Top 11 of 2011

 

Welcome to SUPracer.com, a site dedicated to promoting the sport of SUP racing by giving you the latest race info, news & results.

And thanks for checking out the Top 11 of 2011, a ranking (in my opinion) of the best Stand Up Paddlers of the past year.

It wasn’t easy coming up with this list, and you’ll no doubt disagree with at least one or two of the spots, but I thought it was cool to take a look back and see who was in form throughout the entire year.

These rankings are based entirely on race results from this year. I mainly looked at the 10-12 biggest events, then included some smaller races as tie-breakers. Paddlers certainly didn’t have to compete in every big race to make the list. As long as they entered at least three international races, I felt that was enough to get a good idea of how they compared.

So this list is basically an average of how these guys performed in the big races, as well as where they finished compared to their fellow elite paddlers.

It’s virtually impossible to compare a downwind master to a surf sprint paddler, or an Unlimited racer to a 12’6″ specialist. But I’m sure you’ll agree that all 11 of these guys put in massive performances this year.

Apologies to the 15-20 guys who got cut from the shortlist. There’s a LOT more than 11 elite paddlers out there, so inevitably there was going to be a few unlucky ones. It would have been a lot easier to just make a Top 30, but where’s the fun and challenge in that…

And even bigger apologies to all the women who kicked ass in SUP races this season and thoroughly deserved their own list (next year…).

So here they are, your Top 11 Stand Up Paddlers of 2011…

*****

#11. Chase Kosterlitz, Florida

Major results:
1st, Hennessey’s World Champs, 14′ division
1st, Battle of the Paddle California, Long Distance, 14′ division
3rd, Naish Gorge Challenge, course race
4th, Naish Gorge Challenge,  downwind race

Representing East Coast USA, Chase Kosterlitz earned his spot in the Top 11 of 2011 with a couple of huge Stand Up Paddle race results.

First of all, he’s the official 14′ World Champion after taking out the Hennessey’s event in September. That’s something.

Chase put in a massive effort at Hennessey’s to beat plenty of guys with much longer track records in this sport (such as Slater Trout).

He then backed it up and stamped his authority on the 14′ class by winning the division at the BoP California Long Distance race. Chase definitely deserves his spot alongside the elite.

*****

#10. Eric Terrien, France

Major results:
1st, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Long Distance, stock
1st, just about every race in Europe
6th, Molokai2Oahu, solo division
Top 10,  Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Elite Race
Top 10, Battle of the Paddle, California, Elite Race

Doing Europe proud, Eric Terrien earned his spot in the Top 11 of 2011 with consistently elite results.

The guy’s almost untouchable in Europe, and his consecutive Top 10 finishes at the Battle of the Paddle Elite Races show he can match it with the best from the USA and Australia.

Eric is as dedicated to SUP racing and training as anyone, so I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more top finishes from the Frenchman in 2012.

*****

#9. Dave Kalama, Hawaii

Major results:
1st, Naish Maui Paddleboard Champs
2nd, World Cup
3rd, Naish Gorge Challenge, downwind race
4th, Molokai2Oahu

Dave Kalama was a tough choice to add this list, but was even tougher to leave out of it.

He’s got one of the most recognisable faces in the sport of stand up paddling, yet he rarely races outside the Hawaiian downwinders. Plus his well known dislike of the stock board class makes it hard to compare him to the world’s best.

So I didn’t want to include Dave Kalama just because he’s Dave Kalama.  But despite only entering a hanful of races, Kalama had some absolutely massive performances this year that thoroughly earned him his spot.

He got the fastest time of an elite field at the pre-Molokai Naish Paddleboard Race, pushed Connor Baxter for over three hours at the Triple Crown World Cup, and then beat plenty of big names for a podium spot at the Gorge Paddle Challenge downwinder.

In 2011, already in his mid-40s, Kalama still showed he’s got the power to go toe-to-toe with anyone on a SUP board. He definitely earned his spot this year. I just hope his competitive fire keeps burning so that we get to see a lot more of him in 2012.

*****

#8. Slater Trout, Hawaii

Major results:
2nd, Hennessey’s World Champs, 14′ division
2nd, Catalina SUP Festival, short course
2nd, Catalina SUP Festival, long distance
Top 5, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Elite Race
Top 10, Battle of the Paddle, California, Elite Race

Slater Trout has one of the most recognisable (and certainly the coolest) names in SUP racing. And despite not even being old enough to vote, it seems like he’s been around forever.

2011 was relatively quiet by his own lofty standards, when he picked and chose his races a little more carefully than some of his rivals. But he was still a threat in every event, snagging a 4th at the BoP Hawaii Elite Race, and a string of runner-up places at major races in California.

