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Euro Tour | Thrilling Finish at Bilbao World SUP Challenge

Thrilling Finish at Bilbao World SUP Challenge

In the shadows of the world famous Guggenheim Museum, the Euro Tour made its fifth stop of the season this past weekend at the Bilbao World SUP Challenge. In what is widely-regarded as the biggest race of the Euro Tour schedule, the anticipation levels were high and the action did not disappoint.

From 10-man Supsquatch racing to thrilling finishes and post-race controversy, this year’s event had a little bit of everything. In the end, it was Connor Baxter and Seychelle Hattingh who stood atop the podium following hard fought battles in the 14 kilometer race on the narrow Nervión River.

In the men’s division, it was race of attrition. 23 paddlers made up the lead pack until a blistering pace in the closing stages narrowed the lead train down to eight. Much like the previous two weeks, the final push to the finish line came down to a Battle Royale between Starboard teammates Baxter and Michael Booth. The hard-charging Maui man timed his move just right and passed Booth during the final few hundred yards of the race to win by a mere board-length.

Connor Baxter (right) narrowly defeated teammate Michael Booth (left) after a hard-fought battle. Photo: The Euro Tour Facebook
Connor Baxter (right) narrowly defeated teammate Michael Booth (left) to win Bilbao. Photo: The Euro Tour Facebook

However, the action didn’t end at the finish line. Following the race, Booth disputed the finish–claiming that Baxter ran him too close to the river wall and boxed him out–before having some choice words for his teammate. Race organizers deemed the finish clean, so Booth will be forced to wait until next week to get another shot at Baxter. After three straight weeks of close finishes and head-to-head racing, it should be no surprise that a rivalry has developed between the tour’s top paddlers.

The women’s race also featured an exciting finish between Americans Fiona Wylde and Seychelle Hattingh.  Wylde grabbed the lead early and set the pace for much of the race. However, Hattingh was lurking behind her and charged to the lead during the final sprint to the finish. Between this win and claiming last week’s “Fastest Paddler on Earth” title, Hattingh is quickly becoming a major force in the women’s circuit.

Following the high stakes racing on Saturday, the paddlers got to enjoy a Sunday fun day with the always entertaining Supsquatch racing. Ten paddlers hopped on giant inflatable SUPs for a wild and wacky race that was definitely a crowd-pleaser. Highlights from that race and the rest of the weekend can be found in the attached recap video.

Next week the tour will head to San Sebastian for the sixth stop on the tour. With a new rivalry and some very fast contenders, it’s expected to be another exciting race. As always, stay current on all Euro Tour action at


Coverage of last week’s Euro Tour stop at Lost Mills in Germany.

Complete recap and analysis from the first stop of the 2016 Standup World Series in Japan.


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2016 Euro Tour | Booth and Hönscheid Win Lost Mills

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 12.25.40 PM
Paddlers jockey for position on Lake Brombachsee during the Lost Mills race. Photo: The Euro Tour.

Booth and Hönscheid Win Lost Mills

Germany’s picturesque Lake Brombachsee set the backdrop for last weekend’s famed Lost Mills race–the fourth stop of the 2016 Euro Tour. With a stacked field including both new and familiar faces, the air was filled with anticipation for what was expected to be a thrilling weekend of racing.

The first day featured the always exciting “Fastest Paddler on Earth” contest. This year, the 200-meter sprint races attracted a record 91 athletes who went all-out to claim the coveted title.

On the men’s side, several new paddlers put on impressive efforts including 17-year-old American Noa Hopper and Frenchman Boris Jinvresse–who finished runner-up. However, it was Maui man Connor Baxter who dug deep on the final sprint of the day to snatch the victory and reclaim the title he won back in 2013. As for the women, it was endurance paddler Seychelle Hattingh–who owns a world record for paddling 110 miles in 24 hours–who showed off her sprinting prowess with a dominating performance.

Meet the
Meet the “World’s Fastest Padders”, Connor Baxter and Seychelle Hattingh. Photo courtesy of The Euro Tour.

On day two, the competitors switched gears to get ready for the 18 kilometer race that featured three laps and 18 buoy turns. This setup gave the feel of a “giant course race” that rewarded not only endurance, but also the paddlers’ technical abilities.

