Appleby Crowned World Series Champ; Lenny Sweeps
For veteran women’s champion Candice Appleby and umpteen-X World Champion racer Kai Lenny, triumphant podium finishes are almost a commonplace experience. Even so, taking both sprint and long distance races in one fell swoop at the Standup World Series’ closing event--the U.S. Open of SUP in Huntington Beach--is an exceptionally impressive task given the marquee of talented world-class race registrants. But that’s exactly what Appleby and Lenny did in Surf City last weekend, with Appleby claiming the World title one event early and Lenny extending his lead heading into Turtle Bay.
On the men’s side, it was the usual suspects--Connor Baxter, Mo Freitas and Casper Steinfath-- who gave Lenny a run for his pennies. Freitas, who last week narrowly lost the battle for World Champion of SUP surfing in the Huntington event, continued to bolster his campaign as one of the sport’s finest all-around paddlers, finishing second in Saturday’s 10 km distance race and third overall in Sunday’s sprint races. On the women’s side, the in-form Appleby secured her title leaps and bounds ahead of the competition.
Saturday’s 10 km distance race was graced with a formidable south wind that transformed the five, two-kilometer laps into a gauntlet of upwinding, downwinding and navigating waist-high waves in the surf zone. Lenny established a domineering lead early on in the Men’s race, applying his Maui-honed downwind skills to break away in the first lap and maintain an unrivaled lead to the finishline, and in turn the world title, despite the powerful upwind performance of runner-up, Mo Freitas. Behind them, a tight battle for third place ensued between Hawaii’s SUP phenom Connor Baxter and the Dane, Casper “The Viking” Steinfath. In the end, Baxter prevailed by a slight margin.
As for the women, Candice Appleby dominated. Period. Fiona Wylde and Shakira Westdorp, who finished second and third respectively, clung tightly behind for a respectable distance, but Appleby’s uncanny power outperformed and the title was hers long before she crossed the finish line.
A compact pool of earth’s top talent comprised the competition for Sunday’s sprint race--33 men and 11 women from the elite echelon of SUP racing. Conditions calmed from the day prior, lending a more even-keeled playing field for the spectator’s and competitor’s enjoyment.
Lenny consistently and mechanically won his way through heats on his way to the final sprint race, relatively at ease with the assured air of a man on a familiar mission, unstoppable.
Meanwhile, drama plagued the paddle of fellow title contender, Maui boy Zane Schweitzer, who last week finished runner-up behind 2015 SUP surfing champion Caio Vaz on the World Tour--the SUP surfing counterpart of the World Series. Schweitzer’s paddle buckled in the sand upon reaching the beach in his semi-final heat, so he ditched the broken blade instinctively to focus on the footrace to the finish. As inconsequential as it seemed, the move ended up costing Schweitzer, disqualifying him from his fourth-place finish and affording Jake Jensen the opportunity to assume the slot, followed by fifth-place finisher Lorenzo Bennett and a disappointed sixth-place contender, Connor Baxter.
For the women, again, Appleby reigned supreme by a substantial margin, synching a much deserved World Champion title upon completion of the finals. Behind Appleby, 17-year-old Fiona Wylde finished runner-up, thus claiming second in both races and further committing herself to the highest standard of SUP racing. A noble performance found a less expected but much deserved podium finish from American bronze medalist Lexi Alston. --MM
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Missed the early action from the U.S. Open of SUP? Check out:
Stand Up World Series U.S. Open of SUP--Results