included in such a high-profile event. Ironman/ironwoman racing is a huge sport in Australia–far bigger than SUP in terms of both profile and participation. The entire event is designed to be spectator- and TV-friendly, which is something stand up paddling has seriously struggled with, so at the very least I’m sure we can learn a few things from it.

We’ll see what comes of it in the future, but for now here are a few Insta-reactions from the SUP crew.

You should also check out James Casey’s great Iron X recap.

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Iron-X was an incredible event and an exciting opportunity for me. The crowd was super pumped and involved, it was fun, the skill level was high and my off season fitness was tested. I went as low as last and as high as forth to finish in an eventual 7th. There was a total of 17 different skills, ocean legs, obstacles and exercises to complete. It was well outside my comfort zone in a sport that I hadn’t done since 2012 and I enjoyed the challenge. Training was limited for the event and I focused on being as efficient as possible and tried to limit mistakes. It was also really cool to see SUP showcased on live national TV. I hope more comes from this, and I hope from my involvement that it helps bring new eyes to these great sports. Well done to the athletes and thanks to all those who were down there supporting and watching the event. Thanks to @slsaustralia, @nutrigrainau, @ironseries & @shawraceteam for making this happen!

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I think this day, the inaugural NutriGrain Iron X will be remembered as the catalyst for a surf Iron resurgence. Brave athletes putting it all on the line and taking a calculated risk for the love of their sport. The courage on display throughout this event made an incredibly wide spread audience on beach and watching live on FOX, stop, engage, admire and praise the insanely hard working athletes involved. It felt incredible being part of that. Surf sports is deserving of an incredibly successful future. I want the youth of our sport to aspire towards the highest ranks knowing they can make a career out of doing so. Because, they deserve to, we deserve to. Why not!? I felt an overwhelming sense of pride to be in the company of great people doing something productive for our sport. In life, if nothing changes, then nothing changes. You can’t wish and will the ‘days of old’ to this current day and age and expect it to transpire. It’s a different time now, so a different approach and plan was and is necessary. Something say … Drastic and controversial, yet calculated and professional. An event which will display the charisma, courage, unrivalled athleticism and diversity of Iron athletes. An event with a point of difference which will (KEY POINT) inevitably invite a new audience back into the world of Surf Iron racing. Thanks to the #NutriGrainIronX shake up, the ‘days of new’ are looking bright. I’ve never been one to sit and complain about situations. I believe taking action is productivity and productivity is progress. Hold on Nippers!! You’ve got a wild, rewarding and exciting journey ahead of you. I’m one of many, committed to making sure of that. We’ve got this! Enjoy and #LiveUnstoppable. Jordan Mercer xx

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