Lenny, Appleby Take #SUWS Final, Lenny Crowned Series Champ
Tom and Jerry? Road Runner and Wiley Coyote? Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fud? Yeah, those guys have nothing on Stand Up World Series frontrunners Kai Lenny and Connor Baxter, who settled their neck-and-neck title race for the 2015 season this weekend during the World Series Final presented by Naish at Turtle Bay Resort.
The duo entered the Final atop the rankings--Lenny in first, a hair ahead of Baxter--placing both contenders in reach of the Series title and boiling the season down to their performances in the final event. After a grueling 12-mile slog in unfavorable conditions for the distance race, which Baxter took in dominant form, everything depended on the final round of Sunday’s sprint races through the pumping North Shore surf at Turtle Bay. In the end, Lenny edged ahead to win the sprints, championing the World Series Final and in effect, claiming his third #SUWS title. Lenny joins 2015 women’s champion, Candice Appleby, who found her crown during the U.S. Open of SUP in Huntington Beach two weeks ago before winning the Series Final this weekend.
The Final kicked off Saturday in blood-and-thunder conditions for the distance races. Contenders faced an inhospitable side-offshore winds, rain squalls and brawny overhead swell for a toilsome stint from North Shore, Oahu’s Turtle Bay Resort south to Haleiwa State Park--a 12-mile trial of grit for the world’s fastest standup paddlers.
Coming off the start line, Baxter found a keyhole in the surf to establish an early lead, capitalizing to end the race four minutes ahead of second-place finisher, Kai Lenny. A strong finish from Vinnicus Martins awarded the Brazilian the third spot on the podium.
For the women, 18-year-old Fiona Wylde further pronounced her stature as a world-class racer, beating the runner-up--World Series champion Candice Appleby--with an impressive 8-minute lead. The runner-up finish marks Appleby’s first major loss of the season, a fact that speaks to both her and Wylde’s impressive performances. Behind Appleby, Germany’s Sonni Honscheid rounded out the podium, riding her open-ocean expertise down the 7-mile miracle for a strong third-place finish at Haleiwa.
Baxter’s win in the long distance race lit the heaters for Lenny, who needed a strong result in the sprint race to win the event and world title. But the three-time Series Champion is no stranger to pressure, and he worked his way through the sprint rounds easily sweeping Round One, then the Semis, and finally, the Final. Baxter made it to the final as well, but fell on a wave alongside Zane Schweitzer, his shot at a Series championship falling with him. Meanwhile, Kody Kerbox impressed all with a standout performance, coming from well behind to take second, followed by Bullet Obra and Jake Jensen.
The women’s sprints started with another commanding performance from Fiona Wylde, who won the first heat, putting major pressure on the veteran Appleby. But Appleby--widely considered the fastest SUP woman on earth--wasn’t going down without a fight. She came back to win the last two heats and champion the sprint races, rounding out her undefeated season with the overall victory at the World Series Final at Turtle Bay.
Video: Stand Up World Series Finals at Turtle Bay
More SUP coverage of the Stand Up World Series