April 8, 2018
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

Air France: Marcus Hansen Produces Stunning Comeback to Defeat Michael Booth and the Tahitian Warriors at First Stop of The Paddle League World Tour

Team NSP’s Marcus Hansen has produced a stunning victory in Tahiti (photo: Georgia/The Paddle League)

Marcus Hansen has announced himself as a genuine contender on the international stage, producing a stunning comeback for Team NSP to overpower Starboard’s Michael Booth and defeat a big field of Tahitian Warriors at the Air France Paddle Festival.

As the first stop on The Paddle League World Tour, the 5th Annual Air France race drew a strong international crowd to compete against the Tahitians, and the battle royale didn’t disappoint. With weather that can only be described as too good, paddlers were met with mercilessly-hot blue skies, light winds and high humidity for a challenge that tested both physical and mental limits.

But in the end it was Marcus who conquered the torture chamber, saluting in an event that produced several rollercoaster stories. The journeyman paddler – long recognised as a great talent but with a résumé light on big results – was somehow able to conserve energy for the first two hours before mounting an extraordinary campaign down the home stretch to first reel in then break the powerhouse that had motored away in the second half of the race.

After a disastrous EuroTour last year, many of us wondered whether Marcus would even continue paddling at the highest level. But not only as he bounced back from a disappointing 2017 season, the humble Kiwi has found an inner-strength that’s propelled him to the pointy end of the international field. His victory in Tahiti this weekend adds to impressive showings at The Paddle League pre-season events on the Gold Coast and at home in New Zealand, where he successfully defended his national title.

Our money was on his NSP team mate Titouan Puyo before the race, but Marcus is clearly determined to move out of the shadow of Titou and fellow NSP giant Travis Grant.

Michael Booth looks over his shoulder for a first time to find Marcus Hansen has completely closed the gap with just 500 metres to go; moments later, Boothy looked over his shoulder again as Marcus sped past in a sign of frustration and resignation (photo: Georgia/The Paddle League)

Boothy looked certain to seal the 100 Paddle League points as he cruised home with a lead that at one point was almost 200 metres, but right when most paddlers were starting to falter, Marcus found a hidden gear and started paddling like a man possessed. With a cadence that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a 200 metre sprint, the New Zealander powered home to record a breakout victory in one of the greatest performances we’ve ever seen.

The pivotal moment came when Marcus caught the race leader: instead of simply sitting on his tail and waiting for the final 100 metre sprint to the line, Marcus soon streamrolled past a broken Michael Booth with a half a kilometre still left to paddle. When the Aussie, who was clearly running low on energy at that point, symbolically looked over his shoulder for a second time in the space of a minute to see who else may be closing in, it was a sign of both frustration and resignation that the race was lost.

Boothy, while disappointed to relinquish a big lead so close to the death, was in superb form and can take heart form his surging performance. Despite running out of fuel when it mattered most on this particular occasion (he was utterly exhausted and collapsed in pain shortly after the finish), the number four seed will clearly be a serious challenger for The Paddle League World Title after proving once again there’s nobody on his level in terms of pure paddling strength.

Powerhouse Michael Booth looked set to open his Paddle League World Tour campaign with a big win, but Marcus “Steamroller” Hansen refused to follow the script (photo: Georgia/The Paddle League)

The Australian also showed strong passion for the sport when asserting that the chase pack was getting a “free ride” from the flotilla of boats following the action. While it was indeed a washing machine at times, which made life difficult for some of the competitors, the spectator craft generally all observed the new 25 metre distance rule introduced by the Tahitian government last week (only media/security boats were allowed closer). Things could certainly be improved on that front – Tahiti has a unique history of boats closely following ocean races that seems foreign to the international athletes – but take nothing away from Marcus’ extraordinary win, because that was a herculean performance that came from pure heart and determination.

Marcus now holds the number one spot on the World Rankings, which are reset at the start of each season as we transition into The Paddle League era. Marcus sits on 135 points from one major and two regionals, while Boothy is right behind on 115 following a win at the 4-star 12 Towers in Australia last month.

