From Europe to California to Maui, Another Big Weekend of Racing
We’re set for another big weekend of racing, with the EuroTour kicking off in Portugal, more downwind action on Maui, and the future stars on show in southern California.
Here’s a quick preview of what’s in store the over next few days — check back on Sunday to catch up with all the results.
The European Summer of SUP is about to begin, with the 2016 EuroTour presented by Starboard offering Europe a unified platform of great races over the next few months.
With 14 races (one each weekend for the next 14 weeks), there’s a lot to like about the EuroTour. From the awesomely exotic destinations — Croatia, the French Riviera, Finland, the Basque Country, the list goes on — right down to the simple things such as a standard board class at every race (14′).
Speaking of boards, another great feature is the EuroTour trailer, a headache-saving godsend for competitors where the EuroTour crew will be shuttling boards between each and every race (free of charge).
The Tour opens this weekend with the Port Setubal SUP Race in Portugal, before continuing on next weekend to the similarly named Port Adriano SUP Race on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Mallorca (where yours truly has been camped out the past couple of weeks).
The three-week run of “headline events” begins on May 21st with the classic SUP Race Cup in St. Maxime, France, which is directly followed by the big Lost Mills race in Germany and the always-entertaining Bilbao Paddle Challenge. Those three races will attract the most international athletes, and will therefore have the biggest impact on the EuroTour Leaderboard, which is kind of like a regional version of the SUP Racer World Rankings.
From my rough calculations, it looks like around 15 of the world’s top 20 athletes will be on the Tour, making this an extremely competitive affair. In particular the Lost Mills, long Europe’s most competitive event, is shaping up to be a massive showdown this year, while St. Maxime and Bilbao won’t be far behind.
But the EuroTour is about more than just the pros, with its main goal being to unify the sport across the continent while developing the local paddling communities in each destination.
The EuroTour continues each weekend all summer long, before wrapping up in early August with the St. Ives race in Cornwall, England. See the complete 2016 EuroTour paddleboard race schedule.
Elsewhere in Europe…
While the Euro Tour is the main show in town this summer, there are dozens of other great, standalone races happening right across the continent. This weekend we’ll see France’s finest chase the bumps in Brittany, while the UK crew get their national series underway.
The Grand Prix Guyader is an interesting downwind race on the far west coast of France in the region of Bretagne (Brittany).
I say “interesting” because organisers have offered what is surely every downwind paddler’s dream: Multiple course options that factor in every possible wind direction. So unless the wind is dead calm (and there’s even a specialised flat water course option in case that happens), paddlers will enjoy a straight downwind run. The current wind forecast is calling for a particularly big downwinder on Sunday.
Almost all of the top French athletes will be competing, and considering France is the undisputed powerhouse of European paddling this should be quite the competitive encounter. The only guy missing is Carolina hero Titouan Puyo, which leaves the race wide open.
Look for the likes of young guns Arthur Arutkin, Martin Letourneur, Martin Vitry and downwind veteran Greg Closier to be near the pointy end of the field, however with the incredible depth of talent in France, we can be sure that a couple of dark horses will step up and try to steal the show.
Across the English Channel from Brittany we’ll have the first race of the 2016 UK SUP Clubs national series, with the 6th Annual Blue Chip Battle of the Thames set to show who’s been putting in the effort over the cold winter months.
The UK has a strong paddling community, and the Battle of the Thames is probably the largest race on the calendar in terms of raw participation numbers. The 16km (10 mile) course winds up and down the Thames on the outskirts of London.
The UK SUP Clubs’ national series features eight events across the UK between now and the end of October (see the full schedule).
Junior SUP Fiesta
The future will be on show in SoCal this weekend at the Quickblade Junior Pro & Youth SUP Fiesta presented by Infinity, which features both racing and surfing events in what is surely the most significant gathering of the groms on the calendar.
The racing will be happening at the iconic Newport Aquatic Center on Saturday, while the surfing goes down at Bolsa Chica State Beach (next to Huntington) on Sunday. With the support of two of southern California’s most respected SUP brands (Quickblade and Infinity), this should be the biggest year yet for what has become a terrific platform for the next generation.
Fiesta alumni include the likes of Mo Freitas and Fiona Wylde, which highlights the caliber of young talent this event attracts.
Check out our earlier preview of the 2016 Junior Pro & Youth SUP Fiesta for more details, and check back on Sunday to find out which youngsters have really stepped it up this year.
Paddle Imua (Maui)
After last weekend’s OluKai epic, this weekend it’s round two on the Maliko downwind run with the 5th Annual Bluesmiths Paddle Imua set to take over Maui’s north shore.
Paddle Imua is much more than just a race though: One of the main parts of the weekend is encouraging people to get out on the water that wouldn’t normally have the chance, while the whole thing is a charity event to support Imua Family Services. As the official site says: “Paddle Imua is a paddle race that celebrates the lives of special needs children by embracing our connection to the ocean.”
Paddle Imua ambassadors include icons of the Maui scene such as Dave Kalama, Jeremy Riggs, Sonni Hönscheid and Andrea Moller. Plus with the Imua race falling in between last weekend’s OluKai showdown and next weekend’s prestigious Molokai Solo outrigger race, a few of the international paddlers have hung around on Maui which should make this year’s race even more competitive than usual.
Let’s hope the wind is blowing for another great year of this wonderful event.
Mexico’s National Titles
The best from Mex are fighting for a ticket to Fiji this weekend, with the “Selectivo Nacional de Stand up Paddle y Paddleboard 2016” set to decide the lineup of Team Mexico for the 2016 ISA Worlds (which are happening in Fiji from November 12-20).
This selection event has a particularly strong connection to the World Champs — it’s being held at Mexico’s SUP mecca of Sayulita, aka the host venue of the 2015 ISA Worlds.
Mexico has been one of the top nations at the Worlds over the years, bringing home several individual and team medals in both surfing and racing (who could forget Bicho’s silver medal heroics when he challenged Danny Ching and many more of the world’s best during last year’s world championship distance race?), so expect this weekend to be a hotly contested competition.
The event kick off on Friday with the long distance race, before the surfing and course racing go down over the weekend.
Orange Bowl Paddle Championship
One of Florida’s original stand up paddle races is back this weekend, the Orange Bowl Paddle Championship in Miami.
While it doesn’t always attract the level of top ranked athletes that we see in California, Hawaii and Europe, Florida probably has the strongest stand up paddle racing scene on the planet. It seems there’s a race every other weekend with hundreds of paddlers (last weekend we saw the excellent Key West Classic), and we can expect another solid turnout at the Orange Bowl this weekend.
Follow the official Facebook page for more.