Highlights Ahead — SUP Racer’s Big Preview of the 2016 Season (Who Else Is Excited?)

 
Pacific Paddle Games

“Charging Groms” — The Pacific Paddle Games should be a highlight again this year (photo: Andrew Welker for SUP Racer)

Welcome to 2016, and what a season it’s going to be. From big international races to classic events to new names to watch, I’ve got a feeling it’ll be a great year for stand up paddle racing.

But let’s backtrack for a moment: SUP Racer quietly celebrated its 4th birthday a few weeks ago, and with 1,687 posts in that time (an average of 420/year, 35/month or more than one post every single day), I’ve had quite a bit to reflect on.

It’s been amazing to witness the development of the sport in those four years. Four years ago, the SUP racing landscape looked very different: The BOP was the only show in town; the Carolina Cup was a small regional race; the World Series was only a month old; hardly anybody knew that Europe was full of world class athletes; Titouan Puyo hadn’t even picked up a SUP paddle yet; Kai Lenny had never stood on a SUP race podium. The list goes on…

A lot has obviously changed since then, and I get the feeling 2016 is going to usher in more changes than ever before.

There will also be big changes here at SUP Racer as we enter our fifth year. From new rankings to new features to new contributors and a couple of secret little projects, I’m really excited about what’s ahead. Though I’m even more excited about what’s in store for the wider world of stand up paddling.

While there are still many issues to resolve in our sport – lack of an authoritative governing body, industry wobbles, disunity among athletes, endless debates about competing board classes, etc – there are also plenty of promising signs. I believe season 2016 will witness great new races, amazing new athletes and new brands driving the sport forward. New heroes will stand up, new paddling nations will emerge, new events will set new levels of excellence and excitement, new groms will charger harder than ever before (see above), while new equipment will hit the market and generate renewed energy in the sport we love.

Perhaps we’re on the verge of the first truly golden age of stand up paddling. Or perhaps we’re not. Either way, I’m certain the next 12 months are going to be a fun adventure one way or another.

In the words of the late, great Big Kev: “I’m excited!”

So, without further ado, here are the races I’m most excited about this year.

THE MAJORS

Like the “Majors” in golf, the “Grand Slam” in tennis or the “Grand Tours” in the world of cycling, I believe SUP racing has its own set of big events that anchor the international season. They’re not always the flashiest races, but they all share at least one thing in common: They’re great events that have become woven into the very fabric of the sport.

This year I think the “Majors” are the Carolina Cup (April 23rd), Molokai (July 31st), Gorge Paddle Challenge (August 20th/21st) and the Pacific Paddle Games (October 1st/2nd).

According to our proprietary Race Index formula, which ranks every race in the world based on the level of elite competition standing on the start line, the three “biggest” (or, more accurately, most competitive) races of 2015 were the Pacific Paddle Games, Carolina and the Gorge (in that order). That alone almost guarantees inclusion as a major, but throw in their mass appeal to the beginners and weekend warriors and you’ve got a pretty mean combo.

Molokai may not have the large open race presence of the other three (the Ka’iwi Channel can humble even the most experienced paddler, as we saw last year), but it arguably has more prestige than any other race in the world. Winning Molokai is stand up paddling’s equivalent of summiting Everest.

And even though our automated Race Index algorithm totally underscored Molokai this year (something we’ll tweak and fix in 2016), it still attracted many of the best paddlers in the world. The top four guys on the end of season World Rankings – Connor, Travis, Danny and Kai – were all part of Molokai 2015, and I predict there will be even more top names joining them this year.

Carolina, Molokai, the Gorge and the PPGs. That’s the same lineup of ‘majors’ as last year. Though in 2015 these four were joined by a fifth major, the Payette River Games, an event that was sadly put on ice recently (though it may return in 2017 — watch this space).