The men’s race featured tight racing with 22 paddlers making up the lead group for the majority of the race. That is until the race began to draw to a close, when four racers–Jake Jenson, Titouan Puyo, Connor Baxter and Michael Booth–were finally able to separate themselves from the pack.

These four nipped at each others heels until a frantic sprint to the finish broke out between Baxter and Booth. In the end, it was the Booth who out-sprinted the newly crowned “Fastest Paddler on Earth” to claim victory. The triumph was sweet revenge for the Australian, who narrowly defeated by Baxter only one week ago in France.

The lead pack (from left) Titouan Puyo, Jake Jenson, Michael Booth and Connor Baxter. Photo: The Euro Tour
The lead pack (from left) Titouan Puyo, Jake Jenson, Michael Booth and Connor Baxter. Photo: The Euro Tour

In the women’s long distance event, German Sonni Hönscheid continued her dominate run by handily defeating Americans Seychelle Hattingh and Fiona Wylde by over two minutes. She has yet to be defeated during the 2016 Euro Tour and is certainly showing no signs of slowing down.

This coming weekend, the tour will head to the Basque Country for the biggest race of the year, The Bilbao World SUP Challenge. Stay tuned to for a full recap and analysis of all the action.


Check out the action from the Euro Tour’s third stop at St. Maxime, France.

More Euro Tour.

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2016 Euro Tour Off to Memorable Start

Paddlers compete during round two of the 2016 Euro Tour at the Port Adriano SUP Race. Photo courtesy of Euro Tour Facebook.
Paddlers compete during round two of the 2016 Euro Tour at the Port Adriano SUP Race. Photo courtesy of Euro Tour Facebook.

2016 Euro Tour Off to Memorable Start

Prior to last year, the European SUP racing scene was like a unfinished puzzle–the pieces were all there, they just didn’t make a complete picture. Despite a plethora of different races and a talented pool of paddlers, there was simply no platform for them to face-off against one another in an organized fashion.

That all changed in 2015 when industry insiders put their heads together and created the inaugural Euro Tour. After a successful first season, organizers expanded the tour–nearly doubling the number of events to now include 14 stops in 11 countries over the course of three months. With more racers able to compete in more events, 2016 was set to be a thrilling year of paddling action.

Now with the first three rounds of the 2016 Euro Tour in the books, one thing is clear–it’s going to be a wild summer.

Unpredictable conditions, emerging SUP racers, beautiful locations, and nail-biter finishes are all phrases that would accurately depict the opening rounds to Europe’s biggest SUP racing circuit. Yet despite it all, two familiar faces remain atop a very hungry pack of paddlers.

Euro Tour 2
The picturesque setting of the Mediterranean island of Mallorca set the stage for round two of the 2016 Euro Tour. Photo courtesy of Euro Tour Facebook.

Defending Euro Tour champions Connor Baxter and Sonni Hönscheid came out of round three–the SUP Race Cup in St. Maxime, France–with hard-fought victories that catapulted them to front-runners in the championship hunt. However, tight competition and narrow victories sent a message that defending their championships will not be easy.

With the picturesque scenery of the French Riviera in the background, Baxter was in command during his course race victory on day one. However, things would not come so easy on day two. Australian Michael Booth surprised everyone by pulling away from both Baxter and Titouan Puyo–the 2016 Carolina Cup winner–to win the long distance race by a minute. Booth’s effort was nearly enough to eclipse Baxter’s overall combined time, but the Maui native hung on to the overall victory by a mere nine seconds (virtually nothing considering his winning time was just over two hours and seven minutes).

Meanwhile, Hönscheid fought off a strong effort from Fiona Wylde to claim both the course and long distances races in St. Maxime. Fresh off a win in round two of the tour, the German paddler is already starting to look like the heavy favorite to repeat as Euro Tour champion.

The SUP Race Cup also happened to be the first of three “headliner” events in the Euro Tour schedule–meaning these three races are higher profile and will play a large part in determining the champion. Since many of the top international paddlers do not compete until the headliner events, the first two rounds gave local paddlers a chance to shine.

