November 12, 2016
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

Who Will Win The Worlds? Get Your ‘Fiji Form Guide’ with Our Predictions for the ISA World Championship

Fiji Form Guide
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Who’s going to win The Worlds?

With competition at the 2016 ISA Stand Up Paddle and Paddleboard Championship in Fiji beginning on Sunday morning, it’s time to look deep into SUP Racer’s crystal ball and try to predict which teams will triumph, who will get the gold, and how the top paddlers will perform.

This is your Fiji form guide.

Predictions: Men’s Surf Race | Women’s Surf Race | Men’s Marathon | Women’s Marathon | Team Relay | Overall Team Championship




When: Wednesday November 16th
Course: Approximately 3-4km course @ Cloudbreak
Conditions: 1-2ft surf with light winds
View the heat draws to see who’s competing
View the ISA World Championship Fiji course maps
Watch the race on the Fiji ISA Worlds live webcast

The men’s surf race will probably be the most exciting event of this entire championship week. Not only is the field stacked but the course will be unique, with the event set to be held at Cloudbreak.

The first thing that comes to mind is that Cloudbreak is absolutely no place for race boards. That’s true, but it’s not like this will be the usual “in and out through the surf” kind of race. Most of the course will be off to the side of the break, with only one stretch running down the point in line with the waves.

The buoys will, apparently, be positioned to provide competitors with a choice on that pivotal leg: Shoulder hop a wave and try to steal some ground by surfing down the point (but risk getting nailed on the reef) or play it safe and slowly paddle down the outside.

View the Cloudbreak course map

A few athletes were quite miffed about the move to Cloudbreak; it was originally set for the far more placid beach at Denerau Island (where waves are non-existent). It’s not a great idea for an event to change locations a month before the race after paddlers have spent months training for specific conditions, but at the same time I’m sure Cloudbreak will be a far more exciting location than Denerau. Plus the forecast is only for 2ft surf on Wednesday, so it should be fairly calm out there.


Cloudbreak from above (photo: Sean Evans/ISA)

Only 16 men from the field of 38 will qualify for the final, however there are 17 guys ranked in the Top 100 on the SUP Racer World Rankings. Throw in a few dark horses along with the cut-throat format and we should be in for a very competitive final.

The format is simple to understand but difficult to overcome: 4x qualifying heats of 9 or 10 paddlers, with the top 4 finishers going straight into the 16-man final.

That’s gonna be very tough.

With less than half the field progressing, and with seedings based on last year’s ISA Worlds overall team standings (rather than individual athlete world rankings; that means Titou an Arthur have a surprisingly low seed), expect to see a “heat of death” where 2 or 3 world class athletes get squeezed out and miss a spot in the final.

I’ve spoken to a few athletes about the format and the general consensus is: “It’ll be cool so long as I don’t draw the tough heat!” When you see competitors nervous before a race it’s usually a good sign it’ll be entertaining for the spectators.

But who’s going to win?

Assuming the main contenders don’t make any mistakes in the heats, look for the two athletes from Hawaii, Australia, France, USA and Brazil, along with the sole representatives from Denmark and Tahiti to dominate.

Realistically there are probably 10 guys who can win this thing. You could throw a blanket over the lead pack, which makes the predictions damn near impossible to nail. But given their form over the past six months in these short course events, I’ve gotta go with the Naish boys Casper and Kai for the top two spots.

I’m pretty sure the Aussie boy swill have something to say about that, while Arthur Arutkin has the talent to take the top spot quite easily. Captain America, aka Slater Trout, is probably hungrier than anyone for the gold and will surely be near the pointy end of the field when it matters.

But yeah. This one is super tough to predict. But let’s go all out, shall we?

Instead of my usual podium predictions, I’m going to try and call the exact finishing order of the 16-man final. Considering the unknown-nature of the seeded heat draws (which we won’t know until Tuesday evening) where only the top four finishers progress, this final lineup probably won’t even be possible. But at the very least you can take this as something of a form guide.


