Freestyle has the World Championships, slalom, the Olympics, and extreme racing the Teva Games and Adidas Sickline comp. Stand-up paddlers now have their own event for top bragging rights in the Battle of the Paddle.
Fast becoming an underground SUP World Championships, this year’s Battle of the Paddle (and its $25,000 cash purse) drew more than 600 competitors from all over the world to So Cal in early October for what has become the sport’s landmark event. Open class racers schussed a five-mile course with a beach start and finish, while
Elite class racers tackled a six-mile-long course.
Names you might recognize: Nikki Gregg, who took first for the women in the Open class, and whitewater stalwart and Werner rep Dan Gavere, who finished 26th in the tough Elite division. “Surfing prowess and endurance were the most important factors,” says Gavere. “We had to complete four laps around a challenging course that wove in and out of the surf and required a 50yard beach run on each lap.”
Broken boards, paddles, chins and feelings could be heard throughout the race as several competitors made contact with each other in a true battle of the paddle. Building surf and low tide created head-high waves, shallow waters and challenging turns.
In other SUP news, 14-year-old Maui paddler Slater Trout became the talk of the event following his performance taking second overall against men of all ages in the Elite division (imagine, Gavere bested by a 14-year-old). Trout, who finished 32nd a year earlier, was the youngest athlete competing.
“I’ve been training for this all year and I am happy that all the hard work paid off,” he says, adding that he’ll be donating a portion of his winnings to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (www.seashepherd.org).
Blessed with a natural talent and unbelievable physique for the sport, it’s his sheer determination, which is written all over his face that is setting him apart from his competitors.
“He is a wonderful ambassador of the sport and is focused on a future in the surfing/SUP world,” says spokesman Ben Cortez. “He’s already been honored as being the youngest competitor invited to the 2009 Quicksilver Kaikika Big Wave Stand Up Challenge at Makaha Point, and a two-time invitee to the Duke’s Ocean Fest, where he’s claimed 3 Championship Titles. “He’s the real deal and has huge passion for one of the fastest growing sports of our time, so you are sure to see a lot more of him. Many people claim he may be the next Laird Hamilton.”