Stormy weather made the season-opening round in Portugal a challenging affair. Photo courtesy of Euro Tour Facebook.
Stormy weather made the season-opening round in Portugal a challenging affair. Photo courtesy of Euro Tour Facebook.

Round two was held on the picturesque Mediterranean island of Mallorca. Formally known as the Port Adriano SUP race, it featured an Italian sweep of the podium with Paolo Marconi taking home the victory on the men’s side. As for the women, Susak Molinero–who happens to be Marconi’s girlfriend–put in a strong showing and finished runner-up to the defending champ.

Meanwhile, the season kicked-off under stormy skies at the Port Setubal SUP Race in Portugal. Overcoming challenging conditions, Italian Leonard Nika won the men’s division and Spain’s Laura Quetglas held off some hard-charging ladies to claim victory in the inaugural event.

Up next for the Euro Tour is one of the most highly anticipated races of the season, the Lost Mills race in Germany. The action should be intense with Baxter trying to hold off a fast field of paddlers, while Hönscheid goes for victory on her home soil.

As always, stay tuned to for all your Euro Tour news, results and analysis.


Get caught up on the wild finish during round one of the Standup World Series’ in Japan.

Find out what went down during last year’s Lost Mills race in Germany.





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The New Wave Is Coming | Connor Baxter and Zane Schweitzer Go Foil Surfing

A New Wave Coming | Connor Baxter and Zane Schweitzer Go Foil Surfing

There’s a new a style of hydrofoils in standup paddling, and their eminent public release is churning the waters of SUP with an onslaught of buzz regarding its feasibility, practicality and general potential for a damn good time. The Go Foil, is an underwater wing that–when used properly–will lift the board and rider out of the water during downwinders or while surfing. While Starboard and other brands are designing specific boards tailored to the foil, paddlers will be happy to learn it also attaches to any SUP through a modified fin-box.

Last month, Kai Lenny unveiled the new device with a mind-blowing video of him downwinding with the foil—a discipline where hydrofoiling had never been figured out before. The reaction from the SUP community? Overwhelming. Paddlers, surfers and watersports enthusiasts alike were all fascinated with the Go Foil and many believe it will dramatically change not only downwinding, but the entire sport of standup paddling.

Now, we find a video of Starboard riders Connor Baxter and Zane Schweitzer riding the foil in the surf. While people have been hydrofoiling in the surf for quite some time, the versatility of the Go Foil could prove revolutionary.

Want to try one? You’ll have to wait a few months because while you can pre-order the Go Foil, it will not begin shipping until August. So for now, enjoy watching the newest craze in SUP and weigh in with your own opinion: How do you expect the Go Foil to impact the future of SUP?


Kai Lenny’s high-flyin’ downwind run on the hydrofoil.

Watch Zane take four lil’ groms on the ultimate party wave.


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2016 OluKai Ho’olaule’a

Recap and Gallery From the 8th Annual OluKai

We’re just going to say it: when the wind is blowing on the Maliko Run, there’s hardly another place we’d rather be. And judging from the smiles on the nearly 300 racers’ faces yesterday at the 2016 OluKai Ho’olaule’a, they feel the same way.

The Maliko delivered good, if not great winds for the 2016 Ho’o. Maui magic man Connor Baxter rode them to his fifth consecutive title proving again that he is nearly invincible on this stretch of coast in good conditions. Sonni Honscheid, who’s been runner-up at this race many times, took her first-ever Ho’o title over a strong field of local paddlers.

Baxter’s result was almost a foregone conclusion at this point. Not only did he grow up paddling here but he’s one the of the best bump riders in the world. He’s also one of the best sprinters around, and the new start inside Maliko Gulch—which made for a cleaner, more controlled start—played to his strengths. Once again, he outpaced the field by a wide margin, finishing ahead of second-place finisher Mo Freitas by more than a minute-and-a-half.

“There’s no better feeling than coming back and racing at home,” Baxter said.

The result for Freitas is mightily impressive. The young man from Oahu is racking up quite the race résumé at this point, having won both the technical race at the Pacific Paddle Games and the Payette River Games. Placing ahead of a hungry pack of locals like Kai Lenny, Dave Kalama and downwind master Travis Grant is a testament to his raw talent and race savvy (not to mention he’s one of the best SUP surfers in the world). This is only the beginning for him.

