Who Were The Best Paddlers In The World This Year? It’s The Top 13 Of 2013…

Top 13 of 2013
One of the first ever posts on SUPracer.com was the Top 11 Of 2011, a year-end “best of” list that tried to rank the world’s elite based loosely on that year’s race results. In the absence of any definitive ranking system in the sport, it was a fun way to try and give some order to the world’s top paddlers and also made for plenty of animated debate. That was followed by the Top 12 Of 2012 and so… you guessed it… now it’s time for the Top 13 Of 2013.

The Top 13 of 2013: The only list that’s bold (read: stupid) enough to try and rank the world’s best paddlers in precise order.

This list is based partly on race results and partly on my gut feeling. Think of it this way: If I was the kid in high school that got to pick the teams at lunch, this is who I’d choose and the order I’d choose them in.

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many of the biggest races this year, giving me a first hand glimpse at the pros in action. Plus through SUPracer.com I get to follow every major (and minor) statistic related to the sport. That produces a fairly unique perspective of the world’s fastest paddlers, though even then this list wasn’t easy to whittle down to 13.

I left out paddlers that had amazing years. I left out paddlers that won big races. I left out paddlers that podium’d at the Battle. I left out paddlers that deserve far more recogition than I’ve given them. Hell, I even left out some very worthy paddlers that are good friends of mine (am I still welcome in Sayulita guys?).

But this isn’t “everyone gets a gold star day”. There’s no challenge in that. This is the cold, hard world of professional sport. So let’s get all cut-throat and decide who the best paddlers of 2013 really were…


The Top 13 Men of 2013

Lincoln Dews#13: Lincoln Dews, Australia

Started the year with a series of close finishes against Beau O’Brian and Travis Grant in Australia’s biggest ocean races. Podium’d at the Battle of the Paddle Elite Race. Won the hotly-contested surf race at the Aussie Titles to earn a spot on Team Australia for the 2014 ISA Worlds.

In short: it’s been a big year for Lincoln, a skinny young guy that’s always smiling and kinda resembles an Aussie Connor Baxter. He punched above his weight (both literally and metaphorically) this year and could easily be alongside the top names next season.

1st: Australian National Titles (Course Race)
1st: Queensland State Titles (Course Race
1st: Queensland State Titles (Distance Race)
3rd: 12 Towers
3rd: The Doctor
9th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)


Beau O'Brian#12: Beau O’Brian, Australia

In my opinion Beau is one of the strongest paddlers in the world, though at the same time, even by his own admission, he’s one of the most underperforming paddlers in the world as well. Beau has the ability to be alongside the Travis and Dannys of the world, something he showed during the BOP Elite Distance Race in Cali, but far too often finishes down the order (as he did in the BOP Elite Race the day prior).

Performed very well in Europe, including a strong showing in Hamburg (equal second behind Kai Lenny). Went painfully close to defending his Australian Distance Race title against Jake Jensen but still did enough to earn a spot on the mighty Team Australia for next year’s Worlds. I’m certain that one of these days, Beau is going to put it all together and win one of the big ones.

1st: Creek To Creek
1st: Tahoe Fall Classic
2nd: 12 Towers
2nd: The Doctor
=2nd: World Series Hamburg
3rd: World Series France
4th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)


Mo Freitas and Connor Baxter#11: Mo Freitas, Hawaii

You would be forgiven for not realising that Mo is actually only 16 years old. He gets lumped in with the Connors, Zanes and Kais of the Hawaiian scene, despite those guys all being three or four years older.

Showed that his podium at BOP 2012 was no fluke, finishing 5th in the biggest race of 2013 (just one second behind 4th place and nine seconds behind Danny Ching in 3rd). Competed in several World Series events and while he had some up-and-down results there, was always one of the young guns to watch. The fact that he’s still younger than all the other guns is a mildly worrying thought for anyone over the age of 20. Mo Freitas will win the BOP Elite Race (or some other similarly major event) in the next few years for sure.

1st: SurfRace To Victory
3rd: World Series Brazil
4th: World Series Hamburg
4th: World Series San Francisco
5th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)
7th: World Series Overall Title


Chase Kostelitz#10: Chase Kosterlitz, USA

The big guy from Florida that fits the all-american college athlete stereotype. Tall, good looking and very athletic. Traveled the world this year and had strong showings on almost every continent, even when he was on his less favoured 12’6 board (Chase really, really prefers 14 footers).

