Glory, Bragging Rights And A Trip To Nicaragua On The Line As Australia And France Hold National Titles This Weekend
Two of the very best paddling countries are holding their national SUP titles this weekend, with glory, bragging rights and a trip to Nicaragua on the line. The Australian SUP Titles are happening all weekend on the Gold Coast, while on the other side of the world the French will be hosting their nationals as well, which will help decide the lineup of “Les Bleus” for the May 2014 event.
Australia’s talent is universally recognised. The nation has produced a near-endless list of World Champs in just about every ocean sport imaginable and Stand Up Paddling is no exception. The Aussies comfortably won the first two editions of the ISA Worlds, while their top names such as Travis Grant and Jamie Mitchell have won every major SUP race there is.
France doesn’t get the same recognition nor does it have the same elite-level talent as Oz, but it’s that not far off either… As far as the ISA World Championship goes, if every country sent their best team to Nicaragua then I’d bet on the French being a clear #4 in the world. With guys like Eric Terrien leading the way and young guns such as Arthur Arutkin and Arthur Daniel rising fast, I would say that France is the leading contender outside the “Big 3” paddling nations of Australia, Hawaii and the United States (yes… the U.S. and Hawaii are separated at ISA events).
France is stacked with talent and so it’ll be very interesting to see the results from this weekend’s national titles. When it comes to SUP racing in Europe it’s hard to ever bet against Eric Terrien (who coincidentally celebrates his birthday on Friday) though the traditional Euro #1 will have stiff competition from up-and-coming star Arthur Daniel. The other Arthur – Arutkin – has shown this year he’s extremely gifted, while Eric’s traditional rivals such as Gaetene Sene and co. will be just as hungry as well. These are only a few of the names in what is becoming a long list of elite talent in France. I spent the Summer in the country and saw first hand just how much depth the Frenchies now have when it comes to SUP racing, so whoever gets the victory this weekend will have definitely deserved a ticket to Central America.
The ‘Championnat de France SUP Race’ will be held at Canet en Roussillon in the South of France, just a few miles North of the Spanish border. The event will see a Beach Race (think: flat-water Battle of the Paddle) and a Distance Race, which mirrors the format of the ISA World Champs.
Back in Aus: The Australian SUP Titles will run on Saturday and Sunday at the mecca of paddling, Currumbin, and just like the French will see a BOP-style course race and a Distance Race. The course race will be in and out through the surf while the distance event will be a downwinder (wind permitting).
Australia’s roster of elite paddlers needs no introduction, however the full list will not be on display this weekend. Missing are the likes of Jamie Mitchell and Travis Grant; despite both these guys calling the Gold Coast home, neither will be in the country this weekend. Travis can’t leave the United States while his citizenship application goes through (Trav moved to Hawaii a few months ago), while JM is busy prepping for the heavy North Shore Winter.
So who’s it going to be? Jake Jensen has been in red hot form the past couple of months and will probably be the one to watch, though reigning Aussie champ Beau O’Brian is also super strong. But really it could be any one of half a dozen guys. Kelly Margetts and Lincoln Dews both know how to win, while there are another 8-10 guys rising very quickly through the ranks that could produce an upset. Toby Cracknell was our dark horse pick at the Battle of the Paddle back in September and should do very well this weekend, while Jake Jensen’s older brother Jayden came out of nowhere to almost steal a podium spot at the BOP in September and will be another to watch..
And that’s just the men. The women’s event will see a small but very elite field, with Molokai champ Terrene Black, 2009 BOP winner Shakira Westdorp, official 2013 dark horse Karla Gilbert (3rd in the BOP Cali Elite Race) and local gun Sondra Purser all vying to take the title away from Angie Jackson, who came home with a bag of Gold and Silver Medals after representing Australia at the first two ISA Worlds.
But no matter what happens, one thing is guaranteed: Australia is going to have a very strong squad for the ISA World Champs in Nicaragua next year. It’ll be very hard to stop them making it a three-peat, though we also know the French won’t give up without a fight…