Twenty-year-old Australian Matt Nottage rounded out the top-three and continues to prove that he’s a downwind force at home and abroad. He’s only been paddling OC-1 and SUP for five years but has been posting big results throughout the past year. Look for him to make a notable impact in the rest of this season’s downwind races.

Our prediction for runner-up, Travis Grant, crossed the line next. Grant is a downwind king and one of the best open-ocean racers in the world. Fourth place for him is a bit of a shocker, though considering the competition, it’s respectable. Grant’s visibly still hungry for it, and will be gunning at all other Hawaiian races this year, not withholding M2O, where he will defend his crown.

Another Australian phenom who’s busting onto the scene is James Casey. He’s put on some serious muscle in the last year and was all smiles when we talked to him after the race. With that attitude and the skill to back it up, Casey’s another one to watch for.

Dave Kalama claimed the last spot on the traditional podium based on his honed downwind technique and skill. He hurt his back last week paddle surfing and spent the day after the incident on the couch so he was iffy to race, at best. But Kalama is as competitive as a teenager and is always looking to bruise a few youthful egos. He did just that, finishing ahead of hydrofoiling wizard Kai Lenny, Maui local Bernd Roediger, Tahitian Manatea Bopp du Pont and stock 14′ aficionado Travis Baptiste in the top ten.

Andrea Moller, who was the seven-time consecutive champion of this race, had to sit this year out due to a big-wave surfing injury sustained at Jaws, but she was at the finish line to congratulate her SIC teammate and close competitor Sonni Honscheid as Honscheid claimed her first OluKai crown. Honscheid has strong chops in flatwater, distance and downwind racing, and is a consistent competitor anywhere in the world. This win has to feel especially sweet, though.

“(The wind) was amazing,” Honscheid told SUP after the race. “It was one of the best runs I’ve had out here.”

Seasoned Maui paddler Kathy Shipman proved that local knowledge is key on the Maliko, finishing just 36 seconds behind Honscheid. We overheard some locals talking about Shipman’s style on the course: “It looks like she’s not doing anything, and she’ll blow right past you.” It’s something a lot of racers experienced yesterday.

Former M2O champ, Australian Terrene Black, finished third, adding another open-ocean notch to her belt. Black is a lifeguard back home but makes a point to come out for the big Hawaiian races. She’s always a force when bumps are in the water.

Another Maui resident, Devin Blish, played the local card to good effect for fourth. Oahu resident Amy Woodward came in fifth and former M2O record-setter Talia Gangini-Decoite came in sixth, finishing less than a minute ahead of Oregon-Maui transplant, the rising star Fiona Wylde.

Needless to say, the ninth annual OluKai Ho’olaule’a can’t come soon enough.

Get social: Tag @SUPthemag in your Instagram photos, and hashtag #OluKaiRace & #AnywhereAloha

Full results.

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Who to Watch at the 2016 OluKai Ho’olaule’a

The usual suspects. The men's podium will look a lot like this photo. Photo: Black-Schmidt
The usual suspects. The men’s podium ought to look a lot like this photo. Photo: Black-Schmidt

Who to Watch at the 2016 OluKai Ho’olaule’a

The start to downwind racing season is only a day away, with SUP racers from all over the world showing up on Maui for a crack at the podium at the 2016 OluKai Ho’olaule’a. The wind has been firing all week and Maliko Gulch has been packed with paddlers eager to get their feet underneath them on the world-famous Maliko Run. Local speed demon Scott Trudon says he’s never seen so many people from around the world in town and on the water in the week leading up to the race, which leads us to believe this could be one of the most competitive Ho’os yet.

There are a few noteworthy alterations from years prior that will have a big effect on the race. First, this year’s race will start inside of Maliko Gulch instead of outside, in open water, as it has traditionally. This will give the advantage to better starters, sprint paddlers and tacticians instead of downwind specialists. Whoever gets to the buoy outside the gulch and headed downwind first will have a major advantage. Second, the final buoy placement. It’s been a matter of speculation all week as to where along the reef at Kanaha they’ll put the buoy. Depending on the swell (which doesn’t look too big) and just how hard the wind is blowing, the positioning of this buoy could change the whole race. Third, the wind. It looks like it’ll be good, but whether it’s more east and pushing out to sea or more north and pushing to the beach will change everyone’s lines and potentially, the people who end up standing on the podium.