Chase is very hard to match in the longer, flatter, more grueling events, where sheer power and strength come into play (almost mowed down Danny at the end of the Paddle Royal distance race) though struggles to match the best on the snappier little sprint courses (aka at the Battle).

Quite fitting that the guy ranked #10 on this list finished 10th in one of the biggest races of the year, the BOP Cali Elite Distance Race.

1st: Battle of the Bay
2nd: Tahoe Nalu (Distance Race)
4th: Lost Mills (Distance Race)
5th: Paddle Royal
5th: SUP Race Cup (Distance Race)
10th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)


Zane Schweitzer#9: Zane Schweitzer, Hawaii

Finally showed everyone, yours truly included, that he’s not just an incredible SUP surfer but also a machine on a race board.

Zane has that classic Hawaiian, laid-back, aloha style surfer lifestyle going on. Seriously, I can’t even imagine the guy training… He says “bra” as many times as Connor Baxter says “stoked.”

In short: Zane doesn’t look or act like a professional athlete. At least not until he gets on the water, where he showed this year that, on his day, Zane is as quick as just about any other paddler.

Highlights this year included a top three finish in the BOP Elite Distance Race (behind only Travis and Danny) to go with his sixth-place in the Elite Race, as well as several strong showings in the World Series.

3rd: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)
3rd: World Series San Francisco
4th: World Series Chicago
6th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)


#8: Casper Steinfath, Denmark

Not to put any pressure on the Danish Viking’s shoulders, but he has the potential to be one of the most important paddlers in the world in the next year or two. That’s because Casper is leading a new wave of racers that *don’t* come from the “Big Three” paddling nations… The sport needs leaders from outside Australia, Hawaii and the USA if it’s going to continue to grow and become a truly global sport, and right now Casper is one of the top contenders for such a role.

Enjoyed a stellar year: There was *that* iconic photo at the ISA Worlds in Peru, where he surfed a wave to the beach with one of his heroes Jamie Mitchell, high-fiving along the way before beating the 10x World Champ up the beach to win Gold for one of the least-likely stand up paddling nations. There were strong performances at home in Europe and at many World Series stops as well. One of the nicest and most genuine guys you’ll meet on the international scene, Casper has a big future in this sport.

Random trivia: Finished 15th at BOP 2011, 8th in 2012 and 4th in 2013… So according to the maths we can assume he’ll be runner-up next year and champion in 2015. Heard it here first.

1st: ISA World Champs (Course Race)
2nd: (ISA World Champs (Distance Race)
=2nd: World Series Hamburg (Oveall)
3rd: World Series Huntington (Overall)
3rd: World Series Brazil (Distance Race)
4th: SUP Race Cup (Beach Race)
4th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)
4th: Lost Mills (Distance Race)
6th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)

Casper Steinfath

Casper goes full Viking mode at the ISA World Champs in Peru (© ISA)


Jake Jensen#7: Jake Jensen, Australia

This year Jake finally showed what everyone who know him personally have long since realised: That the young Aussie whipper-snapper has the raw talent to match it with any paddler in the world. Jake has always enjoyed explosive sprinting speed but showed this year he’s also got a big engine inside that lanky frame.That was particularly evident at the recent Paddle Royal, where he controlled much of the grueling distance race.

Jake knocked over an all-star field (including Kai and Connor) at both the Turtle Bay and Huntington distance races, while there were also wins (and countless podiums) both at home and overseas. However it was Jake’s seventh in the BOP Elite Race and fifth in the Elite Distance Race secured his spot safely inside the Top 10.

1st: World Series Finals (Distance Race)
1st: World Series Finals (Overall)
1st: World Series Huntington (Distance Race)
1st: Australian National Titles (Distance Race)
2nd: Paddle Royal
5th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)
7th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)


#6: Eric Terrien, France

Eric Terrien is an absolute workhorse. He has that reserved, quiet, humble Frenchman type of quality about him (though it’s all a con; some of the things you hear when you get to know this guy…) and that’s probably why Eric still flies under the radar a bit. However anyone that’s seen him paddle up close knows just how strong he really is.

Eric somehow held off the young brigade to retain his long-held title of European #1, while also matching it with the best internationally. Defeated Danny (and a bunch of other stars) in Puerto Rico’s distance race, while coming *so* close to winning the overall title as well.

However it was one single performance that made Eric stand out this year: His victory at the Lost Mills in Germany.

