Although the “regular season” wraps up on the shores of Doheny in early October, the real season never seems to end. We’re already thinking about 2018 but we’ve still got a trio of big races to wrap up, with Paris, Perth and French Polynesia all hosting great events this weekend.
It’s going to be a busy few days, so here’s what/where/when (and who) to follow.
King of the Cut
The field is looking pretty stacked for the race that’s grown into Australia’s most prestigious over the past few years, with half a dozen of the world’s best and another dozen or so dark horses getting ready for the Stand Up Surf Shop’s “King of the Cut” downwind showdown.
I’m not even going to bother with predictions: The unlimited division features defending champ Titouan Puyo alongside his NSP/QB team mate and Molokai hero Travis Grant, freshly-minted Doctor champ James Casey, Michael Booth, Jake Jensen, and Beau O’Brian, along with veteran downwind experts like Paul Jackson, Marcus Tardrew and brother Ben. We’re going to see mighty tight top 10.
The boys on the big boards have also got the three downwind wunderkinds on 14 footers to contend with in Matt Nottage, Gorge hero Bernd Roediger and new-kid-on-the-block Noic “Chicken” Garioud (he’s only 15 years old but already one of the best downwind paddlers in the world). And with relatively light winds forecast this weekend, the 17 footers will lose some of the advantage and the door might be open for the stock guys.
The King of the Cut made a splash when it opened up the board class this year, and in doing so became the first ocean race outside of Hawaii to be an unlimited showdown. The race has a two-day window to chase the best downwind conditions, though right now it looks like Saturday is the go and therefore results should be in later that afternoon.
This weekend’s women’s field will be a fairly small affair compared with the deep men’s field, which is unfortunately symbolic of the sport not only in Oz but most countries. However we’ve still got a couple of the best on the line, with Angie Jackson and Karla Gilbert likely to duke it out while local dark horse Belinda Stowell-Brett does her best to spoil the script.
The Angie/Karla showdown will be a repeat of the Aussie Titles marathon a couple of weeks back, which was a see-sawing encounter that Ang eventually paddled away with.
UPDATE: Race set for Saturday afternoon. Forecast improving. Hopefully the wind is blowing strong. Follow along with the live GPS tracking map. Look out for results Saturday evening.
The Paris Crossing
Well we might as well finish the year with a bang.
With 700 stand up paddlers on the start line (and another 600 on the waiting list), the Paris Crossing is by far the world’s largest SUP race. The organisers have been upping the entries by a hundred each year with an eye of having 1000 participants in 2020. It’s like a fun run on water.
The start of this race is a sight to behold and has produced some of the most iconic images in our sport over the past couple of seasons. And forget drones, with nearly a dozen different bridges along the course there’s plenty of opportunity to get the angles.
There’ll be quite a few pros battling for bragging rights on Sunday – defending champ Bruno Hasulyo, Casper Steinfath, Arthur Arutkin, Leo Nika, Paolo Marconi, Susak Molinero and plenty more of Europe’s finest (and TotalSUP will be streaming the whole thing live) – but this race is really about the amateurs and the first timers. It’s not even really a race for most people, it’s simply an incredible bucket list adventure.
It’s illegal to be on the River Seine the other 364 days of the year, so this is literally you’re only chance to paddle past iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral.
Pros, weekend warriors, first timers, they’re all on the same start line together for the same reason: To have fun on the water. The Paris Crossing kind of sums up what this sport is all about (except for the part about it being absolutely bloody freezing in Paris this time of year).
With so many landmarks along the approximately 10km courses, the Paris Crossing is also a good photo opp, which is why I’ve teamed up with Red Paddle Co. to bring you a behind the scenes look at the race.
I’ll be out there freezing my toes off on Sunday, but if I can still feel my fingers I’ll be sure to stop along the way and do a few Instagram Stories/GoPro selfies. So be sure to follow @redpaddleco and @supracer all weekend to live the adventure with us.
Where: Vahine, Tahiti
When: 4th-10th December
What: One week of pain in paradise
Arguably the craziest event in the world of paddling, IRONMANA combines SUP, prone, outrigger, swimming, running and anything else the torture-loving organisers can think of on the spot.
The “race” stretches for almost a week and provides an interesting paradox: It’s both paradisaical and painful at the same time. Most participants are happy just to finish, though everyone is happy to be there because it’s held on the postcard-perfect islands of Tahiti.
IRONMANA is the grand finale of the similarly-brutal “Waterman Tour Tahiti” (now the Waterman World Tour) that runs all year and is essentially a paddleboarding version of triathlon (SUP/prone/swim).
But this year it has a new home after departing Bora Bora for the equally-picturesque outpost of Huahine. The Starboard and Mistral teams will both be there in force, and we’ll have regular recaps from Bart de Zwart giving us insights as the participants slowly descend into their beautiful nightmare.
This is quite a fitting final event of the season, because once you’re done with IRONMANA you won’t be able to paddle for a while anyway…