Here’s what happened at the invite-only, $100,000 “Iron X” event in Australia
Courtney Hancock and Caine Eckstein have won the ‘Iron X’ multi-discipline paddle race on Australia’s Sunshine Coast today, beating an all-star field of ocean athletes to win the invite-only, $100-000 specialty event.
The inaugural edition of Iron X (aka “the biggest race you’ve never heard of”), which combines traditional surf lifesaving (known as “ironman” in Australia but better described as “lifeguard racing” for the rest of the world) with SUP and crossfit to create a five-discipline test of skill, strength and endurance.
SUP and crossfit (“ninja warrior-style beach workout” is probably a better term) joined the traditional trifecta of ironman disciplines, prone paddleboarding (“board”), surfski (“ski”) and swimming. The board/ski/swim format has been a staple of the Australian sporting landscape for decades, and Iron X has garnered plenty of buzz (and a bit of controversy) for spicing things up in a quest to return to the sport’s 1990s golden days as one of Australia’s favourite TV spectacles.
But while much was made of SUP’s inclusion in the event it was still a format that heavily favoured the ironmen and women. The SUP superstars who competed in the nationally-televised spectacle – including world number one Michael Booth and 2018 #1 Lincoln Dews – put up a good fight but were ultimately out-muscled by several of the top athletes from the Nutri-Grain Ironman/Ironwoman pro series.
Lincoln looked good early, leading the race and looking a solid chance for a famous (and very lucrative–$25k for the winner) victory before falling on the overhead bars. Lincoln eventually limped over the line at the back of the field just behind Molokai champion James “Jimmy” Casey.
The best of the SUP-recognised athletes finished 6th and 7th respectively with Ironman-turned-SUP-athlete Jackson Maynard edging out world number one Michael Booth.
Caine Eckstein — who set a world record for doing 7620 chin-ups in 24 hours and whose brother Shannon is one of the greatest ironman athletes of all time — dominated the back-end of the race to win by more than a minute from Nutri-Grain regulars Kendrick Louis and Tanyn Lyndon.
The women’s event was a lot closer with less than half a minute separating the top five. Finishing fifth was a name that should be familiar to SUP aficionados, Jordan Mercer. Jordie has won more ISA medals than any other athlete (virtually unbeatable in the prone events) and has dabbled in international SUP races. She’s one of the current Queens of surf life-saving but has battled multiple injuries over the past couple of seasons.
Iron X 2020: Men’s Results
Iron X 2020: Women’s Results
I’ve been off the grid the past week so I couldn’t follow Iron X as closely as I would’ve liked, but I’m very interested to see what the reaction is from athletes and fans–both in the SUP and surf life-saving communities. The initial posts on Insta from the likes of Boothy, Jimmy and Jordie seem overwhelmingly positive (a “catalyst for resurgence” for the sport of surf-life saving was Jordie’s summation).
Iron X has is a big experiment and an incredible opportunity for SUP to be included in such a high-profile event. Ironman/ironwoman racing is a huge sport in Australia–far bigger than SUP in terms of both profile and participation. The entire event is designed to be spectator- and TV-friendly, which is something stand up paddling has seriously struggled with, so at the very least I’m sure we can learn a few things from it.
We’ll see what comes of it in the future, but for now here are a few Insta-reactions from the SUP crew.
You should also check out James Casey’s great Iron X recap.