Boothy, Noic or Shrimpy? Who will stand tall in “Championship Season”
With the European Summer of SUP largely done, attention now turns to the back-half of the year aka “Championship Season” where the ISA and ICF Worlds will dominate debate about who the best paddlers in the world are.
And similar to how the women’s Euro Tour saw a “Big Three” emerge from Spain, I think there’s now a ruling triumvirate on the men’s side of the sport as Boothy, Noic and Shrimpy look set for a titanic battle at the Worlds. These three guys, representing Australia, France and Japan respectively, have been the standout stand up athletes in Season 2023 and I doubt anyone else will compete for the gold over the coming months.
…well that’s in terms of distance racing at least, which seems to be the marquee event these days despite our sport’s roots in surf racing. I’m pretty sure the beach races in France and Thailand will be crapshoots while sprints are the domain of specialists like Connor Baxter (who used to be unbeatable all-round but has wisely narrowed his focus as the sport matures). But in the 20k’er I think it’ll be Boothy, Noic and Shrimpy out front with maybe a Rai Taguchi as the smokey.
Of course you could throw in Titou – and that would mirror last year’s top four at the ISA Worlds half-marathon – but he hasn’t raced yet this season due to work and we’re still not sure when that’ll change (I heard “probably” for ISA and “maybe” for ICF). There’s no form guide with Titou. Suddenly, the world’s most consistent paddler over the past half a decade is a bit of a wildcard.
So for argument’s sake – and unless it’s a dead-flat and glassy ocean in Pattaya with a massive draft train and the medals get decided in a sprint to the line (unlikely) – let’s say it’s down to the Big Three. Who will stand tall?
My short answer is “no idea” because they’re so evenly matched. You could throw a blanket over thee three and I’m sure one of them will be the gold medalist.
But my gut says probably Boothy just given how ridiculously dominant his performance was at Carolina this year — one of the few races of a similar length to the ISA/ICF Worlds half-marathons. He finished about a kilomtre clear of a guy who’s won the event four times. That was next level.
Boothy also looked the strongest in Europe over the summer even though Noic sits atop the Euro Tour leaderboard. That’s partly due to Boothy’s shock defeat in Bordeaux where he misjudged the river and got sent from first to fifth in the dying stages. It won’t be possible to make such a mistake at the Worlds as racing takes place in the relatively predictable ocean. Both the ISA and ICF Worlds have potential to be downwinders, which changes things entirely, but in a true head-to-head battle I think Boothy is still number one by a small but clearly discernible whisker.
The Aussie powerhouse dominated in Scharbeutz and the result in Nordhausen a week later was virtually dead even as Noic took the win in a photo finish. If Boothy had have filled his Euro Tour quota (he’s only done three races but the rankings are “best four results”) then he’d be close to number one and that’s where I predict he’ll be at the Worlds if he does indeed compete in France (“maybe”) and Thailand (where he’ll definitely be racing as the mighty Team Starboard sends their entire squad to flex in their own backyard).
All I really know for sure is that I’m excited to watch this battle play out. It’s going to be an epic struggle for supremacy. Though considering Shrimpy is only 17 years old vs the early 20s of Noic and 30-odd for Boothy, I think it’s pretty clear who’ll dominate the next decade…