As expected, the SUP Racer World Rankings saw a lot of movement after the epic Carolina Cup on Saturday.
Part race, part reunion, part festival of stand up paddling, the Carolina Cup has become one of the most significant and important events in our sport. It’s also one of the biggest gatherings of elite talent in the world.
This year’s Elite Graveyard Race, surely the most all-round challenging course on the planet, saw the most competitive field ever assembled outside the Battle of the Paddle. Virtually all of the world’s best were there, and on the men’s side we saw 13 of the top 14 competing (with only Kai Lenny unable to race).
This hyper-elite lineup garnered the men’s Carolina Cup a score of 63.5% on our proprietary Race Index, which ranks every SUP race in the world based on the level of elite competition it attracts. This score makes Carolina only the second race to ever break the 60% barrier.
As is almost always the case, the women’s field was shallower than the men’s. And, despite our Race Index taking this regular fact into account (women’s events are ranked using a different Race Index formula than the men’s), Carolina only hit 48.0% for the ladies. That’s still an impressive number and makes Carolina the 3rd most competitive women’s race of the past 12 months, behind only the BOP Elite Race (which scored 77.0% last year) and the Gorge Paddle Challenge’s Double Downwinder (51.5%).
If an event scores more than 15% on the Race Index it’s automatically included in the SUP Racer World Rankings. The event’s score is combined with our Base Points Table (which was custom-created to fit the sport of SUP racing) to decide exactly how many world ranking points are on offer for every one of the first 50 finishers in the race.
But enough of the boring algorithm: How did Carolina impact the World Rankings?
Most importantly, Annabel Anderson and Connor Baxter remain the women’s and men’s world number one respectively. Annabel increased her lead on the Women’s Top 50 Leaderboard, with the Lahui Kai team rider now sitting on 235.70 total points. There’s daylight back to the rest of the field.
On the Men’s Top 100 Leaderboard, Connor hangs on to the #1 ranking despite fading to finish 5th on Saturday. The Starboard superstar’s points tally doesn’t change – 236.60 – however his closest rival for the world number one position certainly does: Danny Ching has moved ahead of Kai Lenny to become the new world number two.
This is quite a significant jump for Danny considering he only finished runner-up on the weekend, and highlights just how important the 2015 Carolina Cup was for the World Rankings. Events are only held within the SUP Racer World Rankings system for 12 months, therefore every paddler’s result from Carolina 2014 was replaced with their points from this year’s race. Danny was the victor 12 months but only stood on the second step of the podium this time around. Normally, replacing a win with a 2nd place finish would see your points tally drop. But because Carolina was so competitive this year – far more so than 2014 – Danny’s runner-up performance this year was more worth more world ranking points than his victory in 2014.
Kai’s drop to #3 in the world could turn into a slide as the season progresses, with Travis Grant massively closing the gap on the world’s Top 3. With his heroic win on Saturday, Travis moves from 153.15 to 189.65 points. This big boost sees the NSP team rider move from #4 to #3 and get within just 30 points of Kai. With next weekend’s OluKai race expected to count for more points than ever, and given Trav’s unique abilities in the bumps, we could see the Aussie make another push in five days time. I doubt a win on Maui will be enough to completely close the gap but it will put him much closer. Though even more significantly, Travis isn’t counting the biggest race of the year – the Battle of the Paddle Elite Race – in his best five results. Kai, on the other hand, is holding almost half of his 217 points from his win at the BOP. So by the time the “Super Bowl of SUP” comes around again, it could be Travis, not Kai or Danny, who are in the box seat ready to challenge Connor Baxter for the world number one ranking.
Jake Jensen fought hard in Wrightsville Beach but couldn’t hold off Travis on the leaderboard. After a 6th place finish, Jake’s total points tally jumped from 156.36 to 160.39, however he still dropped from world #4 to #5.
Just like Danny, Georges Cronsteadt finished one place lower at this year’s Carolina Cup, however given the significance of the event his situation still improves slightly. SIC’s raging bull from Tahiti increased his “Best 5 Results” total points tally from 126.91 to 131.26, solidifying his hold on the #6 ranking.
Mo Freitas lost the opportunity to gain points after retiring mid-race with an injured back, though the Focus rider remains world #7 after #8, #9 and #10 also failed to grab a significant handful of Carolina’s points bounty.
Casper Steinfath (who finished a very uncharacteristic 23rd place on Saturday), Beau O’Brian (11th place) and Eric Terrien (10th place) saw no change to their points tally and continue to hold down positions #8 through #10. However their spots inside the Top 10 are not guaranteed for much longer: Nipping at their heels is Titouan Puyo, who finished like lightning on the weekend to claim 4th place and jump three spots from #14 to #11 in the world.
Titou’s fighting effort in the Elite Graveyard Race saw his points tally improve from 75.38 to 96.13, which is less than 10 points shy of the three guys ahead of him. The Starboard team rider may sneak into the top 10 at the ISA Worlds next month, where the level of competition is expected to be far higher than in 2014. Though counting against the Team France superstar is the fact he’s going to drop his distance race result from the 2014 Worlds (where he won) and replace it with his result at this year’s event. But still even a runner-up finish should be enough given how much more competitive this year’s event is set to be. Titou in the Top 10, it’s got a nice ring to it.