The Ladies

The big news on the women’s side is that undefeated, seven-time Ho’olaule’a champion Andrea Moller has a leg injury (sustained during the all-time Maui big-wave season) and will not be racing tomorrow, according to OluKai. This leaves a hungry pack, led by 2014 and 2015 second-place finisher Sonni Honscheid, who’s coming off a third-place finish at the Carolina Cup. That means she’s in good shape and will be racing on a stretch of coast that she frequently visits to paddle with her SIC Maui teammates. She’s also no stranger to racing on the open ocean, having won Molokai 2 Oahu twice. She has to be the favorite with Andrea out.

But there’s a hungry pack that won’t let her win without a fight. 2013 M2O champ Terrene Black (fifth at Carolina), Hood River phenom Fiona Wylde (fourth at Carolina), Maui paddlers Devin Blish, Talia Gangini-Decoite (another M2O Champ) and Kathy Shipman. The wind’s up so it will be a run race to watch.

The Gentlemen

Then there’s the men. You can’t look past consecutive four-time OluKai winner and Maui local Connor Baxter to win here, especially after his 2015 win where he crossed the line two minutes ahead of second-place. Not only is he one of the fastest paddlers in the world, he’s otherworldly in downwind conditions. He knows this stretch of coast intimately and we spotted him doing laps in the Gulch before disappearing into the downwind spray. The new start will also play into his race-start strength.

Travis Grant is the yearly runner up here and is a dangerous downwind demon. He’ll give Baxter a run for his money but he’d need to paddle a perfect race against the local boy to take first. That said, if anyone is going to take the crown from Baxter, Grant is probably the guy.

Last we spoke with Dave Kalama, he wasn’t even sure he was racing on Saturday due to a back injury sustained in the surf. But Kalama loves this run and will have a hard time keeping off the start line with all the excitement in the windy air. Expect him to give the young guns a run for their money, though the Gulch start won’t help him out.

Then there’s a hungry Aussie crew featuring Matt Nottage and James Casey who have been chain-blazing Malikos and looking strong, according to local downwind ninja Jeremy Riggs. Riggs will be another top-ten finisher who could end up at the front of the pack if he gets a good start. 2010 OluKai winner Livio Menelau, a Brazilian who’s lived on the island for years, will be right in there to.

And then there’s Kai Lenny. The SUP magazine crew did a Maliko Run with him this week and Lenny was dancing down the coast, literally doing walking 360s as he rode bumps. He knows what he’s doing out there but he’s been notoriously fickle about doing this race. If he shows up, expect him to gun for the top spot.

And don’t forgot the other Maui boys: Kody Kerbox, Zane Schweitzer and Josh Riccio.

The wind’s up, the pros are here and excitement is blowing around in the trades. We’ll be covering the event live, so keep your eyes on our Facebook page, our Instagram and of course,

Learn about the Maliko Run.

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Pro Tales | Connor Baxter On How To Prepare For The OluKai Ho’olaulea

Pro Tips | Connor Baxter On How To Prepare For The OluKai Ho’olaulea

You could say that Connor Baxter knows a thing or two about the Maliko Run. And about winning the OluKai Ho’olaule’a. The Maui local has taken the Ho’o crown for the last four years running. We sat down with Baxter to get his insight on what it takes to prepare for this epic race. Check it out above.

More OluKai Ho’laule’a.

More Connor Baxter.

