March 19, 2018
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

New Zealand, Northern California and the new one in France: The Paddle League pre-season wraps up this weekend

The inaugural Villefranche Paddle Race will give us a pre-season glimpse of the European summer of SUP

As the countdown to the world tour continues, The Paddle League pre-season wraps up this weekend with a “March Madness” triple-header covering California, France and New Zealand.

While the Air France Paddle Festival in Tahiti (April 7) marks the first “major” race of the six-month long international season and stop #1 on the world tour proper, there are plenty of points and podiums up for grabs all year long.

If you caught latest video from The Paddle League you would’ve heard there are two stages to this new platform: The World Tour and the Regional Leagues, with points from all races combined on the interlinked Paddle League World Rankings — the new name and new home of the original SUP Racer World Rankings.

After announcing the major stops on the world tour in January, The Paddle League will be unveiling the full list of “Regionals” in the coming weeks, but in the meantime here’s a quick look at what’s happening at this weekend’s points races.


Marcus Hansen leading the field during last year’s National Titles in New Zealand; the event has been renamed the “Hoe Toa” NZ Championships” and is one of three Paddle League pre-season races happening this weekend (photo: Georgia Schofield)

Hoe Toa NZ Championships

The new name of the New Zealand National Titles, the “Hoe Toa” event (‘Champions Paddle’ in the indigenous Maori language) is the peak of the Kiwi summer and a chance for New Zealand’s finest to shine.

Combining a (hopefully) downwind race on Saturday and ‘beach race’ on Sunday, the weekend acts as selection for the ISA-bound Team New Zealand but is open to all age groups and talent levels.

At the pointy end of the field, look for the likes of Marcus Hansen, who had a great result at the 12 Towers earlier this month, to battle the likes of Trevor Tunnington and Ollie Houghton for a spot on the squad while Aussie import Lincoln Dews tries to crash the party.

The women’s is a toss up because it largely depends on who’s fit enough to race. Annabel Anderson is scheduled for surgery next week and will miss the Carolina Cup in April, but the world number one may be able to sneak in one more event on home waters before she goes under the knife. Penelope Strickland is NZ’s other top-ranked athlete and will start a commanding favourite if Annabel isn’t on the start line.

Villefranche Paddle Festival

A new race on the calendar for season 2018, the Villefranche Paddle Festival offers us a pre-season glimpse of what’s in store on the EuroTour, with many of France’s finest plus the Italian Mafia set to converge on the postcard-perfect town for the two-day festival for a springtime showdown.

Just around the corner from Nice, Villefranche looks like the perfect spot for a paddle race, while the event is being put together by some of the athletes themselves including the injury-recovering Martin Letourneur.

From what I’ve seen behind-the-scenes, the organisational effort being put into this event is top notch, and hopefully this is the first edition of what will become a permanent fixture on the European scene.

Love the promo shots of the paddlers walking through the old town…


Santa Cruz Paddle Fest

The 32nd annual – yes, 32nd – Santa Cruz Paddle Fest is a three-day festival that gives SUP surfers, racers and wave skis the rare opportunity to take over Santa Cruz’s iconic Steamer Lane.

What started as a local waveski-surfing event back in the 80s has grown into a permanent fixture on the stand up paddling calendar after embracing the then-fledgling sport of SUP over a decade ago.

Northern California in March is a swell magnet, so you’re pretty much guaranteed to score waves at this event. Look for California’s brightest and a few out-of-towners (world number two Fiona Wylde among them) to fight for the podium, while the whole event gives off a great vibe of being a celebration of ocean culture in general.

32 years…!

You can set your watch to the waves at the Santa Cruz Paddlefest (photo: Susie Hopper)