The unofficial start to the European racing season kicked off with last weekend's SUP Race CUP in St. Maxime, France. Travis Grant of Australia and Maui's Connor Baxter dominated the two-day event that featured a technical sprint race and long distance race.
Saturday's rough conditions delayed the start of sprint race for hours, but after some tough decision-making by the event organizers, paddlers took to the water. Due to the unfavorable conditions, what was supposed to be a 7-km race was reduced to 5km, and after being put on hold for hours, paddlers were ready to blow some steam and go to battle. Connor Baxter continued his impressive winning streak, taking down Travis Grant and other elite paddlers in the four-lap course.
For nearly 30 minutes, around 100 competitors paddled up and down the coast, battling around each buoy turn. Baxter held his lead over the pack with Grant on his tail, and Casper Steinfath and Jake Jensen in tow. Baxter didn't falter, and after a paddle battle with Grant in the last yards of the race, he crossed the finish, taking another win for the year. Jensen, Steinfath, Beau O'Brien and Eric Terrien finished third through sixth, respectively.
The ladies' sprint race also saw some excitement, as Australia's Angie Jackson and France's Olivia Piana went head-to-head on the short course. Jackson maintained her leading position throughout the race, finishing strong and shutting out any possibility of being passed. She crossed the line with a minute to spare before second and third place finishers, Piana and Celine Guesdon, crossed the line.
Sunday's 17-km distance race saw decent conditions for the first few miles, but things took a turn after a gnarly headwind came up and the course leaders took the opportunity to widen their gap from the rest of the competitors. By the final leg of the race, Grant and Baxter were back at it, charging for the win. Grant caught a slight bump, allowing him the edge to pull ahead of Baxter and take the win. Beau O'Brien, Paul Jackson, Chase Kosterlitz, Casper Steinfath and Jake Jenson took third through seventh places, respectively.
After Saturday's exciting race for the ladies, Jackson, Guesdon and Piana showed up Sunday, ready to do work. Guesdon won the distance race ahead of Piana, Jackson, and Manca Notar, who finished in second through fourth places, respectively.
Overall Results (Sprint and Long Distance race times combined)
1st: Travis Grant (2:11:43)
2nd: Connor Baxter (2:12:08)
=3rd: Beau O'Brian (2:12:38)
=3rd: Casper Steinfath (2:12:38)
5th: Jake Jensen (2:13:08)
6th: Chase Kosterlitz (2:13:12)
7th: Eric Terrien (2:13:34)
1st: Celine Guesdon (2:31:56)
2nd: Angela Jackson (2:32:02)
3rd: Olivia Piana (2:32:43)
4th: Manca Notar (2:43:57)