September 3, 2013
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

This Sequence Sums Up Why We Love The Battle Of The Paddle

Starboard presents Battle of the Paddle 2013 Live Coverage

As part of Tiki Racing Month – our coverage of the 2013 Battle of the Paddle in partnership with the good folks over at Starboard – we’ll be delivering at least one BOP update each and every day this month. Previews, predictions, interviews, insights and more, all leading up to our massive live coverage of the event on September 28th & 29th.

Yep, is your home for the Battle…

Today let’s have some fun by looking back at the 2012 Battle of the Paddle, which was blessed with perfectly sized waves for a stand up paddle race. Not too big that it became random and chaotic, but just enough surf that we got to see plenty of carnage, especially around the infamous “Hammer Buoy”…

This one single buoy turn alone has probably produced more epic SUP racing photos than every other race in the world combined. Yes, it’s that awesome.

The Hammer Buoy sits at the bottom left-hand corner of the BOP Elite Race course, close to the shore. Paddlers reach it after a long, straight leg from the outside buoy back in towards the beach, meaning they’ve got plenty of time to catch a wave and surf directly towards the buoy.

Problem is there’s about 100 paddlers on the Elite Race course, so even if you’re lucky enough to catch a wave (and gain some valuable ground while taking a vital breather) there’s unfortunately a very good chance you’ll have some company. The sequence below is a perfect example…

On this one wave we can see eleven of the world’s best paddlers about to have a major crash. This was the Hammer Buoy turn during the opening lap of 2012 Elite Race final. The pack of guys in the sequence below were right near the front when the carnage went down (you can see the rest of the field in the distance).

From memory there were five guys who made it onto the first wave in this set and got around the buoy right before the chaos started (Danny Ching, Kai Lenny, Connor Baxter, Kelly Margetts and Jamie Mitchell) and, excluding Jamie, those four went on to fill the top four spots on the podium. So you can appreciate just how important it is to get around the Hammer Buoy cleanly…

In the third, fourth and fifth photos of this sequence you can actually see those race leaders on the far right of the shot, as they had rounded the buoy moments earlier and by this stage were paddling back out. You can spot Danny’s signature fluro green cap in the third frame, while Connor’s board is clearly visible going over the wave in the fourth shot (with Kai’s outstretched arm right behind him). In the fifth and final frame we can spot Jamie’s shoulders as he goes over the same wave that’s causing all the chaos just on the other side of the buoy.

For me, this sequence sums up what the Battle of the Paddle is all about. This is why we love it. It’s pure SUP racing carnage featuring the world’s best paddlers…

So let’s take a closer look. From left to right we’ve got:

Georges Cronsteadt (blue jersey #108, taking the safer line out to the far left of the photo)
Beau O’Brian (second from left in the first frame, wearing yellow #9)
Jake Jensen (#69, wisely sitting on his board in the first frame to avoid falling off)
Lincoln Dews (#76, right behind Jake in the first frame and underneath Fernando in the final frame)
Mo Freitas (#202, right in the center of the first frame, for some reason wearing an orange jersey)
Luiz Guida (hard to see this guy, sandwiched next to Mo and right behind Zane, but I believe that’s Luiz from Brazil, wearing jersey #102…)
Anthony Vela (#168, third from the right in frame one and surfing like a boss in the final frame; Vela was the ONLY paddler out of the eleven to successfully navigate this wave…)
Slater Trout (#7, on the far right in the first frame; you can see Slater wisely decided to pull off the back of the wave in frames two and three)

Then we have the three super unlucky guys, who had a slight lead on this whole pack only to get swallowed up in the carnage. In the first frame you can see the three of them slightly in front of the wave, with two of them looking behind at the inevitable onslaught that’s about to hit…

Fernando Stalla (#112, standing tall in the front centre of the first frame, looking over his shoulder)
Zane Schweitzer (#138, croching down paddling hard just to the right of center; Zane actually lost his board during this sequence, saw it wash all the way in to the beach and retired from the race…)
Paul Jackson (#72, looking over his shoulder, second from right in the first frame)

I love the final shot in the sequence: Fernando somehow holding on despite three boards (one of them a stray) blocking his path, AV swinging round the inside like a total ninja, Zane about to eat it, Lincoln desperately clinging to his rails as his board sits sideways and then the five lead guys on the other side of the buoy paddling away from the chaos.

Battle of the Paddle buoy turn 1 Battle of the Paddle buoy turn 2 Battle of the Paddle buoy turn 3 Battle of the Paddle buoy turn 4 Battle of the Paddle buoy turn 5

(photos © Servais/Rainbow Sandals)