The new-look leaderboard will be revealed this week.

But while the internationals scored the top two spots, Tahiti’s army charged home to claim seven of the top ten positions and cement the nation’s reputation as a paddling power. Team Mistral’s humble star Steeve Teihotaata led the fightback, crossing the line third and earning 60 points for The Paddle League World Rankings.

Steeve Teihotaata was in fine form for Team Mistral, leading the final charge for the home team to secure Tahiti a podium spot (photo: Georgia/The Paddle League)

Earlier in the day, the Air France Paddle Festival’s 24km elite race looked set to be a showdown between the “big three” of Boothy, Lincoln Dews (Team DEEP) and Titouan Puyo (Team NSP).

Local dark horse Hapowa Mai attacked the field early before settling back into the chase pack, while Enzo Bennett from the local 425Pro team was also at the front of the field for much of the race. But as the piercing sun began to drain the athletes, Boothy made his move around the 12km mark where he paddled away from Lincoln and almost instantly opened up a lead that he would retain almost right to the line.

Those of us watching expected either Titou or Lincoln to make one last surge and keep the race interesting, but the role of comeback king fell to the under-rated Marcus, who had been sitting and waiting for the right moment to strike ever since rejoining the lead pack around the 5km mark.

Behind the frantic fight between the top two, the rest of the field was scattered as the long, hot, grind of a race started taking its toll in the closing stages. After looking certain to finish runner-up, Lincoln limped home outside the top 10, while on the flipside, many of the Tahitian warriors only found their strength as the race clock ticked over two hours.

Steeve, a local legend from outrigger canoe (or “va’a” as its known locally), showed the greatest strength to power past Titouan in the final kilometre, while ultra dark horse Manatea Bopp du Pont (Team Sunova) snuck home to repeat his fifth place finish from last year–an extremely impressive feat considering the dramatic increase in international talent this year.

Lincoln, while disappointed to finish 13th after setting up such a strong campaign, can take a lot of confidence from his impressive showing for the first 20km of the 24km race. Linc was the only one able to match Boothy during the long, pivotal back straight on the outside of the reef, and he’ll be another one to watch in the hunt for this year’s World Title.

Local dark horse Hapowa Mai scored the Golden Buoy money shot at this year’s Air France Paddle Festival (photo: Georgia/The Paddle League)

Enzo Bennett, who looked impressive all day despite being better-known as a short-course athlete, gave Team 425 two of the top six spots after he crossed the line just 10 seconds behind Manatea. One of the local favourites and another va’a grand champion, Rete Ebb, saved enough energy for the final stretch, mowing down several of the international athletes en route to a solid 7th place finish.

Early race leader Hapowa Mai crossed in 8th ahead of the former Tahitian powerhouse Georges Cronsteadt. Georges has helped forge a path for Tahitian stand up paddlers over the past decade, but it seems he’s now had to begrudgingly pass on the torch to the younger athletes. Niuhiti Buillard, who was briefly sitting in second place after a spirited attack 5km from home, rounded out the top 10 in a fine performance from the local athletes.

But one of the biggest stories of the day was the performance of 13-year-old Keoni Sulpice, who eventually finished 11th but showed why he’s a future champion after sitting in the top five during the mid-part of the race. The super grom was briefly the lead Tahitian despite being less than half the age of his peers, and if it wasn’t for the fact he drained his water pack with 10kms still left to race, Keoni probably would have secured a place well inside the top ten.

The Air France Paddle Festival lived up to its reputation as a brutal challenge, with many internationals fading under the relentless South Pacific sun. Lincoln Dews lost almost a dozen places in the space of 15 minutes, while other big names such as Kenny Kaneko and Noic Garioud were hovering around 20th place. But the biggest scalp of all was number one seed Connor Baxter, who faded early before abandoning the race entirely.

