The Ultimate SUP Showdown Set To Go Next Level: Big Names + Big Prize Purse (…And That’s Not Even Half The Story)
Honolua Surf Co’s Ultimate SUP Showdown is one of the few events that’s been on everyone’s radar this year, however up until now it’s also been a little mysterious and secretive. Well this week I got a peek behind the scenes at Showdown 2014 including the prize money, format and a preview of some other very interesting developments. And I gotta say the whole thing is looking rather impressive…
The 2014 Ultimate SUP Showdown is happening from August 16-18 in Waikiki, Hawaii. The weekend combines SUP surfing and SUP racing into one event. First up there’s a standard SUP surf contest, then there’s a regular SUP race, before the top finishers from each will meet up in the Showdown, a grand finale that aims to combine surfing and racing (think: Battle of the Paddle on steroids).
This will be the 2nd Ultimate SUP Showdown, after the event debuted in August 2013 to much fanfare. Last year’s Showdown was slick: The field was elite, the format was unique, the prize money was paid out immediately and every paddler I spoke to said they were treated with the respect they’d been looking for.
But if last year’s Showdown (where Connor Baxter narrowly defeated Travis Grant in the final) was big, this year’s event looks like it’ll be even bigger: The field is twice as large (and twice as elite), the prize money has been beefed right up and there’s a whole stack of things going on behind the scenes that could send this event (and the sport of SUP in general) to the next level.
The prize money is set at $25,000, which puts the Showdown on par with the Battle the Paddle. We’ve also been assured that every single dollar will be paid out in cash at the awards ceremony, as we saw at last year’s Showdown, which puts further pressure on other high profile events to get their act together.
Also just like last year, the 2014 Ultimate SUP Showdown will be invite only and reserved for elite-level paddlers. Organisers aim to build this franchise into a high level, prestigious and professional event that paddlers have to earn their stripes to get a call for, but one in which they can get significant, mainstream exposure to kickstart or propel their athletic careers
Showdown invitations will go out to paddlers from Hawaii, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Europe and South America. All up there’s space for 64 elite athletes. I believe 2015 – where there are plans for multiple, standalone Showdown events in Hawaii and elsewhere – the field will be feed up to 128. But for now it’s a very select few who’ll be on show in Waikiki this August.
Official invites will be going out on Monday, when paddlers will start receiving personal calls from Showdown founder and head honcho, Boyd Jeffery, but we already know some of the big names that are on the list: Danny Ching, Connor Baxter, Kai Lenny, Travis Grant, Annabel Anderson, Candice Appleby, Georges Cronsteadt, Jenny Kalmbach, Jamie Mitchell, Slater Trout, Zane Schweitzer and pretty much every other big name and serious contender in the sport right now.
Almost all of those big names have already committed to the event, so it’s safe to assume that Showdown 2014 will be one of the single biggest, most-elite events of the year. In fact it’ll be the first time all year that we’ve seen the “Big Five” in action (Danny/Connor/Kai/Travis/Georges).
As for the event format: Across the two competition days (17th & 18th August) the Showdown will see a standard surf contest, a standard SUP race and then the “Showdown” finale, which is a race in and out through the waves. All 64 athletes will compete in the surf contest, all 64 will compete in the race, before the top 16 finishers from either side meet in the Showdown finale. Looking at the numbers more closely:
Honolua Surf Co’s Ultimate SUP Showdown 2014
– 64 elite athlete invitations
— 48 guys / 16 girls
— Roughly split 50/50 between SUP surfers and SUP racers
— All paddlers will compete in both the SUP surfing and SUP racing
– Top 16 finishers in each event qualify for the grand finale (the “Showdown”)
— Top 12 guys + top 4 girls from both the surf contest and the race
– Total of 32 athletes (half the field) will compete in the Showdown grand finale
— 24 guys / 8 girls
– Event runs from 16th-18th August in Waikiki
— Racing/surfing days are 17th & 18th of August, while 16th is the pre-event festivities day
— The “Showdown” finale will be on the 18th
– $25,000 prize purse
This year the Ultimate SUP Showdown is just one week before the Gorge Paddle Challenge up in Oregon, which makes for an exciting double header. Both of these events are part of the Champions Tour and both look set to field a stellar lineup. I know of at least a dozen guys and girls who are planning on hitting up both of these events, so it’s fair to say the second half of August is going to be a big couple of weeks for the stand up paddling community.
So that’s the 2014 Ultimate SUP Showdown. Or at least those are the main details.. The real juicy stuff however is happening behind the scenes.
I’ve spent a lot of time chatting with the organisers the past few days and the real story here is the TV deal that Showdown 2014 has scored. I’m still digging through the details now but will have more to share about this in a couple of days. Needless to say this could elevate the event and the sport in general to a whole new level.
In fact I believe the whole motivation for the organisers, in particular the main man Boyd Jeffery, is to help the athletes gain the mainstream exposure they deserve. I’m sure Boyd also wants to build a great, successful business at the same time, but the real focus here seems to be on the paddlers and helping them establish their own professional careers in the sport. In my conversations with Boyd this week, the phrase “Next level” came up about eight dozen times.
The Showdown is not your standard old SUP race and it’ll probably ruffle a few feathers among the purists, but this event really could do some big things for the sport.
Anyway we’ll have more info in a few days but until then here’s the official teaser for this year’s event:
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Showdown: Draft Day