Against one of the absolute strongest fields we saw all year outside of BOP, Eric put in the second best individual race performance of the year. Executing the perfect game plan, Eric broke the field in the opening minutes (on a course that was as draft-friendly as any) and paddled the entire 18km race solo. Despite guys like Connor, Casper, Travis, Jamie, Jake, Beau and half a dozen other elite guys trying to reel him in, Eric kept extending his lead to eventually finish three minutes clear. It was a brave performance, one that I’d put up there with anything seen in the sport this year.

Eric Terrien

Eric Terrien and “that” performance at the Lost Mills…

Eric could have landed anywhere on The Top 13: At one point or another he was beaten by everyone ranked behind him on this list (and quite a few guys who didn’t even make the 13 at all). Yet he also beat everyone on the list at one point as well, including the guys in front of him, quite often more than once.

1st: Lost Mills (Distance Race)
1st: Paddle Royal (Distance Race)
3rd: Paddle Royal (Overall Title)
6th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)


Georges Cronsteadt#5: Georges Cronsteadt, Tahiti

Georges’ Battle of the Paddle campaign was the hard-luck story of 2013… The Tahitian had been paddling like a raging bull in Tahoe and the Gorge before arriving in Dana Point with realistic expectations from the pundits that he could win the biggest race of the year.

Then it all went horribly wrong.

A board smashed into his ankle during the qualifying heat… breaking it… badly… Somehow, extraordinarily, Georges still hobbled around the course and finished that heat runner-up, however the injury was far too much for even a man as strong-willed as him to compete in the final. We’ll never know what Georges was truly capable of this year, but I have a feeling he was within half a board length of the Top 4. I just hope he’s back fit and faster than ever next year so we can see this amazing paddler in action once again.

Remember how I said this list was me standing in the schoolyard at lunchtime picking my dream team? Georges spot in the Top 13 of 2013 has much more to do with my gut feeling and than pure results alone.

1st: Tahoe Nalu (Distance Race)
1st: Tahoe Nalu (Sprint Race)
1st: Gorge Paddle Challenge (Course Race)


#4: Kai Lenny, Hawaii

I showed a draft list of the Top 13 to a very knowledgeable paddling friend and when he got down to #4 on the men’s side quipped “That’s gonna take some explaining…” Considering how flawless Kai performed during the Battle of the Paddle Elite Race, most people would probably agree with that sentiment. But I don’t.

It’s not that I don’t think Kai is capable of being the best in the world, rather I believe the Top 4 are so incredibly close, virtually dead even, and that somebody had to take this spot on the list.

The fact that Kai Lenny sits at fourth highlights just how close the leading men are at the moment. You could easily argue that Kai should be number one but you could say the same for the three guys I’ve placed in front of him as well. Basically you could throw a blanket over the top four paddlers in the world right now.

If this was the Top 13 of August-October 2013, then yes, Kai would #1. Easily. Within 10 weeks he swept an elite field in Hamburg, took out Huntington, won the biggest race of the year at Dana Point and then somehow stole the entire 2013 World Series title from Connor at Turtle Bay.

Kai Lenny

Kai was flawless in Hamburg, as he was in the BOP Elite Race a month later (© Camp David SUP World Cup)

Outside those three months Kai wasn’t nearly as dominant: He finished behind Travis and Connor (and Scott Gamble – who would probably be on this list too if he did more than one big race a year) at Molokai and suffered an endless run of defeats against Connor in the World Series. The young gun also couldn’t hold the pace of Travis and Danny during the BOP Elite Distance Race (where he hit the wall and didn’t even finish top 10).

But either way, putting Kai at #4 is splitting hairs; this young guy is a phenomenal talent and he’s shown he can beat anyone on his day. Along with the three guys below, Kai is part of the “Big Four” that I believe are in a league of their own right now. Actually I could have just ranked #13 through #5 and then lumped the top four together. That would have been a lot easier. But again, this isn’t everyone gets a gold star day, we’ve gotta be cut-throat here and my gut says the other three have a very, very slight edge on Kai.

Though it is a little scary to think that Kai doesn’t even focus 100% on his SUP racing career. He’s too busy winning SUP surfing world titles, (almost) winning kite surfing world titles, charging gigantic waves and generally having a lot of fun in the ocean. Imagine if Kai decided to drop everything and commit full-time to racing?