Lincoln Dews and Michael Booth were the clear stand-outs for much of the race (photo: Georgia/The Paddle League)

The race was broadcast live on national TV with our partners Tahiti Nui Television, while the event also featured stringent anti-doping controls to produce arguably the most professional event in the sport.

Earlier in the day, almost 200 amateur paddlers took part in the lagoon race with several dark horses testing their talents and earning both bragging rights and a few free Air France plane tickets.

It was a massive day on the water, and a great start to the 2018 Paddle League World Tour.

Thank you to Air France and the organising crew from 4 Events Pacific for putting together such a great day on the water, and a massive “Maruuru roa” to everyone in Tahiti for welcoming the paddling world to paradise.

Thanks to everyone that tuned in on The Paddle League live stream: See you all in Carolina!

Note: We’ll be posting a dedicated article just for the women’s race; the Air France Paddle Festival produced so many great stories that we need two articles to fit them all in



2018 Air France Paddle Festival

RESULTS: Men’s Elite Race
course: 24km
conditions: mostly flat, entirely hot

1Marcus Hansen2:16:45100.0026OpenNew Zealand
2Michael Booth2:17:2075.0027OpenAustralia
3Steeve Teihotaata2:18:1760.0027OpenTahiti
4Titouan Puyo2:19:0050.0027OpenNew Caledonia
5Manatea Bopp Du Pont2:20:0642.5029OpenTahiti
6Lorenzo Bennett2:20:1535.0022OpenTahiti
7Rete Ebb2:20:5630.0027OpenTahiti
9Georges Cronsteadt2:21:5122.5038OpenTahiti
10Niuhiti Buillard2:22:2720.0026OpenTahiti
11Keoni Sulpice2:22:3818.0013JuniorsTahiti
12Yoann Cronsteadt2:26:0316.0031OpenTahiti
13Lincoln Dews2:26:3415.0023OpenAustralia
14Lono Teururai2:26:4614.0033OpenTahiti
15Ricky Aitamai2:28:0513.0027OpenTahiti
16Rauhiri Varuahi2:29:5612.0044VeteranTahiti
17Tuhiti Tirao2:30:0011.0019JuniorsTahiti
18Benoit Riviere2:30:0610.0030OpenNew Caledonia
19Kenny Kaneko2:31:099.0030OpenJapan
20Matatini Dehors2:31:238.0033OpenTahiti
21Noic Garioud2:32:377.5016JuniorsNew Caledonia
22Charles Taie2:33:127.0034OpenTahiti
23Tiavairau Chang2:33:286.5018JuniorsTahiti
24Eric Leou-On2:33:446.0032OpenTahiti
25Romuald Mamadou2:34:085.5041VeteranGuadeloupe
26Heiva Paie2:35:065.2032OpenTahiti
27Vincent Goyat2:35:374.9044VeteranTahiti
28Atamu Conti2:37:344.6033OpenTahiti
29Alexandre Pelou2:37:524.3040VeteranTahiti
30Gavin Houghton2:40:234.0056VeteranNew Zealand
31Emanuera, Vetea Mama2:40:353.8037OpenTahiti
32Teriitua Tefaatau2:41:153.6020JuniorsTahiti
33Arii Brillant2:41:473.4045VeteranTahiti
34Teavanui Tehetia2:43:133.2033OpenTahiti
35Poenaiki Raioha2:43:443.0021OpenTahiti
36Marotea Wong-Hien2:44:162.8020OpenTahiti
37Fernando Stalla2:45:092.6031OpenMexico
38Mathieu Ayard2:45:232.4025OpenTahiti
39Ronald Teraiharoa2:48:442.2030OpenTahiti
40Teiki Conti2:51:272.0051VeteranTahiti
41Paitu Raoulx2:52:261.9048VeteranTahiti
42Mohuuatua, Edwin Tuohe2:55:571.8048VeteranTahiti
43Pascal Pouget3:12:131.7059VeteranFrance
44Alvin PasquiniDNF-43VeteranTahiti
45Connor BaxterDNF-24OpenUSA
46Tevai MaroaunuiDNF-26OpenUSA
47Nainoaiki DavidDNF-20JuniorsUSA
48Ramon Ah-ChoyDNF--42VeteranUSA
49Heimoana De LongeauxDNF-20JuniorsUSA
50Heiteanui TeururaiDNF-19JuniorsUSA


