This past weekend, San Juan, Puerto Rico welcomed some of the world's top paddlers for the biggest race in the Caribbean, The Paddle Royal. On a warm Sunday afternoon, 25 men lined up for the fifth annual contest of the "Badass" signature event. Chase Kosterlitz, Nick Leason and Paul Jackson were among the leaders in the early going, but as the race moved into its latter stages, it became a three-way battle between California's Danny Ching, Mexico transplant Ryan Helm and France's Eric Terrien. All three have claimed victories in this race season, but it was Ching's strength that was the deciding factor, with the broad-shouldered Californian powering his bright green board across the line in 1:26:11. In what was almost a photo finish behind him, Terrien timed his final surge just right to finish ahead of Helm by a second (1:26:54 to 1:26:55).
"We had every kind of condition in the race: hot and choppy as we were going downwind for four miles, a nice breeze as we turned back toward the harbor, a squall where I couldn't see more than 10 feet and then hot and sunny again," Ching said. "I kept getting lost and Eric kept catching me, but I was able to pull it out."
The women's Badass race featured an equally stacked field, but the result wasn't quite as close. With her confidence high following recent victories at the Punta Sayulita Festival, Surftech Shootout and Women's Pipeline Pro (at Pipeline), American paddler Candice Appleby quickly opened up a lead on the US Virgin Islands' Gail Vento and Angela Jackson from Australia, and they never reeled her in. Appleby, Female Paddler of the Year, came home in 1:40:57, with Vento finishing in 1:43:41 and Jackson in 1:44:54.
Miguel Beltran won the "Not So Badass" 12-foot category in 1:41:44, with John Sekas taking the 14-foot title in 1:44:45. In the women's "Not So Badass" contest, "Not So Badass" beat all comers in 1:55:43. The Paddle Royal had eight other categories (including a three-mile Weekend Warrior race and kids' contests), as the event continues to grow in popularity.
For full results, click here.