Carolina Cup SUP

The Carolina Cup has become an anchor for the racing season (photo: Chris McQuiston for SUP Racer)

 

THE REGIONAL MAJORS

One step below the Majors we have the Regional Majors. These don’t carry quite the same levels of prestige or elite competition as the ‘Big Four,’ however they are all becoming very important foundations for the sport in their respective regions.

In 2016, I believe the ‘Regional Majors’ will be: The OluKai Ho’olaule’a on Maui (April 30th), Germany’s ‘Lost Mills’ (May 28th), the Japan Cup (early September), and Western Australia’s King of the Cut (late Nov/early Dec).

The King of the Cut has established itself as Australia’s premiere event. Just take a look at the conditions and you’ll see the appeal.

The Lost Mills has been Europe’s biggest race for a few years now. It was the most competitive race in Europe last year and sixth most competitive in the entire world (and #1 outside of the USA). While it’s not as flashy as other races in Europe, the Lost Mills has built a loyal following. It’s also a mighty challenge… ‘Conquer The Lost Mills’ should be its slogan.

Meanwhile I have a feeling the Japan Cup will step it up this year and be a great show, further highlighting the Land of the Rising Sun’s ascension in the paddling world.

OluKai needs absolutely no introduction — that’s a big one.

All that’s really missing is a regional major in Brazil, a market that I see as a future powerhouse in the world of stand up paddling. With the World Series having pulled out and the BOP Brazil put on ice (though it may return in some form this year), Brazil suddenly seems disconnected from the international scene. Hopefully that changes soon, as few nations can match the Brasileiros’ passion for the ocean.

It would also be great to see a bigger emphasis on Tahiti, seeing how it’s home to the strongest paddling culture on the planet. The Air France Paddle Festival (tentatively scheduled for April) is probably Tahiti’s best chance at establishing a big Regional Major.

Japan Cup stand up paddle

Let’s hope for waves like this again at the Japan Cup (photo: TIDEshigeru)

 

THE CLASSICS

The “Classic” races in any sport are the events that have been going for years and appeal to the true core of the sport. They usually eschew any sort of serious prize money and are often run by a small army of passionate volunteers. These are minimal, no fuss events that have built up extremely loyal followings.

When it comes to stand up paddling, I think the all-time “classic” race is the SUP 11 City Tour in Holland (September 7th-11th). Not only has it been going almost as long as the sport itself (2016 will mark the 8th annual edition), it’s one of the most unique and challenging races on the planet. Five days, five stages, 200+ kms (130 odd miles) of paddling through the Dutch countryside. It’s the Tour de France of SUP, and I can’t wait to get back there and do it all again in September.

Race The Lake of the Sky (June 25th/26th) should also get the nod as a “Classic” in my opinion. The crew from South Tahoe SUP have done an amazing job building a massive, community-based race in one of the true paddling meccas. Let’s just hope it rains/snows like crazy this winter and the lake fills back up to its glory day levels (remember that 100 yard dash through knee-deep water at the end of the 2015 race?)

Another contender for the “Classics” is surely the Paris Crossing (December 4th), which officially became the largest single race in the world last year. With 500 paddlers standing on the same start line at dawn (and that’ll probably go up to 600 next year), the Paris Crossing is an extraordinary spectacle. It’s the only day of the year that you’re legally allowed to paddle the River Seine, which helps explain why registration sold out in just 26 minutes. Doesn’t hurt that you get to paddle past the Eiffel Tower and other iconic French landmarks. Definitely a bucket list race…

Paris isn’t for another 11 months, however we don’t have to wait too long for the first ‘classic’ of the year: The Hanohano race in San Diego’s Mission Bay (January 23rd). This event has long been a staple of the SoCal Winter Series, and always attracts a massive turnout no matter what the weather’s doing.