The scary thing is, Slater has over a decade to match the results of the guys he’s currently battling. Jamie Mitchell, Travis Grant and Danny Ching are all at least 10 years his senior…

*****

#7. Kelly Margetts, Australia

Major results:
4th, Hennessey’s World Champs, stock division
5th, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Elite Race
Top 10, Battle of the Paddle, California, Elite Race

Before 2011 Kelly Margetts was probably a relative unknown outside Australia, despite always having been extremely popular in his hometown on Australia’s Gold Coast (home to Jamie Mitchell, Travis Grant, and a fair chunk of world’s other elite paddlers).

After almost not making the trip to Hawaii in May, Kelly beat home one of the strongest ever fields to claim 5th at the BoP Hawaii Elite Race and make his mark on the racing scene. And this came not long after he’d paddled 24 hours, non-stop, for charity.

He earned his spot on this list with another big performance in September, where he finished 4th at the Hennessey’s World Paddle Championships (over three minutes ahead of a certain Connor Baxter).

*****

#6. Kai Lenny, Hawaii

Major results:
1st, Stand Up World Series, Fiji, surf race
2nd, Naish Gorge Challenge, course race
2nd, Naish Gorge Challenge, downwind race
Top 5, Battle of the Paddle, California, Elite Race

When Kai Lenny lined up at the start of the Battle of the Paddle Hawaii Elite Race, I thought it was a bit of a novelty. Maybe Naish was just looking for a good photo opp?
(Great photo by Ed Philbrick/Soul SUP)

Kai’s probably the most famous Stand Up Paddlers in the world, only he’s meant to be famous for SUP surfing, not SUP racing…

So when he only just missed out on a Top 10 result (and finishing ahead of many veteran racers), more than a few people took notice. For the rest of the year, Kai stormed up the rankings at every race. He pushed Connor Baxter all the way at the Gorge and claimed a Top 5 spot at the BoP California Elite Race.

The young all-rounder finished off the year by claiming victory at the Stand Up World Series surf race in Fiji. He also picked up a second in the downwind race at the same event, which despite seeing a small turnout of competitors was extremely stacked with talent (the “Battle of the Young Guns”).

If Kai Lenny spent even half as much time training for SUP races as he does chasing waves, everyone in the Top 5 of this list would probably be in trouble.

*****

#5. Georges Cronsteadt, Tahiti

Major results:
2nd, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Long Distance
4th, Battle of the Paddle, California, Elite Race
5th, Battle of the Paddle, California, Long Distance
Top 10, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Elite Race

Georges Cronsteadt somehow manages to fly under the radar at every SUP race. Despite being a genuine contender every time he steps on a board, Georges doesn’t seem to get the same coverage as the Chings, Mitchells and Baxters of the Stand Up world.

Maybe it’s because he comes from Tahiti, or maybe it’s that nobody remembers how to pronounce his name properly (…is the “s” silent or not?).

But one thing’s for sure, Georges had some of the most consistent results this year. His worst result in the four major Battle of the Paddle events was 6th. And in one of the performances of the year, he somehow managed a 2nd place in the BoP Hawaii Long Distance race despite riding a rudderless board that was at least a foot shorter than his rivals’ (and that’s after he got stuck in the nets right after the start of the race and had to make up time).

Hopefully we get to see Georges race at all the major events in 2012, where he certainly has the strength to challenge for a major victory.

*****

The top 4…

Any one of these next four guys could have claimed the title of “SUP Racer of the year”.

All four had huge victories and consistent results. And they pretty much all took turns beating each other at one point or another. In the end though, I found the slightest of gaps between them in terms of race results, so this is how the final four looks…

*****

#4. Travis Grant, Australia

Major results:
1st, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Elite Race
1st, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Long Distance, 14′
4th, Battle of the Paddle, California, Long Distance
Top 10, Battle of the Paddle, California, Elite Race

Apparently Travis was a dark horse when he won the Battle of the Paddle Hawaii Elite Race back in May. That’s despite the fact he’d gone toe-to-toe with Danny Ching in the same race a year earlier.

But despite being the underdog in the eyes of everyone outside of Australia, Travis put in a massive performance in super tough conditions to claim one of the most prestigious victories of the year. He then backed it up the next day to win the 14′ division of the Hawaii Kai run (the Long Distance race).

