Connor Baxter surges through San Francisco Bay to victory in challenging SUP race
The first ever Red Bull Heavy Water stand up paddle board race saw optimal weather conditions with sunny skies and challenging conditions of 6-8ft waves in San Francisco on October 19, 2016. Fifteen of the world’s best watermen were tasked to a grueling 12km (7.5 miles) battle of athleticism, with the ultimate victor Connor Baxter, 22, of Maui, HI, crowned Champion of Red Bull Heavy Water.
A specialty event on the SUP World Championship Series, Red Bull Heavy Water required the perfect mix of paddling skills, ocean knowledge, supreme fitness and the courage to take on one of the most intimidating stretches of coastline in the world. The event truly lived up to its namesake, of the fifteen starters, 10 watermen achieved the lofty goal of completing the entire course. The heavy conditions manifested in overhead-plus waves and strong tidal pull, adding increased degrees of difficulty to the already strenuous course that zig zagged out and back from Ocean Beach several times through the crashing surf break, along the iconic rocky coastline of Land’s End, under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay.
As the current #1 in the 2016 SUP World Series standings, champion Baxter proved his strength and determination with today’s performance in the event. After overtaking Kai Lenny on the third leg of the out and back, Baxter tackled the rough conditions out through the surf and around Land’s End with spirited focus and was able to complete his race in 1hr, 11 minutes and 32 seconds, earning him the top podium spot, $20,000 in prize money, and securing his #1 spot in the World Series standings.
“I’ve been training my whole life to be a waterman,” said an elated Baxter. “This race was way more than I expected in many ways. The water is coming from every direction; you have backwash, wind-wash, ground-swell, and current moving underneath you, so all those different variables made it really interesting and very difficult at the same time. So, to win it, I just feel like the luckiest guy, the hard work is definitely paying off and I can’t wait for next year.”
Second out of the water was Red Bull elite waterman Kai Lenny, 24, from Maui, HI, in 1hr, 12 minutes and 15 seconds closely followed by Zane Schweitzer, 22, of Maui, HI, in 1hr, 13 minutes and 22 seconds, completing the podium of Maui-based athletes.
“The heavy water was everything I anticipated and expected,” said Lenny. “With these conditions it’s so gnarly that you can get so lucky or totally pounded. I got pounded at one point but that wasn’t the whole race. If I would have had a half-mile more I could have caught him (Baxter). I was feeling really good and making great distance on him but he kind of got away. Overall the entire race was fantastic and the course was epic.”
“Today’s event was one for the history books,” said Race Director Tristan Boxford. “Not only for the iconic location coupled with the perilous route. The athletes train year-round to have the stamina to take on a competition like this.”
Today’s Red Bull Heavy Water marked the completion of the 2016 Stand Up World Series, the final of six long distance SUP competitions in the 2016 tour. The top three athletes for the 2016 Stand Up World Series are Connor Baxter with 33,000 points in 1st, Casper Steinfath (Denmark) with 32,500 in 2nd and Kai Lenny with 30,500 in 3rd place.
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