Update: Tony Freitas just reminded me of the Da Hui 4th July Race on Oahu’s North Shore. I forgot about this event, but I think the Da Hui Race deserves a spot in the ‘classics’ category for sure. It’s one of the single largest paddleboarding races in the world, with hundreds and hundreds of stand up and traditional prone paddleboarders competing every year. It’s one of those fantastic, grassroots events that gets the whole community out on the water to celebrate the sport. Oh and it’s been running for almost four decades…

Those are the ‘classics’ in my opinion, though I’m sure several other races deserve a look. Perhaps Chattajack could be on this list, or maybe one of the many long-running races in Florida.

It’s also really hard to know which label to put on the great Maui 2 Molokai race, as well as the Maui Paddleboard Champs — I could easily include a lot more races but I wanted to keep each category tight. There are so many great events to choose from these days, we’re definitely spoilt for choice.

SUP 11 City Tour

The SUP 11 City Tour is a true classic (photo: Romberg)

 

THE SPECIALTY EVENTS

These are the grand events that don’t fit into the “traditional” race format at all, but are still amazing challenges that highlight the sport of stand up paddling. A lot of events could fill this category, but here are the ones I’m most excited about.

New Zealand’s Ultimate Waterman (March 12th-20th) will be one of the biggest specialty events of the year. It’s a unique mix of paddling and surfing, with the week-long event including eight different disciplines: SUP surfing, SUP distance race, outrigger race, shortboard surfing, longboard surfing, big wave surfing, prone paddleboarding, and underwater rock running. Points are combined from each event to produce the overall champ, while athletes can nominate one pet event that counts for double.

The 2016 Ultimate Waterman, the second edition of the event, is once again invite only and will see the likes of Jamie Mitchell, Connor Baxter, Georges Cronsteadt, Danny Ching and a handful of elite athletes from the surfing world battle it out along the majestic coastlines of New Zealand. It’s very well funded and is also supported by Red Bull.

Held on Bora Bora’s picture postcard perfect lagoon, the IRONMANA challenge (November 30th – December 4th) is perhaps the most beautiful race in the world. Unfortunately, it’s also the most brutal. The week long event is part SUP race, part torture test. It’s hard to put into words how amazing this race is, but let’s just say it’s something you should experience at least once in your paddling life. Check out this behind the scenes look at Ironmana from last month’s event.

The Yukon River Quest (June 29th) hit the headlines recently by announcing stand up paddlers would be allowed to compete for the first time this year. Don’t bother signing up though: Only 10 spots were available, and they all disappeared instantly. Among the lucky pioneers are Mr. Endurance himself, Bart de Zwart, and Canadian world beater Lina Augaitis (who just gave birth to her first child last week). Winning times are expected to be around 55 hours, and paddlers are expected to be totally self-sufficient.

It’s hard to say where “race” ends and “expedition” begins, but either way, the Yukon River Quest is sure to be an adventure. Though amazingly, despite being 715kms in length (444 miles), the Yukon River Quest isn’t even the longest SUP race in the world this year. Not by a long way. That honour goes to its cousin, the Yukon 1000, which, as the name suggests, goes for an incomprehensible 1,000 miles (1,610 kms).

The Maui Jim OceanFest (June 3rd-5th) looks like one of the funnest but also toughest races in the world. It’s kind of like the Hawaiian version of Ironmana. Set on the dream-destination-island of Maui, the Ocean Fest combines stand up paddling, traditional paddleboarding, surf ski, outrigger, swimming and running into a fairly intense sounding weekend. Look for the likes of Travis Grant, Connor Baxter and Zane Schweitzer to face off against the pros from the world of surf life saving.

Red Bull/World Series specialty event (March 23rd-30th): So there’s this brand new event happening in San Fran at the end of March, and it kinda sounds really exciting. It’s being driven by the Waterman League (it’s a Stand Up World Series ‘Exhibition Event’) and they’ve already publicly said Red Bull is on board. They politely asked me not to reveal the name or any specific details before the formal announcement later this month, which I’ll respect, but it sounds like it could be a “Salt Creek on steroids” kind of race. Now who wouldn’t want to watch that?