With those two victories alone you could argue he should be higher on this list, which just highlights how fast these next three guys are right now…

*****

#3. Jamie Mitchell, Australia

Major results:
1st, Hennessey’s World Champs, stock division
2nd, Battle of the Paddle, California, Elite Race
3rd, Battle of the Paddle, California, Long Distance race

Jamie Mitchell could potentially have been even higher on this list if he’d entered more SUP races in 2011. But of course there was the small matter of claiming a tenth (straight) paddleboard world championship at the Molokai2Oahu first.

Showed fine form in California, trumping a stacked field to win the Hennessey’s Paddleboard Championships stock division (even finishing the course faster than every 14′ and Unlimited paddler).

It seemed like JM was going to back it up at Dana Point a week later, where he led the Battle of the Paddle Elite Race for most of the way. But a fall at the last turn (less than 200 metres from the finish line) cruelly ended his chances of repeating his 2009 victory.

With 10x paddleboard world championships “out of the way”, Jamie will no doubt have a much busier SUP racing calendar in 2012, starting at February’s ISA World Titles in Peru. There’ll probably be a lot of stand up paddlers wishing he’d stayed laying down…

*****

#2. Connor Baxter, Hawaii

Major results:
1st Molokai2Oahu
1st World Cup
1st, Battle of the Paddle, California, Elite Race
1st, Naish Maui Paddleboard Champs, stock division
1st, Naish Gorge Challenge, course race
1st, Naish Gorge Challenge, downwind race
1st, Stand Up World Series, Fiji, downwind race
2nd, Stand Up World Series, Fiji, surf race
3rd, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Elite Race
3rd, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Long Distance
5th, Hennessey’s World Champs, stock division
Top 10, Battle of the Paddle, California, Long Distance

Just look at some of Connor Baxter’s major results for 2011 and you start to wonder how anyone else could be ranked ahead of him… Connor definitely had a ridiculously strong year, winning countless international and regional races, including two of the most prestigious; the Molokai2Oahu (in record time) and the Battle of the Paddle California Elite Race.

So why isn’t he #1? Firstly, after looking at all the major race results of 2011, it was super close between the entire top four. And it was even closer between the top two.

But despite winning Molokai and just about every other race he entered, the fact is Connor matched up against Danny Ching five times this year and only beat him once. Yeah, that’s pretty a harsh way to judge a kid who’s looked unbeatable for 99% of the year, but it was the only way I could split them.

But either way, Connor deserves a massive congratulations on his performances this year. The kid’s a freak. And he’s done more than most to raise the profile and excitement of this fledgling sport.

So 2012 should be interesting; Connor’s no longer the skinny little kid chasing the pros – now he’s the elite young guy that everyone else will be gunning for.

*****

#1. Danny Ching, California

Major results:
1st, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Long Distance
1st, Battle of the Paddle, California, Long Distance
1st, Catalina SUP Festival, short course
1st, Catalina SUP Festival, long distance
2nd, Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii, Elite Race
2nd, Hennessey’s World Champs, stock division
3rd, Battle of the Paddle, California, Elite Race

Danny Ching is probably the most famous SUP racer in the world. And after a massive 2010, he came into just about every race this year as favourite.

While he missed out on two of the races he would have loved to win – the Battle of the Paddle Elite Races – he still had extremely consistent results and won two of the other biggest (and most competitive) events.

The Long Distance races at both the Hawaiian and Californian Battles of the Paddle: some people overlook these events after the excitement of the Elite Race the previous days.

However the Long Distance race is often more an indication of who’s in form than any other event. This year both races were held in calm conditions, meaning it came down almost entirely to the strength of the paddler.

The fact Ching won both of these races so convincingly (with apologies to Rob Rojas…) meant he thoroughly earned and deserves his spot on top for 2011.

Danny Ching’s kind of like the Kelly Slater of SUP racing; universally respected, an ambassador for the sport, and no matter how many victories he scores, you still love watching him win.

Though next year he’ll face a big challenge to stay at the top of the SUP racing world. The young guns are coming of age and the established names will be more focused than ever…

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So big congrats to Danny Ching for taking out the inaugural SUP Racer of the Year. And thanks for checking out the list – hope you got some entertainment out of it.

Top 11 of 2011
1. Danny Ching
2. Connor Baxter
3. Jamie Mitchell
4. Travis Grant
5. Georges Cronsteadt
6. Kai Lenny
7. Kelly Margetts
8. Slater Trout
9. Dave Kalama
10. Eric Terrien
11. Chase Kosterlitz

Though remember, it’s just a list… and it’s just my opinion… it shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Though it is kinda fun to look back at the results from the past 12x months and see who was really in form.

2011 was a huge year for SUP racing around the world, and 2012 looks set to be even bigger. Fun times ahead!

*****