Gold: Casper Steinfath (Denmark)
Silver: Kai Lenny (Hawaii)
Bronze: Toby Cracknell (Australia)
Copper: Arthur Arutkin (France)
5th: Titouan Puyo (France)
6th: Slater Trout (USA)
7th: Lincoln Dews (Australia)
8th: Zane Schweitzer (Hawaii)
9th: Georges Cronsteadt (Tahiti)
10th: Vinnicius Martins (Brazil)
11th: Guilherme Reis (Brazil)
12th: Chuck Glynn (USA)
13th: Marcus Hansen (New Zealand)
14th: Kenny Kaneko (Japan)
15th: Dylan Frick (South Africa)
16th: Pepe Oltra (Spain)

Official dark horse: Guilherme Reis




When: Wednesday November 16th
Course: Approximately 3-4km course @ Cloudbreak
Conditions: 1-2ft surf with light winds
View the heat draws to see who’s competing
View the ISA World Championship Fiji course maps
Watch the race on the Fiji ISA Worlds live webcast

The qualifying round of the women’s surf race won’t be nearly as cut-throat as the men’s. There are only 20 women in the field, meaning 2x semi-finals of 10 paddlers. The top 8 will go through to the 16-woman final, with just two ladies being cut from each of the qualifiers.

Assuming no freak accidents in the semis, all the big names should go safely through to the final without too much effort. And there’s no bigger name in this field than Candice Appleby from Team USA.

ISA World Championship stand up paddleboarding

Candice Appleby (USA) leading Penelope Strickland (New Zealand), Lina Augaitis (Canada) and Terrene Black (Australia) during the 2015 Worlds (photo: ISA)

Candice is definitely the hot favourite to defend her gold medal in this event, though don’t count out the unranked Karla Gilbert from Australia who had some big international results a couple of seasons ago but hasn’t been traveling much this year. When she’s in form, Karla can match it with anyone.

Another one to watch is Olivia Piana from France, who’s been on fire this season and could easily snag the silver. Looking down the order, you could probably throw a blanket over the next half a dozen ladies, so it’ll likely to come down to the conditions on the day. With the event being held at Cloudbreak, those athletes who are willing to run the gauntlet and shoulder hop a wave over the reef will get a big reward.

One to watch could be young Annie Reickert from Hawaii who has been rising fast this season. Also keep an eye on fellow young gun Manca Notar, who has more international experience than most of these ladies, but who is competing here at the ISA Worlds for the first time.


Gold: Candice Appleby (USA)
Silver: Karla Gilbert (Australia)
Bronze: Olivia Piana (France)
Copper: Manca Notar (Slovenia)
5th: Annie Reickert (Hawaii)
6th: Penelope Strickland (New Zealand)
7th: Lina Augaitis (Canada)
8th: Tarryn King (South Africa)
9th: Laura Quetglas (Spain)
10th: Marie Buchannan (Great Britain)

Official dark horse: Annie Reickert




When: Thursday November 17th*
Course: Approximately 17kms from Cloudbreak to Musket Cove via Tavarua and Namotu
Conditions: Light downwind ~10 knots
View the full start list to see who’s competing
View the ISA World Championship Fiji course maps
Watch the race on the Fiji ISA Worlds live webcast

Just like the men’s surf race, the marathon event will be a hotly-contested affair. Literally. It’s been nudging over 30 degrees (86F) every day here in Fiji, which means endurance, stamina and hydration will play a big role in the results.

With light winds predicted, there should be just enough bumps to break up the field. And if the wind doesn’t do it, it’ll be the detours around Tavarua and Namotu islands, where there will be a chance of a small wave over the reefs, that disconnect the draft trains.

Tavarua island aerial view

An aerial view of the iconic Tavarua island, with Namotu in the background. The distance race will pass right through this frame.

It’ll be interesting to see how team tactics come into play. I know the French duo of Titouan Puyo and Arthur Arutkin are very good at working in tandem, and I expect they’ll be at the pointy end of the field the whole way. If the bumps come up and it becomes a proper downwinder, nobody will match Titou, but if it stays light, he’ll have his work cut out trying to keep pace with the new superstar Michael Booth.

Boothy destroyed the most competitive field of all time at the Pacific Paddle Games last month, paddling clear in the opening kilometre of the distance race and holding his lead to claim a memorable victory. If conditions are similar this week I expect the result to be the same.

Titou and Arthur have both the talent and team tactics to secure the minor medals, but also keep an eye on Tahiti’s Georges Cronsteadt, who hit the beach alongside Connor Baxter in the battle for the runner-up spot at the PPGs distance race.

I’ll also be interested to see if the Aussie duo of Boothy and James “Jimmy” Casey can work together. Both of those guys have the strength and talent to take the top two spots. Jimmy is definitely one to watch if the bumps start building.

