Twelve months ago to the day, we were standing on the shore of Salt Creek beach watching some of the most spectacular, carnage-fueled racing in the history of stand up paddling.
The 2014 Battle of the Paddle was an epic event. Not only for the all-time conditions but also the all-time field of competitors. The BOP was always known as the “Super Bowl of SUP” for the way it attracted virtually every big name to California, yet even by its own standards the 2014 BOP was on another level.
Based on our Race Index formula, the 2014 Battle of the Paddle Men’s Elite Race scored 92.0% out of a possible 100, meaning almost all the top ranked paddlers were on the starting line. No other race has ever gone above 65%.
The 2014 BOP Elite Women’s Race wasn’t too far behind, scoring 77.0% on the Race Index to easily become the highest scoring race of 2014.
And that was just the Elite Race. Although the Distance Race had a weaker field, it still racked up plenty of points on the Race Index, scoring 48.0% and 38.5% in the men’s and women’s races respectively.
All of this meant one thing: The 2014 BOP had a huge bearing on the SUP Racer World Rankings. For the past twelve months, the 7th and final edition of the Battle of the Paddle California has been looming large over the rankings, inflating the points of those who performed well at Salt Creek and holding back those who didn’t.
But when the BOP announced earlier this year that it wouldn’t be returning, it set in motion a ticking time bomb known as the BOP-pocalypse, with almost all of the world’s best paddlers set to lose a big bag of points on the day the Battle was removed from the rankings system.
And that day is today.
The SUP Racer World Rankings uses a floating 12 month system, which means all events count in the system for one full year (or until that same race comes around again). But because the BOP has been indefinitely put on ice, it has to be deleted from the rankings database after exactly 365 days.
If you head on over to the World Rankings you’ll see that it’s total destruction on the Leaderboards. Almost all of the top paddlers are in the red, meaning their total points tally has dropped this week. Some have dropped very significantly.
I guess it’s a testament to the significance of the BOP that it’s disappearance has become the equivalent of an atomic bomb being dropped on the world rankings.
Though it wasn’t just the Battle of the Paddle that had an impact on the rankings this week. Apart from the BOP-pocalypse, the other change in points comes from the Huntington Beach Pro. Although it “only” scored 48.0% this year, which is just over half of what last year’s BOP Elite Race was worth, Huntington is still the fourth highest scoring race of the year so far, behind only the 63.0% Carolina Cup, the 56.0% Gorge Distance Race and the 52.0% Gorge Course Race. That means the top performers down by the pier this week, such as Kai, Mo and Casper, gave themselves a nice cushion to soften the blow of the BOP-pocalypse.
Below are a few of the highlights (and some analysis of how/what/why).
Travis Grant is the new world number one
Travis becomes just the third athlete to claim the crown after Connor Baxter’s long reign and Danny Ching’s brief stint at the top after the Gorge. We already showed Trav was the best paddler in the world this year with our Mid-Year World Rankings, but now it’s official: The humble Aussie champion is the best performing paddler of the past 12 months. Trav’s extraordinary season includes wins at Carolina, Molokai and in Europe, as well as runner-up finishes at OluKai and the Gorge. Trav’s margin is only slim right now, but if he wins next weekend at the Pacific Paddle Games, the NSP team rider will have a giant lead on top of the table.
Kai Lenny clings to world number two
Kai had more points dropping with the BOP-pocalypse than anyone, due to his amazing victory in last year’s BOP Elite Race ahead of Jake Jensen, Danny Ching and virtually all of the world’s best. But fortunately for the Naish superstar, Kai has been on a golden run the past couple of months. He had a shocker up in the Gorge, but apart from that he finished second at Molokai and won the 38.0% World Series race in Barcelona, the 35.5% Hayama Pro in Japan and on the weekend took out the 48.0% Huntington Beach Pro, the fourth highest scoring event of the year. Those results gave Kai a soft cushion to land on after the BOP-pocalypse pushed him over a cliff, and he now sits just behind Travis (but only just ahead of Danny and Connor).
Danny Ching, Connor Baxter within striking distance
Both Danny and Connor could move back to world number one with next weekend’s Pacific Paddle Games, which should easily be the highest scoring race of the year (I’m estimating 80-84% on the men’s side). Whoever gets the best result out of Kai/Danny/Connor should instantly move into at least #2, as you could throw a virtual blanket over these three guys right now, however a win or a very strong result for any of them could see yet another change to the world number one.