1st: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)
1st: World Series Hamburg
1st: World Series Huntington
1st: World Series Overall Title
3rd: OluKai
4th: Molokai


#3: Danny Ching, USA

I’ve had this guy at #1 on both my Top 11 and Top 12 lists, but this year Danny finally slipped a little (or rather: some other guys finally overtook him). Any other paddler would be stoked to be rated third best in the world, but Danny knows what it feels like to be the best in the world and would love to be the undisputed king once again.

Despite ceding his Battle crown, Danny showed in Puerto Rico he still knows how to win a big event, pulling off a last second victory against a hungry group of rivals. He also blasted away an extremely elite field at one of the other “Races of the Year” in Carolina.

However it was Danny’s control of the field during the BOP Elite Distance Race that made me realise he’s still a step above everyone else on his day. Despite a stubborn draft train of thirteen guys fighting for the win, Danny chose to sit at the front for most of the race, setting the pace and essentially dragging the rest of the field (apart from Travis) all the way to San Clemente Pier and back.

1st: Paddle Royal (Overall Title)
1st: Orange Bowl
1st: Carolina Cup
2nd: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)
3rd: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)

Danny Ching

Danny blitzed one of the most competitive fields of the year in Carolina… (© Mike Muir/Riviera Paddlesurf)


Travis Grant

Travis Grant on his way to winning Molokai (© StandUpMagazin.com)

#2: Travis Grant, Australia

I often refer to Travis as “The Most Under-rated Paddler In The World.”

Despite having won the Battle of the Paddle back in 2011, Trav still doesn’t command the respect that several lesser lights in this sport have attained. Maybe it’s because he’s such a nice, humble guy. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t care about self promotion. Maybe it’s because he’s outside the young-guns’-world-tour bubble. Whatever the reason, Travis still starts as the underdog every time he lines up.

The Aussie cleaned up at home in the Summer, went toe-to-toe with Connor in Europe (where they traded wins out in front of a very classy field) before having two of the races of his life: Winning Molokai-2-Oahu (while the world watched Kai and Connor’s duel, Trav just paddled straight across the Channel and finished 15 minutes before them) and then, in a sweet, fairytale finish to his cruel injury blow, won the BOP Elite Distance Race in California despite having popped his knee out just two weeks prior. That was the individual race performance of the year in my book and solidified Trav’s spot at #2 on this list.

1st: Molokai 2 Oahu
1st: Battle of the Paddle (California, Distance Race)
1st: 12 Towers
1st: The Doctor
1st: SUP Race Cup (Distance Race)
2nd: SUP Race Cup (Beach Race)
2nd: Ultimate SUP Showdown
3rd: Lost Mills (Distance Race)


#1: Connor Baxter, Hawaii

Connor won a race at 2013 Lost Mills event that was called “The Fastest Paddler On Earth.” It was a 200m, straight-line, individual time trial and the young Maui charger was up against one of the best fields assembled all year. And he crushed it.

That result pretty much sums up Connor to me: He’s simply the fastest person on a stand up paddleboard right now and if you saw him in action this year it would be pretty hard to argue.

Sure, he didn’t win every big race this year (in fact he ceded his prized Molokai crown to Travis and finished runner-up to Kai at the BOP) yet he still added another dozen or so trophies to his oversized cabinet and blitzed elite fields on almost every continent, including at home with the OluKai and Maui Paddle Champs titles.

Connor Baxter

Connor in action during Maui 2 Molokai (© Karen Baxter)

In the 2013 Stand Up World Series was entirely The Connor vs. Kai Show. Yes, Kai won the overall title, but Connor was dominant all year: They raced against each other in seven different legs of the World Series, with Connor winning five events compared to Kai’s one single victory (Jake Jensen won the other). If it wasn’t for one of the most incredibly bizarre ranking systems known to professional sport, Connor would have easily been the World Series champion this year.

Flatwater. Surf. Ocean. Downwind. Connor can dominate in any type of conditions. He won everything from the 200m flatwater sprint in Germany to the 27 mile, inter-island downwinder that is the Maui 2 Molokai (for the fifth or sixth year in a row).

I had a mini-novella written to try and justify why Connor should be #1 this year, but then I deleted it and simply decided that if anyone doesn’t agree then I can only assume they haven’t personally witnessed this guy paddle in real life at any point during the past twelve months.