The event is being pushed by SUP’s biggest star (and Red Bull athlete), Kai Lenny, and should feature the other World Series young guns such as Connor, Mo and Zane. Though whoever shows up, they’ll probably want to bring a few extra layers of carbon — there are whispers the race will be held at the notoriously heavy Ocean Beach.

Ironmana Bora Bora

Bora Bora from above…

 

THE EUROPE

It’s set to be a massive Summer of SUP in Europe this year. From the surf in Spain to the coast in Croatia and everywhere in between, there will be great races every weekend. While it’s long been known as a paddling hotspot, I believe 2016 will mark the year that Europe really stands up and becomes the second true pillar of the international paddling world (alongside the USA). And I’m really excited to see how it all unfolds.

The only problem is that we may have too many good races to choose from this year. It’s going to be mighty crowded in Europe this summer…

The new and improved Euro Tour will be announced later this month, and from what I’ve seen it’ll cover many more countries and races than last year, which in turn will hopefully give some much needed unity to the SUP racing scene in Europe. The Tour is set to run every single weekend for close to three months, though it will peak in late May/early June with a three to four week run of ‘Prime’ level events that the international athletes will presumably fly in and out for.

Highlights will include the SUP Race Cup (21st May), Lost Mills (28th May), and the Bilbao Paddle Challenge (4th June), though I’m just as excited about some of the smaller, more exotic races (can’t wait to return to Port Adriano — May 14th). I also hear there will be a new and improved version of the famous “Euro Tour Trailer” that shuttles boards between events and makes life a lot easier for the athletes.

The Waterman League are also pushing ahead with their own, smaller version of a European SUP racing tour, the three-stop European Cup. This will have less of a community focus than the Euro Tour but will attract headline superstars such as Kai Lenny to the continent. Kai’s presence alone always brings with it some mainstream media exposure, which the sport desperately needs more of, and he’ll probably be joined in Barcelona and Hamburg by the likes of Connor, Zane, Casper and the rest of the World Series young guns.

We’re also set to witness a brand new event: The European Championships of Stand Up Paddling.

Modeled on the ISA Worlds, the European SUP Championships (the “Euros”?) aren’t even confirmed yet, however they’ve already been causing whispers to spread across the continent for months. After doing a bit of digging, it looks like the Euros will most likely take place some time in June, somewhere in France, and feature the top few athletes from 16 nations.

The event will be run by the European Surfing Federation (ESF), also known as Eurosurf. This group has never run a SUP event in the past, so nobody knows exactly what to expect. However that was the same position another surfing organisation found themselves in a few years ago: The ISA. The Worlds eventually managed to become a great event despite some initial skepticism from the core paddling community, so hopefully the ESF can pull off a great show.

Some will certainly question if we really need yet another surfing association running yet another stand up paddling ‘championship’ event, while others may openly wonder if we need even more “European Champions” crowned this year. That’s all up for debate, but having too many international-level SUP races in Europe this summer is definitely a luxury problem.

I’m cautiously awaiting more details (and an actual official confirmation) before I make judgement, but I’m excited to see what’s in the box. Apparently we’ll have a full announcement before the end of the month.

That means we could end up with ten different athletes claiming ‘European Champion’ status this year. And you thought the ‘world champion’ debate was confusing…

Who are the real champions of Europe?

– Euro Tour men’s champion
– Euro Tour women’s champion
– European Cup men’s champion
– European Cup women’s champion
– Eurosurf men’s distance champion
– Eurosurf women’s distance champion
– Eurosurf men’s short course champion
– Eurosurf women’s short course champion
– There’s even the vaguely-named ‘European Open Championships’ on the Canary Islands in November
 

Lost Mills

The Lost Mills is a sentimental favourite in Europe (photo: Ernstfried Prade)

 

THE WORLDS

The ISA Worlds hold a unique position in the world of stand up paddling. In the early days there was plenty of tribal-minded criticism thrown at them, however since Peru 2012 the ISA has slowly won the trust of the community and the Worlds have grown into a truly grand, Olympic Games-style event. The 2015 edition in Sayulita was next level, both in terms of level of competition and the atmosphere among the nations. It really felt like a mini Olympics.