RESULTS: Men’s 8km Lagoon Race

1Kevin KouiderM0:51:0222Open
2Mathieu AyardM0:51:0525Open
3Arotini Siaou ChinM0:51:1617Juniors
4Serge, Rahiti HaereraaroaM0:51:2131Open
5Teiva VeroniqueM0:51:3735Open
6Robert TeakuM0:52:0526Open
7Ariihau BennettM0:52:2316Juniors
8Daniel TavanaeM0:52:3338Open
9Rangitea BennettM0:52:4126Open
10Manarii FloresM0:52:4223Open
11Jean-Luc SaucetM0:53:1554Veteran
12Herald, Manuarii HaumaniM0:53:3138Open
13Haamatai LeonM0:53:4326Open
14Moana ApuariiM0:54:1330Open
15Vincent TaratiM0:54:2741Veteran
16Katchy YauM0:54:3550Veteran
17Charles, Teiki MaiM0:54:4635Open
18Klauss VernaudonM0:54:5137Open
19Mickael, Kaley TeriitahiM0:55:1241Veteran
20Thierry TchingM0:55:1452Veteran
21Tunui Shiro-Abe-PeuM0:55:1939Open
22Chris MileyM0:55:2638Open
23Kai-Nalu LambertM0:55:3619Juniors
24Christophe ChandM0:55:3847Veteran
25Rainui PaniM0:56:0632Open
26Henere HarrysM0:56:1020Open
27Teiva, Steven TauraaM0:56:1840Veteran
28Kevin AussuM0:56:2831Open
29David, Potiniarii TeivaM0:56:3033Open
30Errol MaoniM0:56:3337Open
31Mahio PatuM0:56:3923Open
32Francis RichmondM0:56:4745Veteran
33Bruce Tuaiva LanteiresM0:56:5135Open
34Evarii ToiM0:57:1041Veteran
35Francois TiraoM0:57:2147Veteran
36Macrae WyldeM0:57:2354Veteran
37Tyron TaiaruiM0:57:2634Open
38Manea PugibetM0:57:3246Veteran
39Marius UtiaM0:57:4042Veteran
40Adrien HeurtauxM0:57:4128Open
41Heremoana ChapelierM0:57:4214Juniors
42Teva HuguetM0:57:4932Open
43Audibert TamaM0:57:5441Veteran
44Heifara TematafaarereM0:57:5841Veteran
45Tom HuteauM0:58:0350Veteran
46Honui ParauM0:58:0422Open
47Sylvain ProdelM0:58:1636Open
48Parea, Jacques Van SamM0:58:2638Open
49Tamatoa, Charles TamaehuM0:58:3836Open
50Tamatoa TissotM0:58:4317Juniors
51Roger Kong Yek FhanM0:58:4541Veteran
52Vetearii TaharagiM0:58:4830Open
53Xavier De LongeauxM0:58:5149Veteran
54Mike TeahuiM0:59:0237Open
55Pascal Tchen Ping LeiM0:59:0744Veteran
56Terupe ReichartM0:59:1137Open
57Michel GarciaM0:59:1347Veteran
58Maui TemauriM0:59:2822Open
59Loic LysaoM0:59:4539Open
60Simeon Wong-SangM1:00:0150Veteran
61Kealii RichmondM1:00:0317Juniors
62Christophe MorgantM1:00:0545Veteran
63Thimothee LouvelM1:00:1433Open
64Justin KahunineheM1:00:2352Veteran
65Maui VairaaroaM1:00:2437Open
66Yannick GiauM1:00:4544Veteran
67Manuel Sao Chan CheongM1:00:4939Open
68Mike TeakuraM1:00:5237Open
69Andy ArapaM1:00:5745Veteran
70Philippe Moo SungM1:01:0248Veteran