1st: OluKai
1st: Lost Mills (Jamie Mitchell Survivor Race)
1st: Lost Mills (Fastest Paddler On Earth)
1st: Maui Paddle Champs
1st: Maui 2 Molokai
1st: SUP Race Cup (Beach Race)
1st: Da Hui Race
1st: Ultimate SUP Showdown
1st: Stand Up World Series Chile
1st: Stand Up World Series Brazil
1st: Stand Up World Series France
1st: Stand Up World Series Bilbao
1st: Stand Up World Series Chicago
1st: Stand Up World Series San Francisco
2nd: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)
2nd: Lost Mills (Distance Race)
3rd: Molokai 2 Oahu


The Top 13 Women of 2013

Now for the women’s list…

This was hard. Really, really hard. As if the men’s list wasn’t tricky enough, getting the women’s list “right” is like navigating a minefield.

For one, the international racing scene is much less established on the women’s side than the men’s, meaning the top ladies rarely go up against each other – the prize money just isn’t there for them to go traveling all over the world. This makes for very few “elite” women’s races during the year and causes direct comparisons between paddlers to become rather difficult.

There’s also the fact that different-results-in-different-conditions seem to be amplified to a much higher degree on the women’s side than the men’s. For example; the undisputed #1 downwind paddler in the world failed to qualify for the BOP Elite Race final. How on earth are we supposed rank that kind of thing?

So I think you’ll find Top 13 Women of 2013 is a much more subjective list than the men’s. However I think you’ll also find that every one of these ladies is a strong, elite paddler that deserves to be recognised as one of the best in the world.

And if you don’t agree, there’s a comments box below…


Krisztina Zur#13. Krisztina Zur, Hungary

Showed glimpses of how strong she could really be, though was perhaps a little distracted by the Kayak World Champs (where she won a couple of World Titles to go with her London Olympic Gold). If Krisztina ever decides to drop the double blade paddle and starts favouring the single, she could easily be top 5 in the world.

1st: Lost Mills (Fastest Paddler On Earth)
1st: Lost Mills (Jamie Mitchell Survivor Race)
1st: Hanohano
1st: Silver Blade Regatta
4th: Carolina Cup


#12. Brandi Baksic, U.S.

One of the stalwarts of the women’s SUP racing scene for many years – finished runner-up at the California BOP twice and finished top three on two other occasions – Brandi finally won her own Battle of the Paddle title this year. Sure, it was against a shallow field in Brazil, but it was still some long-overdue recognition for one of the most dominant, pioneering women in this sport. It also showed that Brandi, despite being twice the age of several of her competitors, still has her trademark strength. Also got close to the fast-rising Lina Augaitis in Puerto Rico while nabbing a top three at one of the few hotly-contested women’s races of the year, the Carolina Cup.

1st: Battle of the Paddle (Brazil, Elite Race)
1st: Battle of the Paddle (Brazil, Elite Distance Race)
3rd: Carolina Cup

Brandi Baksic

Brandi on her way to the title in Brazil (© Green Pixel)


#11. Fiona Wylde, U.S.

Fiona is definitely the odd one out in this list: she’s the only paddler under 20.

Fiona Wylde Gorge Paddle ChallengeIn fact Fiona’s almost the only paddler on this list under 30 (I’m thinking Candice is probably second youngest at 28). Because while the men’s scene has been over-run with young guns in the past year or two, the women’s scene is still dominated by those hovering around 30 or older. Talia’s win at Molokai 2012 was probably the sole big victory for the new wave of girls, all the way up until Fiona came along and blitzed it at the Gorge in August.

Fiona’s efforts in defeating Candice, Jenny, Andrea, Mariko and a dozen other women in what was probably the second most competitive women’s race of the year surprised everyone (except for everyone in Hood River) and gave the original guard something to think about. Perhaps the only thing bigger than this girl’s future is her smile. If you saw pics from the Gorge podium you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about…

1st: Gorge Paddle Challenge Overall Title
1st: Punta Sayulita Classic (Elite Race)
1st: Punta Sayulita Classic (Distance Race)
5th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)
11th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)


Alison Riddle and Morgan Hoesterey#10. Morgan Hoesterey, U.S.

One of the few paddlers that genuinely doesn’t care where she sits on this list, Morgan is a bit of an enigma. Has the skill to beat almost any other female paddler when there’s waves and buoy turns involved but has the most apathetic approach to the sport I’ve ever seen. A total smartass off the water, Morgan is also one of the most entertaining female paddlers to hang out with at any event, so I sincerely hope she’s still racing in 2014.