I’m really excited to see what’s in store for the 2016 Worlds, though I’m more than a little concerned we still don’t know when or even where the event will actually be.

Unfortunately the 2016 edition has been stalled by the lack of a viable host nation. While Fiji was all but locked in eight months ago, that initial deal clearly fell through. All I know for sure is the event will be in the second half of 2016, not the first half of the year like it always has been. My guess is either China or Fiji in late October or early November.

That will prove a challenge for the nations that held their national trials in mid-late 2015: Some athletes will have been selected more than 12 months before the event. Many teams will probably have to scrap their 2015 results and do a new round of qualifiers.

In another slightly odd twist, the 2017 Worlds are set to be announced in just three months time, with Denmark currently the leading candidate (see: COPENCOLD HAWAII). Hopefully we know the location of the 2016 Worlds before then…

Although the lack of concrete updates the couple of months has been extremely frustrating for the paddling community, the ISA has come a long way in the past few years. I’m excited to see the 2016 Worlds take another step forward, but let’s just hope we get an announcement sooner rather than later. The longer this saga drags on, the more the ISA risks losing all that momentum it gained in Mexico.

ISA Stand Up Paddle World Championship

ISA Stand Up Paddle World Championship (photo: Carlos Gonzalez)

 

THE WORLD SERIES

Just like the ISA Worlds, the World Series has had an interesting four years to say the least, however 2016 could finally be a breakout season for the fledgling but resilient franchise.

The World Series’ parent company, the Waterman League, has been plagued by well-known issues such as canceling events and paying athletes months or even years late, which has given them a cloudy reputation within the paddling community. But while they haven’t always made life easy for themselves, the Waterman League has still done a lot of good things for the sport.

They’ve given a platform to a new generation of young guns, including Kai, Connor, Mo, Casper and Zane. The Stand Up World Series doesn’t attract all the top athletes (without Danny, Travis, Titou, Annabel and many other top names, the World Series’ slogan of “World’s Best Paddlers, World’s Best Races” has rung a little hollow in the past), but the small band of elite athletes that do follow the Series seem very devoted to the Waterman League’s vision.

Although the Waterman League usually pays late, they always eventually pay. They need to get their act together and start paying on time, but they have indeed paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money over the years. It’s probably getting close to a million dollars by now. The World Series also produces the kind of regular, slick media that’s sorely missing from so many other events, and that’s something they deserve credit for.

Led by its charismatic founder, Tristan Boxford, aka the most resilient guy in the sport and the best salesman you’ll ever meet (this guy could sell ice to the eskimoes — and I mean that as a compliment), the Waterman League also focuses on getting mainstream media exposure and non-endemic sponsors, a crucial element for driving the sport forward. Maybe we don’t share the same business ethics, but my hat still goes off to Tristan for somehow surviving the dramas of the past five years and continuing to move forward. Almost anyone else in the world of SUP would have given up long ago.

And in a sport that I’m the first to admit is often rather boring, the Stand Up World Series wants to create an exciting format that will appeal to the masses. While that hasn’t always worked in the past, they’ve made some encouraging changes for 2016, including separating the sprints and distance races (which will make things much more fair to the specialist athletes).

Personally I’d like to see them drop the distance races altogether and focus on the surf races, which are far more exciting and where the World Series has some real legitimacy already. Leave the less entertaining distance races to the more established Carolinas, Gorges and Lost Mills of the world. I think that would not only be commercially beneficial to the Waterman League, it would give the sport a better balance in general.

While we’re on the topic of changes to the World Series… I’d also like to see it drop the “official world champion” label (which doesn’t carry much weighting anyway) and embrace what it really is: A small but exciting, made for TV, hyper-elite tour of the world’s top young guns.

