Something Big Is Brewing… (What Is The Ultimate SUP Showdown?)
Combining both SUP racing and SUP surfing, it’s called the “Ultimate SUP Showdown” and is set to debut at Duke’s OceanFest next month. Many of the sport’s biggest names are already backing the project, which will showcase its unique new format at Waikiki on August 20th.
While the Duke’s event will be the initial public unveiling of the Showdown, organisers are already planning a multi-stop tour for next year that may feature some of the most significant prize money the sport has ever seen. The Ultimate SUP Showdown, and the subsequent “Tour” that it will eventually form, has already received strong support, with paddlers at the inaugural event set to include:
– Dave Kalama
– Connor Baxter
– Jamie Mitchell
– Travis Grant
– Aaron Napoleon
– Chuck Patterson
– Zane Schweitzer
– Vanina Walsh
– Justin Holland
– Kody Kerbox
– Danny Ching (to be confirmed)
Not a bad line-up. In fact this could be the single biggest collection of stars for any Stand Up Paddle event outside of the Super Bowl of SUP, with a total of 32 elite paddlers being invited to the first event (while the 2014 events will be more open, the first event next month is invite only).
It sounds pretty cool but right now a lot of it is under wraps. The organisers are keeping tight lipped so they don’t promise too much before they’ve had a chance to prove their worth to the paddling community. The Ultimate SUP Showdown is being developed by a group called A Boyd Event, Inc, which is led by former businessman and nominee for the “World’s Most Enthusiastic Paddler” award, Boyd Jeffery.
So the big unveiling will be August 20th, when the first Ultimate SUP Showdown will be held as part of Duke’s OceanFest in Waikiki (Oahu, Hawaii). This opening event sounds like it’ll be a bit of a demonstration; in the future the Ultimate SUP Showdown will run their own standalone events and will eventually become a full on tour.
Next month’s competition, which will officially be titled the “Honolua Surf Co’s Ultimate SUP Showdown” after the Hawaiian clothing brand jumped on as title sponsor, is set to offer $15,000 prize money and could even wind up on TV, with a full production crew invited to whip up a cool highlights package. The plans for next year are still under wraps, but it looks set to include four events across the Hawaiian islands with some very significant cash on offer for the athletes.
While next month is essentially a one off event to showcase the format, once the Ultimate SUP Tour is established next year points from each stop will count towards an overall season ranking. Paddlers will be lured to race and surf in all four events as the prize money will be heavily loaded on the overall rankings – the 2014 season champion is expected to walk away with the biggest cheque in the sport’s history, in addition to the prize money they can score at each individual event.
Boyd and his team behind the Ultimate SUP Showdown are confident this will become a major new event in the world of SUP. Apart from convincing many of the world’s best to attend the first ever event, the Showdown has also picked up the support of ASP Hawaii to help run the surfing side of the contest. That’s definitely a big score and one that should help legitimise the format.
But what is the format?
That seems to be the unique selling point for the Showdown, because although it borrows elements from traditional surf contests as well as races like the Battle of the Paddle, the organisers were adamant about creating something that’s never been seen before.
Basically each event will be split into three parts: a SUP surfing contest, a SUP race, and then a “Showdown” finale, where the top 8 finishers from each side of the event will compete in a surf race for the overall victory.
Despite the final of each event technically being a “race”, the organisers have stressed that it’ll favour both the surfing and racing specialists equally, as the waves will come into play at critical parts of the course. I’m not yet convinced you can have a race that doesn’t favour the racers over the surfers, but either way it sounds like a pretty cool format. Think: Battle of the Paddle on steroids.
One of the Showdown’s taglines is: “Creating a new SUP athlete that is both surfer and racer.” and that’s exactly what it seems to be doing; splitting the sport down the middle between the surfing and racing side.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a clear distinction between SUP surfing and SUP racing, with the two becoming separate sports in their own right. There’s still a lot of cross-over, with a few of the top names competing in both, but we’re also seeing more and more flat-water SUP racing specialists who don’t have much skill on the waves. This new tour, however, is clearly not for them: The Showdown is about SUP being a surfing-based sport. Such a hybrid format could make the Showdown something like the X Games of SUP.
But will this new format work? We don’t know yet. It’s totally untested (though secret trials have been taking place on Maui lately) so we’ll have to wait until August 20th to find out. Though I’m willing to bet that if the SUP Showdown has encouraged the likes of Danny, Jamie, Dave, Connor and Chuck to be involved, before the first event has even been run, then it’s got a pretty good chance of success.
The main man behind the Showdown, Boyd Jeffery, is also an interesting guy that is clearly very passionate about Stand Up Paddling. While he’s chosen to largely stay behind the scenes so far, there’s certainly been a lot happening the past few months, with the team committed to building a SUP event that promotes the athletes first and foremost.
So there you go. This could be the start of something big. But we’ll have to wait til August 20th and see…
The organisers are also waiting until after the first event has been run successfully before starting any serious promotion, though I’m sure we’ll be hearing more bits and pieces about the Ultimate SUP Showdown, and the wider Tour, between now and the official unveiling next month. So keep an eye out for more details as this thing develops, it could be big…