2012 has already seen a massive amount of Stand Up Paddle racing action. Everywhere from California to Carolina, Germany to the Gold Coast, Hawaii to … well, you get the point. Lots of SUP races.
But who have been the stand out performers? Who’s been paddling like crazy and consistently making the podium?
Last year we chose the Top 11 of 2011, which for the first time ever ranked the best stand up paddle racers in the world based purely on race results. In six months time we’ll be following that up with the Top 12 of 2012 (see what we did there? clever!) but we’re impatient and can’t wait until the end of the year to make another Best Of list.
So seeing it’s exactly six months into 2012, we figured it was a good enough time to rank the Top 6 Paddlers of 2012 (…so far).
This week it’s the Top 6 Men and next week it’s the Top 6 Women.
UPDATE: The women’s ranking was too close to split… so we’re going to wait until December, where we can make an accurate ranking, rather than try and guess.
What do you think? Did we get the rankings right? And who else should be on the list?!
This isn’t a list of our favourites (though all these guys are pretty cool…). This is based purely on the race results. Nothing else. So check out our rankings below then leave a comment and join in the debate.
#1 // Travis GRANT // Australia // C4 Waterman
Travis Grant is the most underrated Stand Up Paddle racer in the world.
He won the biggest race of the year so far, the Survivor Race @ the Waikiki Paddle Festival (defending his BoP Hawaii 2011 victory), then backed it up with a 3rd in the Long Distance race the next day (on a board he was riding for the first time, no less).
Travis was THE form paddler in Hawaii during May: one week after Waikiki he surprised the locals (and himself) to claim 2nd @ OluKai, finishing ahead of Danny Ching, Dave Kalama, Jamie Mitchell and local guns such as Livio Menelau and Jeremy Riggs. This was all on a borrowed board he’d only paddled twice before the race.
He also snagged a victory against 10x World Champ Jamie Mitchell at the 12 Towers Ocean Race on Australia’s Gold Coast, then brought home an individual Gold and Silver medal from the ISA World Champs in Peru.
Travis is always humble, often underrated and totally worthy of the #1 ranking for the first six months of 2012.
Boards: C4 Waterman // Paddles: C4 Waterman
// Travis Grant’s major race results in 2012
1st: Waikiki Paddle Festival Survivor Race
1st: 12 Towers Ocean Race, Australia
1st: ISA World Championship Short Course, Peru
2nd: ISA World Championship Long Distance, Peru
2nd: OluKai, Maui
3rd: Waikiki Paddle Festival Long Distance Race
#2 // Connor BAXTER // Hawaii // Starboard
The young gun who swept all before him in the second half of 2011 has (mostly) carried his fine form into 2012.
Connor took out the highly competitive “Doctor” Ocean Race in Perth at the start of the year and hasn’t slowed down since. He racked up wins in Mexico, California and Hawaii and looked unbeatable until May…
But at the biggest race of the year, Connor only managed a 4th place behind Travis, Danny and Jamie. Granted he wasn’t feeling anywhere near 100%, but results are results and that race is probably the only thing keeping the young Maui charger out of the #1 spot.
He did get some revenge the next week though, taking out the OluKai downwinder on Maui ahead of the same three guys that beat him a week earlier (and apparently even then he still wasn’t feeling 100%… freak).
If Connor can defend his victory at the Battle of the Paddle California in September, he’s a good chance to move up into #1 by the time our “Top 12 of 2012″ ranking comes out in December.
Boards: Starboard // Paddles: Starboard
// Connor Baxter’s major race results in 2012
1st: The Doctor Ocean Race, Australia
1st: OluKai, Maui
1st: Waterman’s Paddle For Humanity, Dana Point
1st: Punta Sayulita Long Distance, Mexico
1st: Punta Sayulita Elite Race, Mexco
4th: Waikiki Paddle Festival Survivor Race
#3 // Danny CHING // California // 404 Simple Mobile
Danny Ching has been the #1 paddler in the world the past couple of years, but now everyone else is starting to catch up.
Though despite only being #3 on this list, Ching is still the instant favourite at pretty much every race he enters, which highlights just how close the world’s top SUP racers are right now.
You could throw a blanket over the top bunch of guys at the moment.
Ching is arguably the best all round SUP racer in the world as well, able to dominate races whether they’re flat water, surf, or downwinders.
Ask Travis Grant or Connor Baxter and they’ll quickly tell you that flat water isn’t exactly their speciality. But Ching consistently wins in all conditions, meaning he could easily jump up in the rankings by the end of the year.