Get rid of the distance races. Hold every race in the waves. Create a proprietary race board class like the 10′ or 10’6 (one that actually suits racing in the waves, and one that would allow the rest of the sport to forget the 12’6, move on and accept 14′ as the main board class). Make the events extremely exclusive and invite only (kind of like the WSL, which Waterman League so desperately wants to emulate).

Not only do I think this would be far more exciting, but the Waterman League has already succeeded with almost all that anyway. If they made these changes, then overnight the World Series would increase its legitimacy and authority ten fold.

The Stand Up World Series should be the Formula 1 of SUP, however I worry the Waterman League too often tries to cover too many aspects of the sport, spreading themselves too thin as a result. Jack of all trades, master of nothing, as the saying goes. It’s been half a decade now, it’s time for the Waterman League to get really focused and embrace their strengths.

But whether they make any of these changes or not (and I highly doubt they’ll listen to me), the success or failure of the Stand Up World Series all comes back to the money issue. The Waterman League LLC is a for-profit company with full time staff running several events a year and paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money. They need strong finances to survive. Since the beginning, the company has basically had a tech start-up mentality (burn through money in the belief you’ll hit a profitable formula eventually), which is an entrepreneurial spirit I admire. Unfortunately they haven’t had a Silicon Valley level of funding to burn through, which has caused the much discussed problems.

So that’s why it’s so encouraging to hear that the Waterman League is in the process of closing a major investment round. Not a debt round, like they did after the 2013 season, but a proper investment round. They’ve been talking about it for months, and while I can’t quite determine if this new money is 100% confirmed or not, it certainly sounds positive. If it all does go through, the World Series will not only be able to pay off its debts, it’ll also have a war chest to finally help realise its grand vision. If it doesn’t go through…. well, let’s not consider that option.

It’s more than a little worrying that we’re already in 2016 and some athletes still haven’t been paid from 2015 (groundhog day), but if the investment round goes through as the Waterman League is promising, then everything will be cleared up and hopefully it’ll be a fresh start for the World Series (and the athletes and media that follow it) in 2016.

To borrow Tristan Boxford’s favourite phrase, I’m certain the 2016 Stand Up World Series is going to be “exciting and dramatic” — I just hope this year it’s exciting and dramatic on the water, not off it…

Huntington Beach stand up paddle race

World Series @ Huntington in 2014. Memo to the Waterman League: Focus more on exciting surf races like this… (photo credit: Ke’ale Dorries)

 

THE WORLD RANKINGS

The SUP Racer World Rankings has a rather simple premise: Rank every paddler in the world based on their five best results from the all big races around the world in the past 12 months. Top 100 guys. Top 50 girls. Simple.

However behind the scenes it’s a very complex, multi-algorithmic system that took 18 months to build. For that reason alone it’s probably going to require some fine tuning every year or two, and that will definitely be the case in early 2016.

Later this month I’ll announce a couple of positive changes, the biggest of which will be a new category of “Protected Events” (I’ve gotta find a better name than that…), which score a guaranteed minimum number of points rather than waiting to see who’s on the start line and letting our automated “Race Index” algorithm come up with a score.

Our unique Race Index, the very basis of the World Rankings system, has two flaws: First, it ignores important factors such as an event’s prestige (see: Molokai). Secondly, nobody really knows how many points a race is worth until I get to see who’s on the start line.

That second flaw is a tricky one to resolve. Indeed, it could actually be viewed as either a negative or positive feature depending on which way you look at it.

Negative: It’s hard for athletes to plan their season around it (they’re not entirely sure which races will count for what points), while it’s impossible for the fans to calculate any world ranking scenarios and therefore get more excited about each event.

Positive: It’s unbiased (and also quite accurate, at least most of the time).

Here’s the thing. The SUP Racer World Rankings were never designed to be any sort of global sanctioning body, ‘world tour’ or anything like that. I didn’t want to personally “christen” or “choose” events. It wasn’t supposed to be used by athletes to help plan their season. It was merely designed as an accurate ‘window’ into the sport that would finally give us all a comprehensive and unbiased look at the world’s best paddlers and the world’s biggest races.

