2016 Euro Tour Off to Memorable Start
Prior to last year, the European SUP racing scene was like a unfinished puzzle-the pieces were all there, they just didn’t make a complete picture. Despite a plethora of different races and a talented pool of paddlers, there was simply no platform for them to face-off against one another in an organized fashion.
That all changed in 2015 when industry insiders put their heads together and created the inaugural Euro Tour. After a successful first season, organizers expanded the tour-nearly doubling the number of events to now include 14 stops in 11 countries over the course of three months. With more racers able to compete in more events, 2016 was set to be a thrilling year of paddling action.
Now with the first three rounds of the 2016 Euro Tour in the books, one thing is clear-it’s going to be a wild summer.
Unpredictable conditions, emerging SUP racers, beautiful locations, and nail-biter finishes are all phrases that would accurately depict the opening rounds to Europe’s biggest SUP racing circuit. Yet despite it all, two familiar faces remain atop a very hungry pack of paddlers.
Defending Euro Tour champions Connor Baxter and Sonni Hönscheid came out of round three-the SUP Race Cup in St. Maxime, France-with hard-fought victories that catapulted them to front-runners in the championship hunt. However, tight competition and narrow victories sent a message that defending their championships will not be easy.
With the picturesque scenery of the French Riviera in the background, Baxter was in command during his course race victory on day one. However, things would not come so easy on day two. Australian Michael Booth surprised everyone by pulling away from both Baxter and Titouan Puyo-the 2016 Carolina Cup winner-to win the long distance race by a minute. Booth’s effort was nearly enough to eclipse Baxter’s overall combined time, but the Maui native hung on to the overall victory by a mere nine seconds (virtually nothing considering his winning time was just over two hours and seven minutes).
Meanwhile, Hönscheid fought off a strong effort from Fiona Wylde to claim both the course and long distances races in St. Maxime. Fresh off a win in round two of the tour, the German paddler is already starting to look like the heavy favorite to repeat as Euro Tour champion.
The SUP Race Cup also happened to be the first of three “headliner” events in the Euro Tour schedule-meaning these three races are higher profile and will play a large part in determining the champion. Since many of the top international paddlers do not compete until the headliner events, the first two rounds gave local paddlers a chance to shine.
Round two was held on the picturesque Mediterranean island of Mallorca. Formally known as the Port Adriano SUP race, it featured an Italian sweep of the podium with Paolo Marconi taking home the victory on the men’s side. As for the women, Susak Molinero-who happens to be Marconi’s girlfriend-put in a strong showing and finished runner-up to the defending champ.
Meanwhile, the season kicked-off under stormy skies at the Port Setubal SUP Race in Portugal. Overcoming challenging conditions, Italian Leonard Nika won the men’s division and Spain’s Laura Quetglas held off some hard-charging ladies to claim victory in the inaugural event.
Up next for the Euro Tour is one of the most highly anticipated races of the season, the Lost Mills race in Germany. The action should be intense with Baxter trying to hold off a fast field of paddlers, while Hönscheid goes for victory on her home soil.
As always, stay tuned to SUPtheMag.com for all your Euro Tour news, results and analysis.
Get caught up on the wild finish during round one of the Standup World Series’ in Japan.
Find out what went down during last year’s Lost Mills race in Germany.