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Pro Activity | Connor Baxter Triumphs A Roller Coaster Race Season

connor baxter ppg

Connor Baxter comes from well behind in the Elite Distance Race at the 2015 Pacific Paddle Games presented by Salt Life to overtake runner-up Danny Ching, overcome debilitating injury and overachieve after his devastating loss at M2O earlier this season. Photo: Mike Misselwitz

Pro Activity | Connor Baxter

How Connor Baxter Bounced Back From M2O Heartbreak to Win #PPG2015

Going into the 2015 Molokai 2 Oahu race, Connor Baxter had good reason to be confident. He’s been crossing The Channel of Bones—the punishing 32-mile open-ocean crossing between Molokai and Oahu—since he was 14, he’s won the famed event three times and holds the course record. He knew his preparation hadn’t been perfect, having trained less than usual leading up to M2O due to his incredibly demanding travel schedule, along with the small matter of fixing up a new house on Maui. But with a convincing win in the Olukai Ho’o under his belt, Baxter generally felt strong going into M2O.

Then, everything went wrong.

Baxter powered through 18 grueling miles at M2O in severe shoulder and back pain before his support crew made him pull out of the race. No doubt, he'll be back with a vengeance for his favorite race of the season next year. Photo: Erik Aeder

Baxter powered through 18 grueling miles at M2O in severe shoulder and back pain before his support crew made him pull out of the race. No doubt, he’ll be back with a vengeance for his favorite race of the season next year. Photo: Erik Aeder

Early in the race, the shoulder issue Baxter struggled with early in the season flared up, delivering a painful stab with every powerful stroke. Then his stomach revolted, first cramping and then refusing to accept the hydration formula he was using to refuel. Before long, he was throwing up while he watched a group of racers, led by Travis Grant and Kai Lenny, pull away in the unusually hot, flat conditions. Though he somehow pushed on for 18 miles, Baxter eventually submitted to the decision of his father and support crew: he had to withdraw.

Though the paddling community rallied to show its support, Baxter was mentally and physically crushed. “I’d been looking forward to Molokai all year, and being forced to stop was the worst experience of my career,” the 21-year-old said. “I didn’t want to give up, but my crew saw that I was really hurting myself out there.”




Connor Baxter earns the win the hard way with a come-behind victory over Danny Ching to take the Pro Distance win at #PPG2015 presented by Salt Life.

Acting on the wise advice of his parents and girlfriend, Baxter took a few days to recuperate physically. Getting his mind right wasn’t going to be so easy. He knew that there were several major events coming up fast, including the Payette River Games, Columbia River Gorge and The Pacific Paddle Games, but he couldn’t seem to get his head around what had just transpired during M2O.

“It really knocked my confidence and I started questioning myself,” Baxter said. “Eventually I realized that I’m still young and there will be plenty of other chances to prove myself. What happened in Molokai didn’t show who I really am.”

As the season progressed, Baxter’s shoulder, and ego, began to heal and he was able to secure a win at the Standup World Series event—the Hayama Pro—in Japan.

Still, at the start of the Pacific Paddle Games, the formbook had several racers ranked ahead of Baxter, including Molokai champion Travis Grant, Payette victor Mo Freitas, Columbia Gorge winner Kelly Margetts and a man who has proven himself at Doheny State Beach time and time again, Danny Ching.

“Though there was some new stuff at PPG – like the buoys and coming in and out of the surf on 14-foot boards—I felt really relaxed,” Baxter said.

And this sense of calm was evident when it mattered most. Baxter came from behind to overtake Danny Ching on the beach sprint, taking the distance race by two seconds. But in the Men’s Elite Technical Race final on Sunday, it was Mo Freitas who dominated, establishing an early lead and carrying it to victory followed by runner-up Casper Steinfath and third-place finisher Kody Kerbox. Baxter was neck-and-neck with several other racers until one last wave came his way. With the overall title on the line, he caught it and pulled away from the pack. Even before the judges totaled up the combined scores, it was evident that Baxter’s fourth-place finish was enough: He’d overcome the crushing result at Molokai to win the biggest two-day event of the year. Baxter followed up the #PPG2015 title up with second place overall in the Standup World Series after going head-to-head with friend and rival Kai Lenny in the final stop at Turtle Bay.

connor baxter pro activity

Baxter narrowly missed another World Champion racing title on the Standup World Series after a neck-and-neck finish behind Kai Lenny at the World Series Finals in Turtle Bay. Looking strong as ever for 2016, chances are Lenny won’t have it so easy next year. Photo: Waterman League

Now that the 2015 race season is over, Baxter is back on Maui and enjoying the respite from the rigors of non-stop travel and competition. He says he hasn’t even set foot on a SUP since returning home, and is instead splitting his time between house refurbishments and shortboarding. While he knows that prep for the 2016 calendar will begin soon, Baxter is also preparing to take on other challenges this winter.