1st: SurfRace To Victory
1st: Tahoe Nalu (Sprint Race)
2nd: Tahoe Nalu (Distance Race)
6th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)


#9. Andrea Moller, Hawaii/Brazil

Andrea didn’t have her best year but still showed she’s unbeatable in the right conditions: i.e. good downwinders. Struggled in a flat Molokai and made it clear she’s not the biggest fan of 12’6 race boards, though  still came through in some of the big ones (such as OluKai and Maui Paddle Champs) to retain her title of Downwind Queen. If we did a separate list just for downwinder paddlers Andrea would be #1 without a doubt.

1st: OluKai
1st: Maui Paddle Champs
1st: Gorge Paddle Challenge (Downwinder)
4th: Molokai 2 Oahu

Andrea Moller SUP

Andrea Moller (center) at the start of OluKai (© 808photo.me)

 


Lina Augaitis#8. Lina Augaitis, Canada

I have a pretty good feeling that Lina’s stocks will rise more sharply than any other female paddler in 2014. Was a virtual unknown at the start of the year before ending 2013 with a big win at Paddle Royal. Though Lina’s performance-of-the-season was definitely her third place in the BOP Cali Elite Distance Race, where she defeated more than half the paddlers that are listed in front of her on this list.

1st: Tahoe Nalu (Distance Race)
1st: Round The Rock
1st: Canadian SUP Championships
1st: Battle of the Bay
3rd: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)


#7. Mariko Strickland Lum, Hawaii

Mariko seemed to fly under the radar this year, however looking back through the results the Kauai girl had some extremely impressive finishes, especially in the big events. Showed her fighting spirit to get a top 5 podium spot at the biggest, most competitive women’s race of the year (perhaps the biggest women’s race in history), aka the Elite Race Final at the Battle of the Paddle California.

As one of the nicest people you’ll speak to either on or off the water, I hope Mariko is paddling even stronger in 2014.

1st: World Series Finals (Distance Race)
1st: Na Pali Race
4th: Gorge Paddle Challenge (Downwinder)
5th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)
5th: Molokai 2 Oahu

Mariko Strickland

Mariko paddling in her backyard on Kauai…


#6. Terrene Black, Australia

Terrene Black

Terrene crossing the Molokai finish line (© Sue Sheard)

Surprised everyone (except for everyone in Australia) by taking the Molokai 2 Oahu crown ahead of a classy women’s field. Backed it up with couple of other downwind victories in Hawaii and then showed it was no fluke by taking 4th in the most competitive women’s race ever; the BOP California Elite Race Final, which threw up conditions Terrene doesn’t particularly enjoy (it was largely a flat, waveless affair).

The hard working, hard training, hard paddling Aussie will be on plenty more podiums in 2014.

1st: Molokai 2 Oahu
1st: Maui 2 Molokai
4th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)


Sonni Honscheid SUP#5. Sonni Hönscheid, Germany

The strong, tall German paddler who used to live on Maui but now calls the Canary Islands home (What, not enough sun in Germany?!), Sonni Hönscheid is an absolute machine.

I got to see Sonni up close and personal in Europe this season and was blown away at how much power she has. Whether it’s a 32 mile channel crossing (top three at Molokai) or a dead flat lake in the middle of Germany (she took out the Lost Mills main event), Sonni is a serious threat at any race. I’m very eager to see how she performs in 2014, because in terms of her true potential, I get the feeling the world hasn’t seen anything from Sonni Hönscheid yet.

1st: Lost Mills (Distance Race)
1st: Port Adriano
3rd: Molokai 2 Oahu


Karla Gilbert#4. Karla Gilbert, Australia

Outside Australia Karla is still a relative unknown, though inside Australia she’s probably got a bigger reputation than every other stand up paddler in the country combined. A former Queen of Ironwoman racing (surf life saving) and part-time national sporting hero, Karla came out of professional retirement to start stand up paddling just a couple of years ago.

The Queenslander’s progress since then has been swift, though I get the feeling there’s still plenty more room to improve – Karla could realistically become the fastest female on the water if she continues at this rate.

A third place the BOP Elite Race (an event that, for once, gave women their own separate final and allowed them to shine away from the guys) gave the world a glimpse of Karla’s true potential. The Aussie beat home everyone bar Jenny and Annabel to officially announce herself on the SUP stage, though if anyone was watching her similarly strong performance at OluKai (4th overall on a 14 footer) or any of her countless wins at home, Karla’s BOP finish wouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.

