Appleby, Lenny Take BOP 2014 Titles
Kai Lenny and Candice Appleby fought through the toughest SUP competitors in the world and the biggest, burliest waves the Battle of the Paddle has ever seen to win 2014 Elite Race crowns.
“Pinch me,” Appleby said, still breathless from crossing the finish line for her fifth Battle of the Paddle title.
“When I ran through, I couldn’t believe it,” Lenny said of his repeat victory. “It’s surreal.”
Both the men’s and women’s final heats lived up to the hype.
First up were the women, who didn’t have any qualifying heats today.
Annabel Anderson and Appleby were neck and neck the entire race, trading leads through the pumping four- to six-foot surf. Anderson, the two-time, BOP winner, made some uncharacteristic mistakes, missing a wave that let Appleby catch up to her for the run through the chicane. Punching out through the surf, both women used their ocean knowledge to pause on the inside before hammering through the big whitewash walls. On the last wave of the set, Anderson slipped and fell pulling some kelp off her board, giving the lead to Appleby, who never gave it up.
“It’s part of racing,” Anderson said. “Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t, but we have a spectacular new venue and the skill level just keeps going higher and higher. I’m a 100 percent happy with this outcome.”
Appleby’s fifth BOP win has to feel all the sweeter since she sat out the 2013 Battle with an injured hand that required surgery.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger mentally having had injuries and having some time off,” Appleby said through a grin. “Winning’s the easy part. It’s learning to lose.”
Canadian Lina Augaitis staged her biggest SUP performance yet, finishing third*. The relative newcomer doesn’t have as much ocean experience as the other top finishers, which makes her finish all the more impressive. With a little more time in the waves she’s going to be a major threat to win this race in the future.
“I had such a long race season so I was starting to feel a little run down,” Augaitis said. “This is the most perfect way to finish (the season). I can’t even believe it.”
The men’s action was as dramatic as it gets, as everyone on the beach was treated to a display of the current state of racing. All eyes were on Connor Baxter and Lenny as the two have been had increasingly intense battles as the season has drawn on.
For anyone that didn’t know what the term “rubbing is racing” meant before today, they did after the men’s final (see above). On the second lap, Danny Ching, Jake Jensen, Baxter and Lenny were all riding a medium sized wave toward the chicane when Baxter, who was just on the shoulder in front of Lenny, ripped a cutback and planted his board right on Lenny’s bow after Lenny took the high line to force him off the wave. Lenny fell and grabbed at Connor’s board. Both racers subsequently wiped out.
The crowd whispered at the physicality, ooing and awing as one of the most confrontational dramas in the event’s history played out before them.
“That’s why the call it the Battle of the Paddle,” Lenny said after. “Me and Connor have been rubbing boards a lot this season. We were on that wave just going at it and he put his board on top of mine and I fell on his board and it stopped him and everything went crazy. I guess that’s racing.”
In the melee, Ching took the lead with Jensen right on his tail. Lenny was able to weather the wipeout and hold onto the third spot as they moved into their next lap. Baxter dropped back a handful of places at that point.
Ching pulled the draft train through the final lap. He tried to catch a little bump to separate from Jensen and Lenny on the final stretch toward the finish line but missed it as it rolled under him. The Australian and the Hawaiian caught the next one, with all three top finishers on the same wave. But it was Lenny that was closest to the line. Ching took off running but lost his footing, and his paddle, leaving Lenny to hit the line first, with Jensen close behind and Ching after.
“If you’re good enough to be in that position, I don’t feel bad at all,” Ching said. “It was a great race, it wasn’t perfect.”
That wasn’t Ching’s only heroic performance today. In his qualifying heat he let everyone know his intentions when he got off to a healthy start during the first lap. After hitting the water again, though, Ching crested a smaller wave on the way out and snapped his board in two. His caddy was quick to act and got him on his replacement quickly. Ching was able to fight back from 23rd to finish second in that heat.
The breakout performance was from our dark horse pick, Australian Jake Jensen, who had the muscle and wave know-how to hang with the top guys in the world throughout the whole race for a second place finish.
“I put everything I had into it,” Jensen said. “I was up there with the two best paddlers in the world. I’m over the moon.”
As much as the SUP superstars were the main attraction, Salt Creek Beach certainly upped the level of drama throughout the day. Boards and paddles were broken, arms were flailing and everyone took their fair share of licks but all the racers were raving.
“I’m stoked to race here at Salt Creek,” Michael Tavares said. “It’s way more entertaining here.”
The action continues at Salt Creek Beach tomorrow with the Distance Race.
1. Kai Lenny (41:41)
2. Jake Jensen (41:50)
3. Danny Ching (41:54)
4. Lincoln Dews (42:24)
5. Connor Baxter (42:27)
6. Mo Freitas (42:28)
7. Kelly Margetts (42:31)
8. Eric Terrien (42:32)
9. Slater Trout (43:00)
10. Jayden Jensen (43:19)
11. Travis Grant (43:32)
12. Casper Steinfath (43:52)
13. Riggs Napoleon (43:52)
14. Zane Schweitzer (43:53)
15. Letourneur Martin (44:08)
16. Kody Kerbox (44:08)
17. Ryan Helm (44:36)
18. Georges Cronsteadt (44:49)
19. Kai Bates (45:03)
20. Greg Closier (45:12)
Women**Since this story was reported the results for the women’s Elite Race were amended. See below.**
1. Candice Appleby
2. Lina Augaitis
3. Annabel Anderson
4. Fiona Wylde
5. Jenny Kalmbach
6. Angela Jackson
7. Karla Gilbert
8. Sonni Hönscheid
9. Sondra Purser
10. Talia Decoite