Connor Baxter’s Insights Into The “Ultimate SUP Showdown”
Boss Man’s note: The Ultimate SUP Showdown debuted at Duke’s OceanFest a few days ago. The Showdown brings a new format and a lot of potential to the sport, with the inaugural event showcasing a good chunk of paddling’s finest.
Connor Baxter was the star of the day though, with the Starboard young gun taking out the SUP Showdown finale after a tight battle with Aussie Travis Grant. We’ll have a full summary of the event coming soon, but in the meantime here’s Connor’s personal recap of the day…
Ultimate SUP Showdown recap by Connor Baxter
The 2013 Ultimate SUP Showdown was a huge success. This event took place on Oahu and it was a part of the famous Duke Kahanamoku Event. This event was alittle different in the sense that when I signed up I was in both the surf part and the race part. All the competitors had to compete in both the race and surf – which made it a fun day at the beach.
This event had some of the best racers and surfers from all over – Travis Grant, Jamie Mitchell, Fernando Stalla, Zane Schweitzer, Chuck Patterson, Matt Becker, Riggs and Aaron Napoleon, Candice Appleby, Vanina Walsh, Kai Sallas, Mo Freitas, Noa Ginella – and lots more!
Going into the event, I was more focused on winning the race events, but of course I wanted to do good in the surfing. I surfed first and the waves were super small and inconsistent. I was on my Starboard Pro 7’4″ x 26″ and it was working great when the waves did come. I only caught a couple waves and tried my hardest to make it through but ended up not making it, but it just gave me more energy to put in the race side.
For the race there were four 8 man heats – with 4 racers advancing. The sprint course was pretty short, but we got to go in and out though the surf, which made it fun. In my first heat I didn’t give it my all, but enough to come in first.
How they ran the contest was pretty interesting. First surfing round one – then round one of racing then back to surfing for round two – and so on. Since I got knocked out of the surfing I got to stretch and relax. But as soon as it was my turn to race again, I was pumped up and ready to go. In my next heat I had a perfect start and was in the lead from the get go. I let off the gas a little since I still had two more races. I went around the course and made a little mistake coming around the buoy but readjusted and got right back up to the front. Coming into the finish I was in second right next to third. I knew I just had to be in the top 4 to make it into the finals, so I let off a bit and ran up the beach.
The next heat was the finals for racing. And the top three got prize money. The finals for the surfing also had the same prize money for the top three.
But – this was not the end of the event.
After the finals – then the top 8 male & top female surfers and the top 8 male & top female racers went into a bigger and longer sprint race called the Ultimate Showdown. This is where the big money is at and everyone is going to go all out. But – I’ll get back to this race – I am getting ahead of myself!
So – for my final heat with the top 8 racers – I made sure I had a good starting position and wasn’t going to let the gas off. So when the horn blew I ran down the beach and jumped on to my board. I sprinted as hard I could. Travis was right next to me as we rounded the first buoy. Coming into the next one Travis and I caught a wave and collided and I tried to stay up and managed not to fall. I rounded the buoy and didn’t look back. I kept paddling as hard as I could and caught a little bump which kept me in the lead. Next thing I knew I was running up the beach in first place. Winning a $1000!
So now – up next was the Showdown and the possibility of being $5,000 richer.
They changed the course to a W course and it was longer then before. All 16 of us guys and the 2 girls lined up and were ready to go. When the horn blew I ran down the beach and jumped on my board, but I jumped a little early and hit my fin in the sand and almost fell in the water. But I saved myself and got to my feet and got back up to the front. Travis and Zane were in the front when we rounded the first buoy. It stayed like this until the second to last buoy. Travis was first them I turned in second. Going to the last buoy I paddled my hardest and passed Travis. I stayed ahead of him – and caught a small wave – and then he paddled hard and caught the same wave. I kept paddling all out until I hit the beach and ran up in first place. I was super stoked on my victory.
There were 2 award ceremonies. One was at the beach – where we got our big checks.
The second awards was super special. There was a RED CARPET with photographers for us when we entered the banquet – which was at Jimmy Buffets Restaurant in Waikiki. Fantastic Food. The event organizer, Boyd Jeffrey gave out special trophies and plaques to thank everyone that helped with the event – along with cash & trophies for the winners. Everything about this event was number 1.
I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Rainbow Sandals, Futures Fins, Dakine, Trident Sports, GoPro, OnIt Pro, Waterman’s Sunscreen, Igloo Coolers, Sunrite Maui, Hammer Nutrition, iDcard, EFX and Hi-Tech Sports.
Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers, sponsors and volunteers. Boyd – you did an awesome job!
– Connor Baxter
(all photos © Karen Baxter)