“I’m going to try and get more comfortable in SUP surfing big waves, and just get back to having fun in the water,” he said. “When it’s time for Molokai, I’ll make sure I’m ready.”

More info on the 2015 SUP Awards third-place Male Paddler of the Year.

Revisit the 2015 Molokai 2 Oahu with our exclusive gallery and race recap.

More Pro Activity.

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2015 SUP Awards: Top Male Paddlers – 1st-Caio Vaz, 2nd-Kai Lenny, 3rd-Connor Baxter

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SUP magazine’s Paddle Rankings

There's going to be a lot of this over the weekend at Doheny. Photo: JP Van Swae

There’s going to be a lot of this over the weekend at Doheny. Photo: JP Van Swae

Welcome to the first-ever SUP magazine Paddle Rankings. Boom! That just sounds authoritative. If you’re over the whole pro paddling scene, move on to the next post. This is serious. Mostly. The list below is our take on the world of racing, written with human emotion, so yeah, they may be a bit biased. We rely more on the eye test than analytics, even though we’ll use hard facts too. This is unabashed, unadulterated, opinionated, pro-race reading. And with the US Open finishing up last week in Huntington, and the Pacific Paddle Games, presented by Salt Life, at Doheny State Beach set to go off this weekend, the timing couldn’t be better.


1. Kai Lenny
Is it just me or has Kai Lenny’s body changed? He’s actually moving more toward the Danny Ching body type these days. Almost no no one trains harder than Kai, so it’s easy to see how he’s bulked up. That extra strength seems to be paying dividends, he’s been tough to beat at World Series races (he can wrap up a world title on Oahu next week) and I love watching him paddle: super powerful, yet he moves his race board with a style that’s pleasing on the eyes. The technical race as this year’s Pacific Paddle Games is tailored to Lenny’s style. Distance is always the wildcard for him. He finished second at Molokai, albeit 16 minutes behind Travis Grant, and ended 25th at Hood River. Don’t expect him to blink on this big stage.


2. Connor Baxter
Connor has had a tough year by his standards: he pulled out of the Molokai—his pet race—and he just hasn’t looked in form. And his results have reflected that. But the kid is so accomplished at 21 so it’s hard to really ever count him out of anything. He seems worn out after a long year but this weekend will go a long way in determining where he’s at. His lackluster year might just be the fuel he needs to set fire to #PPG2015.


3. Danny Ching

Our Top Four is extremely muddled as each paddler is capable of taking a win against the others depending on the day. But Danny Ching has stayed successful for so long I can’t help making this proclamation (and would be stupid not to): Ching can never be underestimated. He’s got the ideal body for power paddling in any condition: He’s light, muscular and put together in a perfect package for winning races over time, much like Mo Freitas, Zane Schweitzer and Kai Lenny. And his paddling record at Doheny is second to none. The winningest paddler of his generation, he’s without a doubt a favorite to take the Pacific Paddle Games’ overall title.


4. Travis Grant

Travis Grant is one of our favorite paddlers. He knows the sport—and the mechanics of paddling—supremely well as he has a background in building paddles and paddling outrigger. And no one in the world is better in distance and downwind (he won best performance at SUP magazine’s 2015 SUP Awards for his second, and dominant, Molokai win this year). But he hasn’t won a major technical race in several years now so it’ll be interesting to see how he fares at the PPG’s this weekend. If he wins the distance, he’ll most likely just need to crack the Top 5 in the technical to take the overall title.


5. Mo Freitas
There’s no need to justify Mo Freitas being in the Top Ten in our Power Rankings. But we might need to rationalize putting him this low. One of the most uniquely gifted paddlers in the sport, Freitas is a podium threat anytime he registers for a number. He’s so young, it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out for him in 2016 after finishing 3rd overall at the World Series event in Huntington last week (he’s currently in 5th for the year). For now, he’s a legitimate threat to win the PPG’s and earn his spot farther up this list.