The World Rankings are completely unbiased and I want to keep it that way, free from paddletics, egos and agendas. And nothing is less biased than a mathematically neutral algorithm.

On the other hand: When Travis Grant’s win in the uber-prestigious Molokai 2 Oahu is worth less than his 4th place finish at the inaugural Pacific Paddle Games, or when the Payette River Games is little more than a quarter as valuable as the PPGs, you know there’s a bit of a problem with the algorithm, and perhaps it’s time for some human intervention.

I’m very proud of the SUP Racer World Rankings. I’m a total stats geek and this has been my dream project, but more importantly I think it gives a fairly accurate indication of who the world’s best paddlers are and which races are the most competitive. It’s a “window” into the sport, something that’s been sorely missing in the world of stand up paddling until now. And while it’s only one small part of the SUP eco-system, I think the World Rankings system adds bit of much needed clarity to the sport.

And I’m not alone: The World Rankings have become the single most-viewed page of all time on all of supracer.com, despite only being 18 months old. On top of that, I get constant messages from top athletes asking which races will count for points in 2016, so perhaps it’s time to evolve the system.

I’m not above admitting my own system has a few flaws, so over the next few weeks I’ll chat with the paddlers, run some different scenarios through the algorithms and announce changes that’ll help improve the Top 100 and Top 50 Leaderboards. I’m determined to ensure the SUP Racer World Rankings will always be the most accurate window into the world of stand up paddling.

I’m actually as excited as anyone to see the leaderboard updates after every big race. Sometimes I think I created the World Rankings for my own amusement as much as I did it to help the athletes and the sport.

Even though I’m the one manually updating the giant, behind-the-scenes spreadsheet that calculates the SUP Racer World Rankings, I still get a real kick out of seeing who is “+/-” when the final leaderboards get spit out by the system. And I’m stoked to have helped give amazing paddlers due recognition this year, such as world #13 Matt Nottage, #8 Kelly Margetts and #5 Titouan Puyo, paddlers that have had exceptional years but may have otherwise been forgotten by a media scrum that focuses so much on the Dannys, Kais and Connors of the world.

I’m really excited to see which new names shoot up the leaderboard in 2016. We already saw a bunch of fresh faces hit the pointy end of the Top 100/Top 50 Leaderboards last year, and that trend is surely set to continue in the new year.

So there you go. That’s 2016. I’m really excited about what’s in store for the next 12 months, and I hope you are too. Now let’s go grab our paddles and get out on the water.

 


 

TL;DR

Too long; didn’t read: I’m really excited about the 2016 stand up paddling season. Despite several issues that need to be resolved, I still have a feeling it’s going to be a great year for the sport, with exciting new events and fresh faced athletes pushing SUP racing a new level. And no matter what happens, it’s definitely going to be a great big adventure. Fun times ahead.
 

The Events I’m Most Excited About in 2016…

 
The Majors
– Carolina, Molokai, Gorge, Pacific Paddle Games

The Regional Majors
– OluKai, Lost Mills, Japan Cup, King of the Cut

The Classics
– The Hanohano, Race the Lake of the Sky, Da Hui 4th July Race, SUP 11 City Tour, Paris Crossing

The Specialty Events
– Ultimate Waterman, Red Bull/World Series specialty event, Maui Jim OceanFest, Yukon River Quest, Ironmana

The Euro Tour
– late April/early May right through til the end of July

The European Championships
– sometime in June, somewhere in France

The ISA Worlds
– sometime, somewhere in the second half of 2016

The World Series
– Japan, Hamburg, Barcelona, Canada, Huntington, Turtle Bay

Many of these will count towards the new and improved SUP Racer World Rankings, while dates are already posted on the Rogue Race Calendar (though we’re still waiting on confirmation for many events — that’ll happen in the next couple of weeks).