Michael Booth

Michael Booth on his way to a big win at the PPGs last month (photo credit: Georgia Schofield)

I’ll be interested to see how Kai Lenny performs in the marathon event after his draining, non-stop two weeks of competing and traveling. Windsurf World Tour and Big Wave World Tour on Maui last week, freesurfing ridiculously large Jaws, then a last-minute flight to Fiji where he’ll compete in both of the racing events. It’s a crazy schedule that few athletes could handle, but we all know Kai is an absolute freak in the ocean so anything is possible.

But the sport of SUP racing is not only becoming more and more competitive, it’s also becoming more and more specialised especially on the men’s side. So while I’ve predicted Casper and Kai to go top two in the surf race, I’m not sure they’ll have the legs to go the distance with guys like Boothy and Titou. Kai doesn’t like long, hot, flat water races, but if the wind kicks in he’ll be loving it.

Tuesday update: Just ran into Kai on Namotu and he looked fresh and ready to go. His crazy schedule over the past two weeks doesn’t seem to have effected him at all.

Keep an eye on Brazil’s Vinni Martins, especially if it’s bumpy. You don’t finish top four at Molokai without a bucket load of talent and determination. Kenny Kaneko from Japan could be the sleeper; Kenny has had some rollercoaster results, sometimes beating the world’s best, sometimes finishing outside the top 20, but he’s a proud competitor and will probably step it up a level when the Japanese flag is flying in his honour.

Monday update: The forecast has changed, with the wind now expected to be a solid ~15 knots in the morning. That means we could be in for a proper downwind leg of roughly 9-10km between Namotu and the Malolo Islands, which in turn means the downwind specialists such as Titou, Jimmy, Arthur, Kai and Vinni will be licking their lips.

I’m not going to change my predictions now, but I will say that the wind is probably going to decide the winner of this race. Boothy is an absolute machine in the flats but he doesn’t yet have the downwind skills to match the ocean masters in the bumps.

Tuesday update: The forecast is looking fairly light again now… Generally speaking the wind doesn’t come up until late in the morning, so if it’s an 8am start, expect a fairly flat race. I’m sticking with Boothy.


Gold: Michael Booth (Australia)
Silver: Titouan Puyo (France)
Bronze: Georges Cronsteadt (Tahiti)
Copper: Arthur Arutkin (France)
5th: James ‘Jimmy’ Casey (Australia)
6th: Vinnicius Martins (Brazil)
7th: Kenny Kaneko (Japan)
8th: Kai Lenny (Hawaii)
9th: Casper Steinfath (Denmark)
10th: Giorgio Gomez (USA)

Official dark horses: Nico Schenk (Switzerland), Pepe Oltra (Spain) and the wind…

(* Men’s race was tentatively moved to Friday, but we’ve confirmed it will definitely be Thursday for the men and Friday for the women as per original schedule)




When: Friday November 18th
Course: Approximately 17kms from Cloudbreak to Musket Cove via Tavarua and Namotu
Conditions: Light downwind ~10 knots
View the full start list to see who’s competing
View the ISA World Championship Fiji course maps
Watch the race on the Fiji ISA Worlds live webcast

Depends on the wind. If it’s flat, I don’t think anyone can stick with Candice Appleby the whole way. But if the bumps are blowing I’d give Terrene Black the best odds. Unfortunately for the Aussies: The wind is forecast to be light on Thursday morning.

Also keep an eye on France’s Olivia Piana who has been in fine form the past six months. She was 4th overall at the PPGs and is probably the most under-rated athlete on the women’s race scene right now; Olivia beat Terrene in the distance race at Doheny last month by a minute and could realistically repeat that feat this week.

If the wind is light I think it’ll be a tight race between the top four, with any one of the quartet capable of taking the gold. If the wind is gusting then my pick is Terrene, but if not I think Candice will grind it out followed by the powerful Frenchwoman.

Last year’s silver medalist Lina Augaitis has had a light racing season after the birth of her first child 10 months ago, but knowing Lina she would have been training hard for this event and should be getting back close to her best form.

It should be an interesting battle for the minor placings, with a total of 10 or 11 women realistically able to snatch a top 5 spots.

Candice Appleby

Candice Appleby and Lina Augaitis battling for gold at the 2015 Worlds in Mexico (photo: ISA)

Just like in the men’s marathon the conditions, specifically the wind, will play a big role in the results of this race. I wouldn’t call Terrene a downwind specialist, she’s still good in all types of racing, and it wouldn’t be fair to say Candice is only good in flat water, however they definitely have their strengths. Consider these key stats:

– Terrene took 5th at the Gorge Paddle Challenge Double Downwinder; Candice was 8 minutes behind in 9th.