6. Kelly Margetts

Alight, this is a nod to the mature paddlers amongst us. At 43, Margetts is having an unbelievable year, winning the grueling Gorge distance race against a stacked field and finishing second in the Aussie titles. And he always did well at the BOP. It’s hard to give what Margetts is pulling off a sports analogy that works. Kelly Slater is close but Slater has had a lot more sustained success. I could think of some baseball pitchers who’ve had late-career revivals but the comparisons are too random. Simply put, dude is killing it into midlife. Something most of us can only dream of attaining as we grow older.


7. Zane Schweitzer

OK, sentimental favorite here. Zane has a ton of ability. He might not crack the top ten of some world rankings but he’s just as talented as the field above him. I always feel like he needs one big win to put him over the top and I find myself rooting for him on the beach. He definitely had a breakthrough season on the surf side, finishing second in the world and is ranked 7th in the World Series. Maybe it’s his time at the PPGs?


8. Casper Steinfath
Fear the beard. Or at least know it’s chasing you down. Casper hasn’t won a big event when paired against the world’s best competition, other than a victory at an ISA’s in 2013, but he’s always right there in the top seven of most races he’s entered He’s an extremely versatile paddler and is comfortable racing rail-to-rail with the best paddlers on the regular. It’s only a matter of time before Steinfath—and his beard—earns a break.


9. Titouan Puyo
Titouan Puyo has become one of the best paddle athletes alive. Mostly because of where he grew up (there’s a lot of God-given ability in there too): his parents raised him in New Caledonia and he’s a long-time canoe racer. Needless to say he knows how to read the open ocean. And that’s why he’s busted out this year, finishing third in both distance and technical in Hood River. He still hasn’t taken that final step to the podium, and his technical race ability is still developing, but he has all the tools in the shed.


10. Slater Trout
Slater, Slater, Slater. Gifted. Talented. Marginally interested in following the race circuit around the world. But that’s OK, cause he can still come out and crush it with the best athletes in the sport on any given day. And that’s why he’s always on the watch list at any given event that he chooses to attend. And he seems to do well at combo events like the PPG (he finished 6th overall at the Payette River Games). Not to mention, he was one of the first guys to sign up for this race.


1. Candice Appleby
Candice Appleby will be the first to tell you that God makes her a great racer. We tend to think it’s because she’s an outrageously intense competitor. Whether you think her success this year is divine intervention or not, Appleby is crushing it. An undeniable truth. She won the World Series Title last week and is set for a rematch against her stiffest rival, Annabel Anderson this weekend. Whether that rivalry is as heated as it once was is debatable, but it still makes watching these two go at it fun.


2. Annabel Anderson
Still one of the sport’s greatest athletes, Annabel Anderson has again strategically picked the races she’s attended this year. Her performance at the Gorge was supremely impressive as she swept the podium. While Appleby wasn’t at the event, it was still a fine showing. The live broadcast of this weekend’s event definitely gets a ratings boost when Appleby and Anderson are in the same beach start. Stay tuned. This one is too close to call.


3.Fiona Wylde
Wylde has the potential to become the next star of women’s racing. Some would argue she’s already there but with Anderson and Appleby still in the game, it isn’t quite her time. That hasn’t made her results any less impressive. She ended the season tied for second overall on the Standup World Series and at the Gorge Paddle Challenge, she finished the elite course in third and second in the distance. She was also the only person to challenge Anderson at the Carolina Cup this year.


4. Angela Jackson
Angela Jackson is a gifted Australian racer and is in that top four conversation anytime she’s in an event. She’s been concentrating on building a board brand with her husband, Paul, so her focus hasn’t been entirely on the water. But she still managed to finish fourth overall in the World Series rankings. I always keep my eye on her at the start line—she’s always a threat.


5. Shae Foudy
Dana Point, California’s Shae Foudy is having a breakout year. It’s official. She won the Santa Monica event this summer and grabbed the Breakout Performance award at the SUP Awards—one of the few “locals” to ever win an award at the annual event held each year in San Clemente, right down the road from where she grew up. At 16, she has a legitimate shot at becoming the best female racer in the sport. And that could happen next year. It’ll be interesting to see how she fares this weekend.

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