Brad Gaul and Joel Mason let the paddleboarding community know that Team Australia is certainly the country to beat at the ISA World StandUp Paddle (SUP) and Paddleboarding Championship, earning the gold and silver medals in the Men's Paddleboard Race. Following in the footsteps of Jordan Mercer, who dominated the field in the Women's Paddleboard Race the day before, the pair distanced themselves from the pack early and never looked back.
A quarter-mile from the turn to the beach, Gaul broke away and was the first to shake hands with ISA President Fernando Aguerre at the finish line.
"It was very flat conditions out there, pretty hot, but it was a comfortable race once Joel and I got out; we set back into a rhythm and a pace and just did what we planned to do back home, and came back through here and completed the task," said Gaul, who finished the five-kilometer race in 38:14.
"It's obviously a great honor [to win the first-ever men's gold medal at the ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship]," he continued. "The event is only going grow in years to come, with more and more countries coming and it will get more competitive. So, to be the first [gold medalist] on that list is awesome."
Mason was a few hundred yards behind Gaul to lock down the maximum points for Australia.
"In paddleboarding, you paddle for your self, it's really an individual sport, but to be here and to medal as part of Team Australia is a dream come true," Mason said. "ISA's put on a great event, the quality of the competition is good, and it's cool because you see paddlers you've never seen from around the world, just because of location of races and things like that. It's great to be here and to get to meet new people, experience a new culture, and Peru is so great and thanks for having us."
With the first two world championships of this event won by Team Australia, it has established itself as the early leader for the Club Waikiki Trophy, which goes to the overall team champion from the event. Australia has all three of its SUP Surf athletes in contention, with Jackson Close and Shakira Westdorp already having qualified for the Finals, which will be held on Saturday.
The other Australian surfer, Justin Holland, had the type of day that will get a competitor's blood pressure to rise. He first advanced through a Repechage heat because of an Interference call on a fellow competitor, and then had to rely on a last-second wave to remain alive in his second Repechage heat of the day.
"I'm just happy to be through again," said Holland, laughing at his bizarre good fortune. "Look mate, most good guys will say it's the final result that matters, no one remembers who comes second; I don't care how I get [to the final], I just got to get there. If I have to take the hard road, I'll take the hard road."
In SUP Surfing, USA is the only team besides Australia with all of its athletes still in the event. Colin McPhillips and Sean Poynter are both in the Repechage Final. Emmy Merrill continued her winning ways, and qualified alongside Australia's Westdorp for the Women's SUP Surfing Final.
"I got a slower start to the heat than I would have liked, so I was kind of scrambling in the end just to get those high scores to keep up my winning streak," Merrill said. "All I can do is learn from it and do better in the final."
Joining McPhillips, Poynter and Holland in the Men's Repechage Final is Brazil's Caio Vaz. Though Vaz has been one of the top young competitors in the event thus far, Close and France's Antoine Delpero put on solid performances to secure their spots in the Final and send Vaz (and McPhillips) into the Repechage.
In the Women's division, two surfers from the Repechage Final will join Merrill and Westdorp in the Main Event Final. The four surfers remaining are a truly international mix: Karina Figl (AUT), Brisa Malaga (PER),
Greta Sisson (BRA) and Penny Stemmet (RSA).
When competition resumes tomorrow morning, it will be all racing all day, beginning with the Women's Technical Paddleboard Race at 9:00am local time (6:00am PST).