Kai Lenny has won two World Tour surf Titles and a World Series race title. But a Rainbow Sandals Battle of the Paddle title, basically the surf race world championship, is the one win that had eluded him. That all changed today when the 20-year-old Maui native became the newest champion in the event’s illustrious six-year history.
“This one is definitely one of the sweetest ones ever, just because this race is so gnarly,” said Lenny, who with this win arguably became the most decorated paddler in the sport’s history (all before being able to drink legally). “I kind of got shaken up in the qualifier and in this race I just wanted to stick to my guns. I knew I’d never forgive myself if I lost that lead I built up.”
On a beautiful day in Dana Point, Calif., with a three-foot swell, Lenny didn’t beat Connor Baxter and Danny Ching because he caught a great wave or slipped into first by missing a carnage-inducing set. He won the old-fashioned way: by grinding out a hard-fought win in the flats, out-paddling both Ching and Baxter, who’ve won the last two years respectively.
Photos by Jason Kenworthy and Will Taylor
And on a day when everybody expected New Zealand’s Annabel Anderson to easily repeat as the women’s champion, the Big Island’s Jenny Kalmbach took the celebrated Kiwi down to the wire, catching her just before the final lap with a supremely-timed surf. Her downfall came on the final turn at the south “Hammer” jetty, where she fell on the turn.
“This is what the Battle is all about,” Anderson said. “I never for a moment thought that I would have it easy today. I cherish this race (win) today infinitely more than last year because it was so hardcore.”
This is Kalmbach’s best finish since she won the event in 2008 and the Molokai-2-Oahu in 2009.
“We were really close coming around that turn and it seems like every year I come around that buoy there’s a wave coming through (to take me out),” she said. “I thought I had it but I guess I lost focus and that gave her just enough to have a really clear path to the finish.”
Despite a nagging shoulder injury that forced him to pull out of the Molokai-2-Oahu mid-channel, Ching fought his way through to end in third. Casper Steinfath ended fourth for his best BOP ever while Mo Freitas finished 5th, an improvement from last year’s 6th place. Zane Schweitzer inked a 6th on the scorecard while Jake Jensen ended 7th and 41-year-old Kelly Margetts finished at 8th.
On the women’s side, Karla Gilbert rounded out the top three. Terrene Black ended fourth with Mariko Strickland in fifth and Morgan Hoesterey finishing 6th. Candice Appleby announced Thursday night at the 2013 SUP Awards that she wouldn’t be able to compete at this year’s Battle because of her surgically repaired hand that is still giving her trouble, a blow to the competitive field for certain. Still, the final was packed with talented paddlers. “I’m completely impressed with the athleticism out here,” said Anderson. “It’s impressive.”
This story was updated Monday, September 30, 2013.
1. Annabel Anderson
2. Jenny Kalmbach
3. Karla Gilbert
4. Terrene Black
5. Mariko Strickland
6. Morgan Hoesterey
7. Rachel Bruntsch
8. Shannon Bell
9. Sondra Purser
10. Gillian Gibree
1. Kai Lenny
2. Connor Baxter
3. Danny Ching
4. Casper Steinfath
5. Mo Freitas
6. Zane Schweitzer
7. Jake Jensen
8. Kelly Margetts
9. Lincoln Dews
10. Fernando Stalla