January 5, 2014
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

Who Wants To Sneak Onto The Podium? World’s Top 5 Paddlers All Sidelined With Injuries At The Same Time

Travis Grant and his giant knee braceSo who wants to get on a SUP podium? Now’s probably a good time to have a crack at it, because the five best paddlers in the world are all carrying injuries and are all officially out of action at the moment.

In what is an amazing yet unfortunate coincidence, Connor Baxter, Travis Grant, Danny Ching, Kai Lenny and Georges Cronsteadt – aka the top five guys in our Top 13 of 2013 list – have all suffered problems at the same time. Fortunately for these five guys (and unfortunately for everyone else) it’s the off season right now, meaning there aren’t really any big races that you could jump in on and magically gain five positions on the leaderboard.

The SUP racing “season” (if such a thing exists in our sport) roughly runs for seven months between mid-March to mid-October. All these guy got injured in late 2013, giving them a few months to recover and get back in shape before the big races start rolling again.

The injuries for Travis and Georges are the most serious, with up to six months recovery time, while the others should be back within a month or two. Though it’s worth noting that all these injuries were NOT caused by the normal stresses of Stand Up Paddling; they mostly happened while free surfing, except for Georges, who was just plain out of luck during the Battle of the Paddle.

So here’s wishing the world’s finest a speedy recovery. But what exactly happened?? Let’s take a closer look…

Connor Baxter

Top 13 rank: #1
Injury: Lower back
Out for: One month

Our “Best Paddler of the 2013” had back lower surgery around Christmas time to fix up a problem that’s been plaguing the young star for a good year or so. Connor was nursed through the entire 2013 season and was clearly frustrated that his body wouldn’t let him perform as well as he knew he could.

A windsurfing accident caused a minor fracture and kickstarted the problem, which was then compounded by how hard Connor pushes himself when he competes. Plus if you’ve ever tried the “Connor Stroke” you’ll know how brutal it can be on the lower back. All in all these aren’t the kind of problems you should have when you’re only 19 and still have a good decade or two left in the sport.

Connor will be out of the water for a few weeks and has already decided to scale down his 2014 race schedule to achieve an optimum recovery. Don’t get any ideas though, the guy is as hungry to win as ever and I have no doubt Connor will be back to his near-impossible-to-beat best in a couple of months.

Travis Grant's knee injury

Travis Grant

Top 13 rank: #2
Injury: Knee
Out for: Three to six months (12 months for full recovery)

Infamously popped his knee, while surfing, two weeks before the biggest race of the year. Travis still made an appearance at the Battle of the Paddle but wasn’t seriously contemplating competing. Skipped the Elite Race as it involved running (the guy could hardly walk) but made the bold decision to try and win the Elite Distance Race, a feat he famously achieved in what was the performance of the year.

Travis tried to recover from the injury without surgery but was eventually forced under the knife on December 13. The champion Aussie had a full Medial Patellofemoral Ligament (MPFL) reconstruction, which is just a fancy way of saying his knee was f*#%ked and he can’t paddle for a while.

The surgery was actually pretty full on: Doctors took three hours to remove a tendon from Trav’s hamstring and then attached it to his knee as a new ligament. Hearing all this makes his win at the BOP, which came just two weeks after the injury and before any repairs had been done, even more impressive.

Since the surgery, Trav’s been hobbling around like a cripple (the pic above was taken today…) and only this week hopped back in his trusty outrigger canoe to start basic paddle training. It’ll be another couple of months before he can stand up and do any serious kind of SUP training, meaning we probably won’t see Travis back racing until April at the earliest.

His doctors said it could be a year before he’s full fit and firing again, though so long as the races don’t involve running I think Trav will be right back up there in a few months.

Danny Ching's shoulder injury

Danny Ching

Top 13 rank: #3
Injury: Shoulder
Out for: Out of the water for a week but won’t be 100% for a couple months

Danny popped his shoulder surfing the week before the “Last Big Race Of The Year” in Puerto Rico. He admitted he probably wouldn’t have gone to Paddle Royal if he hadn’t already booked his ticket but eventually competed with his shoulder wrapped in tape. Somehow, miraculously, the guy in the green cap made a come-from-behind, last-second victory to take out the overall event title and show that even an 80% fit Danny Ching is a frighteningly strong prospect.

The King is having treatment for the injury right now and it’ll probably be at least a few months before he’s back to 100% race shape.

Kai Lenny's foot injury

Kai Lenny

Top 13 rank: #4
Injury: Foot
Out for: Couple of weeks

Kai did his best to saw his foot clean in half while surfing ridiculously large waves at Jaws a few weeks back. The result was a dramatic-looking helicopter rescue mission and then a very graphic foot injury that required several stitches.

The injury has kept Kai’s GQ-perfect hair frustratingly dry the past couple of weeks – right at a time when winter swells have been hammering the Maui coast.

The Battle of the Paddle champion gently eased his way back into the water a few days ago and should be totally recovered in a few weeks.

Kai Lenny Jaws

This is how you get yourself to the hospital: Kai Lenny gets plucked out of the ocean after slicing open his foot.

Georges Cronsteadt

Top 13 rank: #5
Injury: Ankle
Out for: Six months

Georges busted his ankle in rather freakish circumstances at the BOP. Coming into the biggest race of the year, the Tahitian strong man was in amazing form and could very well have taken out the race if it wasn’t for a random board hitting his ankle and smashing it to pieces during the first qualifying heat. It wasn’t just a painful injury blow, it was a cruel injury blow, coming right at the time that Georges may have been ready to announce himself as one of the world’s absolute best.

Georges had surgery on October 14th and has been in rehab since then. It’ll probably be six months before he’s totally fit and fighting but the SIC team rider can’t wait to get back into racing, so I expect we’ll see Georges appear again at the big races in either March (eg. Sayulita) or April (World Series).

And if the Instagram shot below is anything to go by, the dude is going to be just as ripped as he was pre-injury. That’s dedication for ya.