71Ranihei TeumereM1:01:0624Open
72Hira TeriinatoofaM1:01:1439Open
73Jimmy RichmondM1:01:1649Veteran
74Roland ParauM1:01:2157Veteran
75Fabrice LucianoM1:01:2249Veteran
76Karl NaegelenM1:01:3134Open
77Olivier NapiasM1:01:3949Veteran
78Jonathan MaurinM1:01:5833Open
79Brice LanoeM1:02:0834Open
80Vaiarii La-YongM1:02:2539Open
81Ahiti TeriitaumihauM1:02:4430Open
82Tearii CowanM1:02:5921Open
83Stanley TeahuiM1:03:2631Open
84Heiarii Ah RamM1:03:5527Open
85Heremoana, Frantz MahutaM1:03:5943Veteran
86Heimanu HoataM1:04:0544Veteran
87Tarai MauiM1:04:0930Open
88Wayne RichmondM1:04:1543Veteran
89Matahi HauataM1:04:1630Open
90Rotui Varney-TaneM1:04:5335Eq / Open
91Steve LyM1:04:5834Open
92Marama CopieM1:05:1246Veteran
93Benoit PujolM1:05:4149Veteran
94Yann GraudeM1:06:0647Veteran
95Alfred MaroM1:06:2638Open
96Moro TaputuaraiM1:06:3434Open
97Jean-Gabriel, Taimoana RamirezM1:06:3951Veteran
98Rauana MatiM1:06:4731Open
99Xavier GaudermenM1:06:5846Veteran
100Xavier DogoM1:07:0052Veteran
101Manuarii UtahiaM1:07:0242Veteran
102Chris TauvavauM1:07:0446Veteran
103Nelson RichmondM1:07:2447Veteran
104Alexis CadousteauM1:07:3953Veteran
105Arsene PuhetiniM1:07:5441Veteran
106Viri TeivaM1:08:0155Veteran
107Teva DoucetM1:08:0851Veteran
108William EllacottM1:08:2243Veteran
109Moana DoomM1:08:2948Veteran
110Luc TioriM1:08:3950Veteran
111Keinui CopieM1:08:5017Juniors
112Marc LyM1:09:4351Veteran
113Heiarii, Celestin TaupuaM1:10:1930Open
114Johns Lo SiouM1:10:2741Veteran
115Raymond FaremiroM1:10:3747Veteran
116Marc SansineM1:11:0133Open
117Nicolas HervetM1:11:2515Juniors
118Robert ConroyM1:11:3548Veteran
119Arthur TetuamanuhiriM1:11:4643Veteran
120Franck Durtelle De Saint SauyerM1:11:4853Veteran
121Bruno LoyantM1:11:4863Veteran
122Raihiti ToromonaM1:12:2516Juniors
123Tahimana DrionM1:12:3622Open
124Manarii GatienM1:12:3823Eq / Open
125Hans Berdichevski-PoroiM1:13:4832Open
126Elijah BantaM1:14:2833Open
127Gilles TetokaM1:14:3336Open
128David PechereauM1:16:4041Veteran
129Arava AlbertM1:17:4927Open
130Hubert SanfordM1:19:4941Veteran
131Thierry MalardeM1:20:4240Veteran


RESULTS: Grom Race

Heremoana ChapelierM140:05:00
Tangaroa IotefaM130:05:34
Dewk Van CamM110:06:22
Enzo Costa-LacombeM130:06:31
Manoa GoyatM100:06:32
Hotuitehere Van SamM120:06:54
Mataiva Paro EllisM80:07:02
Teva JourdaineM-0:07:19
Maunaterai VairaaroaM120:07:25
Manatoa LucianiM120:07:39
Kimleen Van CamF130:08:00
Kehji DesantiM80:08:11