Lincoln Dews, another DNF at this year’s Carolina Cup (Mo, Lincoln and Jayden Jensen were three big names that failed to finish), lost the chance to go Top 10 and is about to start a serious slide down the rankings. The Lahui Kai young gun was only holding the bare minimum of 5x results before the weekend, and now holds a donut after his 2014 Carolina points were dropped. Given that Lincoln had two good results at ISA 2014, and because he’s not in Team Australia this year, the Lahui Kai team rider will probably fall outside of the Top 30 in the next month. Considering his amazing talent and how close he was to the Top 10 just a few days ago, that’s a rather cruel change of fortunes for Linc.
SUP Racer World Rankings
Further down the rankings there were plenty of other paddlers that crept forward a few spots. However the really big gains came from a couple of dark horses that shocked a many of the big names to finish top 10 on Saturday: Australia’s Michael Booth and Tahiti’s Niuhiti Buillard.
Boothy, one of the fastest ocean ski paddlers in the world and a new convert to SUP racing, jumped +25 to #31. The Aussie is still holding one donut in his “Best 5” results, so if he can get to more of the big races I’m sure he’ll keep charging up the leaderboard. It’s also scary to think this guy’s only been racing for 12 months…
Another newcomer to the sport of SUP racing is Niuhiti, who has a strong background in Tahitian “Va’a” outrigger racing. This kid jumped +32 spots to sneak inside the Top 50, settling on the #45 world ranking for now. Still carrying two donuts in his best 5 and as part of Danny Ching’s elite 404 team, expect this kid to rocket up the rankings as the year progresses.
There were also very big gains from Giorgio Gomez, Branislav Sramek, Noa Hopper and Kenny Kaneko.
Bicho Jimenez, whose 7th place finish was perhaps the most under-rated performance of the entire Carolina Cup, improved his situation – up 11.77 points to 63.10 – but that wasn’t enough to make any ranking gains. Bicho will have the chance to hit the Top 15 next month though, with the Worlds being hosted in his backyard of Sayulita. If the Team Rogue paddler can carry his Carolina form into the ISA event, look for the smiling assassin to make a jump up the leaderboard.
Looking in the other direction, one of the biggest drops on the weekend came from Jamie Mitchell, who’s shoulder injury kept him out of this year’s race. Jamie was carrying a big bag of points from Carolina 2014, which were removed from the world rankings system on the weekend. The Aussie big wave charger is also carrying two donuts in his tally, which further restricts his ranking chances. The captain is keen to get back on the race board though, so hopefully we’ll see the 10x Molokai champ back where he belongs later in the season.
On the Women’s Top 50 Leaderboard it’s still the same three ladies chasing world number one Annabel. Reigning BOP champ Candice Appleby, who was absent on the weekend, holds fort at #2, while Lina is still world #3. Fiona Wylde missed a golden opportunity to improve her points tally after her brave effort fell a mile or two short on Saturday but remains the world #4.
Two of the top women that did improve their points are Angie Jackson and Sonni Honscheid. Sonni’s super strong finish at Carolina, where she powered home to claim the runner-up spot, improved her tally from 102.14 points to 118.64. That’s within a few points of Angie Jackson, who finished 5th on the weekend to nudge her tally up 4.65 points to 122.41.
Both Sonni and Angie leapfrog Jenny Kalmbach, who didn’t compete at this year’s Carolina Cup, meaning she completely dropped her runner-up points from the 2014 event. Jenny is now carrying one donut in her tally, and has also stated she’ll be taking a step back from racing this year, so expect her to be swallowed by the pack as the season progresses.
Canada’s Shannon Bell moves inside the world’s Top 10 for the first time, after finishing in the same position on Saturday. However the biggest mover is Terrene Black from Australia. Terrene was the 2013 Molokai champ but faded last year due to injury and illness. She’s working to regain her top form and finished very strong on Saturday, taking 4th place and jumping up 23 spots on the leaderboard to world #17. Amazingly, Terrene has just 2 out of a possible 5 results in her total points tally, meaning she’s a near certainty for the world’s Top 10 if she can carry this form through the season.
One of the Wrightsville Beach locals, April Zilg, was another mover on the weekend. Despite a tactical gamble late in the race that saw her lose one spot on the Elite Graveyard Race results, the Hobie team rider still jumped two places on the SUP Racer World Rankings. Now ranked #18 in the world and with a couple of donuts in her best results, April is poised to give the Top 10 a shake if she can make it to a few more of the big races this year.
Shelby Taylor (now ranked #31) and Rachel Bruntsch (#29), were also big post-Carolina movers. Rachel, now paddling for Team Rogue, jumped 25 spots and will go even higher if she competes, as expected, in the OluKai Ho’olaule’a on the weekend. The Hawaiian is also flying the flag at the Worlds next month, so expect her to move inside the Top 15 within the next few weeks.
On the surface, the SUP Racer World Rankings are pretty simple: The Top 50 women and Top 100 men in the world based on their performances at the big races over the past 12 months. However behind the scenes we’ve got an extremely complex algorithm working overtime to analyse every race in the world, and rank every paddler in an accurate and unbiased manner.
While every race in the world is eligible for the World Rankings, only events that score 15% or higher on our Race Index will be counted. The Race Index score is based on the elite level of competition on show, so the more top guys and girls competing, the higher the score. And the higher the score, the more world ranking points on offer (in other words: The harder a race is to win, the more points you get for winning it).
The Carolina Cup was the first major race of the season, but from now on we’ll see big races every month right through til December. Next week’s OluKai downwinder on Maui is certain to give the leaderboards another shakeup, before the ISA Worlds in Mexico change the rankings once again. After that we’re straight over to Europe for the awesome new Euro Tour, which will give the strong locals and the traveling internationals another chance to improve their ranking.
SUP Racer World Rankings