– Candice was 3rd in the relatively flat PPGs distance race (and only half a second behind 2nd place) with Olivia close behind in 5th; Terrene was more than a minute behind in 9th.

So with that in mind, here’s my call for a light-wind Thursday.


Gold: Candice Appleby (USA)
Silver: Olivia Piana (France)
Bronze: Terrene Black (Australia)
Copper: Lina Augaitis (Canada)
5th: Penelope Strickland (New Zealand)
6th: Manca Notar (Slovenia)
7th: Laura Quetglas (Spain)
8th: Talia Decoite (Hawaii)
9th: Marie Buchannan (Great Britain)
10th: Takayo Yokoyama (Japan)




The relay will be the last chance for teams to score points, and given how tight the leaderboard is expected to be, this race could also determine the overall team champions.

I’m predicting a fairly close battle between the top four nations, with Australia, New Zealand, France and the USA all holding strong athletes across the four relay positions (men’s SUP, women’s SUP, men’s prone, women’s prone).

The race will take place at Denerau Island, which, despite the name, is on the mainland of Fiji where waves are virtually non-existent. That means there will be less chance of a “lucky wave” upset, so I’d expect the favourites to do their thing and seal off the podium.

Just like last year, the race will probably be decided at the end of the fourth and final lap (I believe the men’s SUP competitor will be the anchor leg). Last year it was a sprint to the line between Australia and NZ, though I think USA and France will wedge themselves in between this time.


GOLD: Australia
BRONZE: France
COPPER: New Zealand
5th: Hawaii

Official dark horses for a minor medal: Team Spain, Team South Africa

Toby Cracknell

Toby Cracknell (Australia) and Ollie Houghton (New Zealand) battling all the way to the line in last year’s team relay final (photo: ISA)




While there are plenty of individual medals on offer this week (10 to be exact), the ISA World Championship is first and foremost a country-based event, so the most prestigious award is definitely the overall team championship title.

This is the 5th edition of the ISA Worlds and only two nations have ever taken the crown: Australia dominated from 2012-2014 before the USA destroyed the field to come out on top in Mexico last year.

I expect it’ll once again be Australia and the USA battling for top honours here in Fiji, though France has an all-round team for the first time (they’ve never sent prone specialists before) and Team Hawaii contains some of the biggest names in the sport.

Slightly behind the lead pack of four will be New Zealand, South Africa and Spain, who all have deep squads but probably not the polish to compete with the powerhouse nations.

Team USA

Team USA claimed the overall championship title @ Mexico 2015 (photo: ISA)

But while there’s plenty of talent here in Fiji this week, I think it’ll be the Aussies and Americans leading the way once again. And looking at the Australia vs USA match-up, it’s pretty evenly split…

Despite 12-time ISA gold medalist Jordan Mercer having to give up her spot due to a recent injury, I think Australia will still outperform every other nation in the prone events.

All things being equal, Candice Appleby has the edge over Australia’s two female racers (Karla Gilbert and Terrene Black), however the Aussies have the benefit of doing one race each whereas Candice has to conserve some energy across the two events.

I’d give the Aussie guys the edge in the SUP racing events, so in in the end it could come down to two events: The SUP surfing and the team relay. America probably has a slight edge in the waves, but Australia would be expected to beat the yanks in the team race.

So all in all it’s pretty damn tough to split these two powerhouse nations. The only reason I’ve picked Australia is that I know they’re very hungry to get one back on the Americans after they had to sit through seven renditions of The Star-Spangled Banner during the 2015 awards ceremony.

Team Australia

Team Australia claimed the overall championship title @ Nicaragua 2014

France is the dark horse to watch, with a very strong SUP racing squad and specialist prone paddlers for the first time. Throw in some solid surfers and they could be an outside chance at the overall title if the other leading contenders split the points.

Hawaii is a safe bet for an overall medal but I don’t think they can match Australia and America’s all-round depth of talent in the hunt for the teams title.

Note: Only 9 of the 26 nations have sent full squads, and considering the overly-generous points system the ISA employs, having a full team is a massive advantage on the overall team standings.


Gold: Australia
Silver: USA
Bronze: France
Copper: Hawaii
5th: New Zealand
6th: South Africa
7th: Spain
8th: Peru
9th: Canada
10th: Argentina



So what do you think? Are my predictions on target or way off?

Be the first to find out by watching the Fiji ISA World Championship LIVE WEBCAST each morning here on SUP Racer.