In one of the most competitive finishes ever, Australian Travis Grant edged out Danny Ching in a hotly contested final lap to with the 2011 Gerry Lopez Rainbow Sandals Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii and $5,000 in prize money. “I just know how good Danny is and I said to myself I’m just gonna hang with the guy as long as I can,” said Grant. “I wasn’t going to try and lead. I was going to try to either get lucky, really have a push, or do something different on the last lap. I got lucky on a little wave and once you get lucky you just hammer. He would have done the same thing. The same thing happened last year around the same time in the race. It was a different course, but once you get in front, adrenalin kicks in. It’s hard to come from behind when you’ve just done an hour of torture. But I’m so happy.”

On the women’s side, Candice Appleby beat Jenny Kalmbach, Rachel Bruntsch and Morgan Hoesterey to capture her second Battle of the Paddle, Hawaii and her third title in two years. “Going into the race my game plan is always paddle as hard as I can and don’t leave anything on the beach,” said Appleby who took home $2,500 for the win. “It’s only an hour and a half of your life so give it all a hundred percent. This week in my personal life has been so tough. But the Battle is my race of the year, I love it. If my life was a race, that was it right there. I can’t even comprehend how I feel just yet.”

Today’s elite course earned the unofficial title of being the most brutal in the four-year history of the Battle of the Paddle. It traversed through flat water, took paddlers in and out of the surf around a maze of buoys, with beach runs thrown in between laps. It provided more than an hour of opportunity for luck or misfortune to play their hand, however Grant and Ching somehow stayed neck-and-neck, exchanging the lead and trading waves to the finish. Their leading battle was spurred on by a pair of hungry 16-year-olds over the entire four-mile distance: Maui pair Connor Baxter and Slater Trout were embroiled in a battle of their own just two minutes off the pace. All four broke away from the start and never relinquished the distance between themselves and the remainder of the field of 93 elite starters.

Earlier in the day, the Open category race for all comers of all ages set the scene at Waikiki, drawing a record 140 entries that ranged in age from eight to 73. Among them were Waikiki’s royal family of paddling: the Napoleons, representing three generations of watermen. The youngest, 13-year-old Riggs, was a show-stopper, entering the Open race with his 70-year-old grandfather Nappy, and the Elite race with his dad Aaron, and uncle Sepa. The winner was Kauai’s Kawika Carvalho, in a time of 45 minutes and 10 seconds. The first female across the line was 16-year-old Halie Harrison from Hawaii Kai (52:35).

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Unofficial results:

1. Travis Grant (AUST) 1:21:02
2. Danny Ching (USA) 1:21:55
3. Connor Baxter (HAW) 1:23:28
4. Slater Trout (HAW) 1:24:07

1. Candice Appleby (HAW) 1:34:54
2. Jenny Kalmbach (HAW) 1:35:55
3. Rachel Bruntsch (USA) 1:36:38
4. Morgan Hoesterey (HAW) (time unavailable)

Stay tuned as SUP mag updates this story with more photos and video.