Titouan Puyo is ready to pounce
Titouan was the only guy in the top 15 not holding any points from last year’s BOP, which meant he didn’t drop any points this week. With Travis, Kai, Danny and Connor all sliding to below 200 overall points, Titou is now within shouting distance of the top-tier. It’s been a meteoric rise for the humble New Caledonian, who only started racing a couple of years ago (though he does have a 10 year outrigger career behind him) and immediately started making an impact. This year Titou has taken his talents to the next level, and thoroughly deserves his place in the world’s top five. Can he crack the top three next weekend at Doheny? I wouldn’t bet against him. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if Titou is the world number one in another year or two…
Jake Jensen’s annus horribilus
Jake was runner-up at last year’s BOP Elite Race, finishing just behind Kai and ahead of Danny as the top three surfed the same wave to the beach (and because Danny dropped his paddle in the shorebreak and allowed Jake to sprint past him). But that was Jake’s last big result, with 2015 turning into a nightmare run of uncharacteristically poor performances. The Fanatic team rider has a chance to redeem himself at Doheny next weekend, but if not he could find himself outside the top 10 by the end of the year. The BOP-pocalypse sent Jake sliding from #6 to #10, though that wasn’t as bad as his brother Jayden’s drop: He’s down 45 spots to #92.
Casper Steinfath jumps three spots
The Danish Viking, one of the best ambassadors our young sport has, leapfrogged Kelly Margetts and Georges Cronsteadt inside the top 10, and then went a further one spot higher when Jake slid way down. The Naish, Quickblade and now Red Bull team rider sits well clear of the top 10 chase pack, and could realistically move inside the top five with a big result at the PPGs. His third place finish at the Huntington Beach Pro on the weekend, the fourth highest scoring race of 2015, not only gave him a cushion against the BOP-pocalypse but was even enough for him to increase his overall points tally ever so slightly. Casper joins Brazil’s Vinnicius Martins and South Africa’s Dylan Frick as the only athletes whose +/- points are “in the green” this week.
Kenny Kaneko gets a free ride into the Top 20
All of the athletes that scored good results at BOP 2014 have been penalised today, however those who weren’t at Salt Creek (or who had a poor finish) have been indirectly rewarded even if their points didn’t change this week. One such example is Kenny Kaneko, who wasn’t holding any BOP points in his best five and therefore is treading water right now, unmoved on 51.74 total points. But even though his points didn’t increase, the SIC team rider shot up five spots after so many fellow top 20 contenders took a nosedive. It’s a big move for Japan’s #1, and shows that his amazing result at the Gorge (where he finished ahead of Danny Ching and a dozen more of the world’s finest in the distance race) was no fluke.
Sonni Hönscheid jumps to world number two
Sonni moves up three spots to sit just behind the always-number-one Annabel Anderson. Sonni has had a stellar year, with a runner-up finish at Carolina (the biggest race of the year so far) and a second straight win at the uber-prestigious Molokai 2 Oahu crossing. The German benefits from having had a relatively poor BOP campaign last year, which meant she was one of the only top ladies not holding points from Salt Creek in her best five results.
Candice Appleby is the unlucky slider
Candice has been in great form the past few months, sweeping the ISA Worlds and then the World Series events in Barcelona, Japan and Huntington. However three things count against Candice and explain her fall from world #2 to #4: Firstly the World Series has a very shallow women’s field, which means it never counts for big points; secondly Candice was the 2014 Battle of the Paddle Elite Race champion, which means she just dropped a massive amount of points today; and thirdly she was absent from two of the biggest races of the year, Carolina and the Gorge. Candice’s win at Huntington on the weekend softened the blow of the BOP-pocalypse, but she’s still going to need a big result at the PPGs next weekend to regain her top two spot or challenge Annabel for world number one. Considering her recent form, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Candice up there on top of the podium.
So there you go. That’s the BOP-pocalypse. Head on over to the SUP Racer World Rankings to see the damage.
Oh and the BOP-pocalypse has also caused a few changes to the new Battle of the Brands Leaderboard, where we attempt to rank the world’s best race teams based on the performances of their leading athletes.
Expect another big change to the Leaderboards next weekend, with the Pacific Paddle Games expected to quite easily become the highest scoring race of 2015 on our Race Index. Early calculations peg the men’s race at roughly 80%. Though unlike the BOP, the PPGs weekend is only one race, with results from the surf race and the distance race combined to produce one single podium.
And on a side note, the BOP-pocalypse sort of highlights a flaw in the SUP Racer World Rankings, where one single race can have an outsized impact on the Leaderboards. It’s further evidence that we should perhaps introduce “protected events” in 2016.
With protected events, certain big races would have minimum points (eg. Carolina and Molokai could be worth at least 80%) so that the one big race a year (eg. 80-90% BOP/PPGs) doesn’t influence the rankings too much.
This whole “protected event” feature is something I’ve been tossing up lately and I’ll likely introduce it in some form next year, but that’s an argument for another day. Until now, enjoy the apocalypse.