One thing’s for sure though, Danny Ching doesn’t like being anything other than #1. So he’ll probably be training like crazy ahead of his home town Battle of the Paddle in September.
Boards: 404 // Paddles: Riviera
// Danny Ching’s major race results in 2012
1st: Orange Bowl Paddle Champs, Florida
1st: Hanohano Ocean Challenge (14′), California
1st: Hal Rosoff Classic, California
1st: Carolina Cup, North Carolina
2nd: Waikiki Paddle Festival Survivor Race
3rd: OluKai, Maui
#4 // Jamie MITCHELL // Australia // Quiksilver, Surftech
Jamie Mitchell was the first superstar of paddle boarding: In between surfing the world’s biggest waves, he became unbeatable at the epic Molokai-2-Oahu race (where he won his 10th straight title last year).
But since transitioning to Stand Up Paddle racing, JM hasn’t had it all his own way. After taking out the Battle of the Paddle California in 2009, the Aussie has had to put up with some extremely strong competition, mainly from the three guys ahead of him on this list.
So far 2012 has thrown up mixed results for the 10x World Champ. He lost an extremely tight race with Ching at the Orange Bowl Paddle Champs in Florida, literally threw away victory at the Surf Race in Peru (gotta carry your paddle over the line!), though did make amends the next day in the Long Distance race.
Then came Hawaii and the Waikiki Paddle Festival, which included Mitchell’s signature “Survivor” SUP race. Despite looking strong in the knockout rounds, JM had to settle for third in the Survivor final, behind Travis and Danny. However he backed up the next day with one of the performances of the year.
Jamie paddled the Waikiki Long Distance race in the 14′ class, whereas most of the elite guys were on 16′ and 17′ unlimited boards. Despite the big handicap, the champ came amazingly close to scoring an outright victory, finishing 2nd behind only Scott Gamble on his unlimited board.
Always a favourite with both the crowds and the bookies, Jamie Mitchell could win any SUP race, anywhere in the world, at any time, and “#4″ just doesn’t do him justice.
Boards: Surftech // Paddles: Quickblade
// Jamie Mitchell’s major race results in 2012
1st: Surftech Jay Race, Calfornia
1st: ISA World SUP Championship Long Distance, Peru
2nd: ISA World SUP Championship Short Course, Peru
2nd: Orange Bowl Paddle Champs, Florida
2nd: 12 Towers Ocean Race, Australia
3rd: Waikiki Paddle Festival Survivor Race
5th: OluKai, Maui
#5 // Eric Terrien // FRANCE // BIC Sport
Eric Terrien is the only guy on this list who possibly needs an introduction. Not because he doesn’t deserve his spot near the top (he certainly does), but simply because the world of Stand Up Paddle racing has always been fixated on California, Hawaii and Australia.
The Frenchman hasn’t come out of nowhere though; he quietly achieved Top 10 finishes at both Battle of the Paddle races in 2011. But it’s been in the first half of 2012 that Terrien has stepped his paddling up another gear entirely.
Despite a SUP racing scene that’s absolutely exploding, Eric Terrien is still unrivalled in Europe. The guy has won pretty much every major race on the continent this year, and along the way racked up possibly the most prize money of any paddler in the world.
Terrien also showed he can match it with the best of the best by taking Bronze at the ISA Long Distance race in Peru (not far behind Jamie and Travis).
The Battle of the Paddle in September will be a big test to see where Terrien fits in among the world’s elite, though considering his results so far this year I’m confident we’ll be seeing him again in the Top 12 of 2012 come December…
Boards: BIC Sport // Paddles: Select
// Eric Terrien’s major race results in 2012
1st: SUP Race Cup Beach Race, France
1st: SUP Race Cup Long Distance, France
1st: Massilia SUP Race Beach Race, France
1st: Massilia UP Race Long Distance, France
1st: Stand Up World Series La Torche Sprints, France
1st: Stand Up World Series La Torche Long Distance, France
1st: XTRM 25k Open Ocean Race, Spain
1st: Happy Summer SUP Race Namur, Belgium
1st: King Of The Olympic Canal, Spain
2nd: Lost Mills International, Germany
3rd: ISA World Championship Long Distance, Peru
As hard as we tried, we seriously couldn’t pick a #6 for this list.
There are simply too many elite stand up paddle racers out there right now and it’s almost impossible to split them based on the race results over the past six months.
And no, this isn’t some sneaky little trick to boost our page views, we really couldn’t decide who should be #6.
So we’re passing the hard work on to you ;-)
Leave a comment on our Facebook page and tell us who should be #6. Don’t just pick your favourite paddler; this isn’t a popularity contest, it’s all about the races.