1st: 12 Towers
1st: Australian National Titles (Course Race)
1st: Australian National Titles (Distance Race)
3rd: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)
4th: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)
4th: OluKai


#3. Candice Appleby, U.S.

Candice would probably prefer not to be on this list at all, rather than be *all* the way down at number three, such as is her extreme competitive streak. The former Queen of the BOP suffered from a very unfortunate hand injury (which is still sidelining her even now) and also battled with the fact that she is no longer the undisputed world #1 in women’s paddling.

Candice Appleby

During 2010 and 2011 Candice was unbeatable, especially at her pet event, the Battle of the Paddle. She hasn’t slowed down since then, it’s just that the others have caught up and that one or two have even overtaken her. If Candice can stop focusing on that fact and focus on getting back to her peak fitness (which I think she can), there’s no reason she can’t be #1 again.

1st: Orange Bowl
1st: Gorge Paddle Challenge (Course Race)
2nd: Gorge Paddle Challenge (Overall Title)


Jenny Kalmbach and Annabel Anderson#2. Jenny Kalmbach, Hawaii

Jenny Kalmbach came *so* close to winning this year’s two premiere events: She was runner-up in Molokai and runner-up in the BOP Elite Race. Oh and she was runner-up at Carolina… and runner-up at the Gorge Course Race…

Despite some amazing performances (from a paddler that some had probably written off as being past it – Jenny won the very first ever BOP waaay back in 2008, remember?) Jenny was unfortunately the bridesmaid of the year. Super strong, super talented, super determined… but still the runner-up.

So it’s kind of fitting then that Jenny is our runner-up as well.

I love the way Jenny Kalmbach goes about her business and if it wasn’t for that freak of a New Zealander deciding to take up SUP racing, the Big Island girl would be woman of the year.

2nd: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)
2nd: Molokai 2 Oahu
2nd: Carolina Cup
2nd: Gorge Paddle Challenge (Course Race)
2nd: Top 13 of 2013


Annabel Anderson

#1. Annabel Anderson, New Zealand

Not the hardest decision to award Annabel the number one slot, though any assumption that she easily earned it not only betrays the class of the other women in the field, but also undermines just how hard the Kiwi has worked to reach the top. You’ll rarely see a more committed and dedicated athlete, one that somehow combines a daily training routine with an intense travel schedule to consistently perform a step above the other ladies (and, amazingly, a step above most of the men as well).

Defended her BOP titles (both Elite and Distance), won in Carolina and cruised to another World Series title. If you check out our Race Results by Riviera page and sort by “Top Girl” you’ll see Annabel’s name no less than 30 times. Annabel wins a lot of races.

However the scariest part is not how many times she beats the other girls, but how many times she beats the guys as well. Annabel famously won a French downwind race (Oleron) in 2012, which first set the meme of her being faster than the guys in motion. Since then she’s repeated that feat at countless races both at home in NZ and at big events abroad. At Oleron 2013, where the field was three times stronger than last year, she beat almost all of the guys again, including some of the men who made the Top 13 list above. Yes, Annabel Anderson is a freak. And she’s the deserved winner of our Top 13 Women of 2013.

1st: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Race)
1st: Battle of the Paddle (California, Elite Distance Race)
1st: Carolina Cup
1st: Stand Up World Series (undefeated all season)


So there you go. The Top 13 Men and Women of 2013, at least in my opinion.

TOP 13 MEN OF 2013…
#1: Connor Baxter
#2: Travis Grant
#3: Danny Ching
#4: Kai Lenny
#5: Georges Cronsteadt
#6: Eric Terrien
#7: Jake Jensen
#8: Casper Steinfath
#9: Zane Schweitzer
#10: Chase Kosterlitz
#11: Mo Freitas
#12: Beau O’Brian
#13: Lincoln Dews

TOP 13 WOMEN OF 2013…
#1: Annabel Anderson
#2: Jenny Kalmbach
#3: Candice Appleby
#4: Karla Gilbert
#5: Sonni Hönscheid
#6: Terrene Black
#7: Mariko Strickland Lum
#8: Lina Augaitis
#9: Andrea Moller
#10: Morgan Hoesterey
#11: Fiona Wylde
#12: Brandi Baksic
#13: Krisztina Zur

What do you think?

 

 

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