Nineteen-year-old, two-time Standup World Tour Champion and second place finisher in the Long Distance, Kai Lenny stormed to victory at the challenging Surf Slalom race of the Namotu World Paddle Challenge Fiji, presented by Air Pacific.
In a nail biting finish during the first stop of the World Series of Racing, Lenny found the wave he needed to overtake Long Distance Champion Connor Baxter and secure victory on the all-important last leg of the course. “That was challenging and I was lucky to find the right waves. I could feel Connor breathing down my neck on the race to the finish as I know how fast he can catch up.”
Off the start and through the first half of the course, Connor Baxter found the right line and lead the star studded final. However a few critical mistakes on the 2nd leg allowed Kai Lenny and Zane Schweitzer to catch up in an exciting 3rd and final leg battle that kept spectators on the edge of their seats.
In an impressive display of surf riding and swell negotiation, North Shore Paddle Challenge Champion Zane Schweitzer battled for a well-earned third-place finish. In the familiar heat elimination format, athletes were pushed to their limits on a course that required stamina, surf-riding skills, strategy and extreme balance and power to punch through the surf on the way out.
Slater Trout puts together another great performance here in Fiji to finish in fourth, with a memorable battle with Kai Lenny in their first round heat, and a solid performance from start to finish.
Also with a notable performance on the surf slalom course, much like the long distance, was North Shore Oahu stand out, Noa Ginella. Clearly the Hawaiian contingent were reveling in some of the most challenging surf conditions imaginable for the Stand Up World Series Sprint Course.
The current standings at the Namotu World Paddle Challenge Fiji, presented by Air Pacific are Maui boys Connor Baxter and Kai Lenny in an equal first, each with a 1st and 2nd place finish. The final for the Namotu World Paddle Challenge Champion for 2011 will be decided on Friday.
Tied for 3rd are Australian Jake Jenson who secured a 6th place finish today in the sprints to complement his 4th place finish in the long distance, Slater Trout with a 6th and 4th respectively, and Noa Ginella with two 5th places for both long distance and sprint. The overall Women’s Champion is New Zealander Annabel Anderson, while the leading Masters’ athlete is none other than Namotu regular, Australian Iron Phil.
Despite the small surf, athletes made the most of what was on offer at the World Famous surf spot of Cloudbreak, putting on an impressive, high-performance standup surfing display.
Here Zane Schweitzer takes to the air in preparation for the Fiji Tourism Cloudbreak Surf Exhibition to take place tomorrow. The surf exhibition will feature all of the usual candidates, such as two-time World Champion Kai Lenny and Contenders Noa Ginella, Slater Trout and Connor Baxter, but also, our host and legend, Dave Kalama, so stay tuned…
Still to come at the first stop of the 2012 Stand Up World Series:
– Fiji Tourism Cloudbreak Surf Exhibition
– The Vonu Waterman’s Cup (a multi-discipline showdown testing athletes’ complete range of skills)
– Team Relays
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