Fiji Course Maps: Cloudbreak for the Surf Race; Flat or Downwind for the Distance?
We’re only 48 hours away from the start of the racing events here at the 2016 ISA World Stand Up Paddle and Paddleboard Championship in Fiji, and what a week of racing it’s going to be.
With a paradisaical location and two dozen top ranked athletes on the start line, it’s going to be some tough racing for the athletes and a great spectacle for the fans watching either in person or online via the live webcast.
Here are the surf race and marathon course maps as of Monday morning hot off the press from race direct Barrett Tester. There may be some slight changes if conditions unexpectedly change over the next couple of days, but I expect this will be the final layout.
Fiji Course Maps: Surf Race
The surf race here at the Fiji ISA Worlds is certainly going to be an interesting one, with the iconic surf spot known as ‘Cloudbreak’ being used as the host location. This is certainly a unique location for a stand up paddle race.
If you’ve ever seen Cloudbreak you’ll know it’s no place for race boards, but this isn’t your standard “in and out through the waves” kind of surf race; most of the course will be positioned outside the break in the channel. However there will be one opportunity to snag a wave between buoys #3 and #4, with paddlers having the option to run the gauntlet down the reef and steal some valuable time or paddle slightly outside the break and play it safe.
It should be very interesting (and entertaining) to watch. Just take a look at that photo up top: The course from buoys #3-#4 will run just outside where that wave is breaking.
I believe this course would have been absolutely chaotic (and extremely dangerous) if the surf was big, but fortunately for the race organisers the surf is only forecast to be 1-2ft on Wednesday, which will allow them to set a much tighter course in closer to the reef.
It’s also forecast to be no wind and blue sunny skies, which should make for some very cool imagery (especially from the drone up above).
The men’s surf race will see 4x qualifying heats of 9 or 10 paddlers, with the top 4 going through to a 16-man final. It’s going to be cut-throat. The women’s SUP and men’s prone will be 2x semi-finals then a 16-paddler final, while I believe the women’s prone is just a straight up final due to numbers.
Note: The prone paddleboarders will use the same course but will race separately. Men and women will also race separately.
Tuesday update: Check out the heat draws to see who’s battling whom in the qualifying round.
Fiji Course Maps: Marathon Race
The long distance race, aka the marathon, is going to be quite spectacular here in Fiji. Just look at how much bright blue water is in the course map below. This part of the world truly is paradise, and the marathon race is going to go straight past some of Fiji’s most iconic spots.
That includes Cloudbreak, where the race will start just outside the surf (with a slight chance of snagging a wave after that red buoy). From there, paddlers head north to the edge of Tavarua island’s lagoon, where there may be another chance at a small wave. After that it’s across to the equally-iconic Namotu island, a famous hang out spot for paddlers (Dave Kalama and Jim Terrell are staying there this week), and once again competitors will go through the reef break where the surf could break up the draft trains.
Following the detour beside Namotu, the race will really get interesting: A straight shot down to the Malolo Islands in almost perfect line with the forecast south-east wind direction. If the wind is blowing – and it has been almost every day the past week – we could be in for a solid 5km downwind leg that would totally break up the field and will go a long way to deciding the race winners.
Unfortunately it’s forecast to be light winds (~10 knots) for both the men’s marathon on Thursday and the women’s race on Friday. Fortunately whatever wind there will be, it should be blowing in the right direction (south easterly).
The final leg is a criss-cross between the reefs and lagoons before finishing at Musket Cove, where it’ll be a very small run up the beach to the finish line. There are going to be some epic aerial photos and videos right along this course.
Note: The prone paddleboarders will use the same course and race at approximately the same time (staggered start).
And finally, here’s an interactive map to show you exactly where in the world this is all taking place (keep in mind the course maps above have been rotated 90 degrees clockwise).