Connor Baxter Wins Red Bull Heavy Water and 2016 World Series
All photos courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool
SAN FRANCISCO (OCT. 19, 2016) – The first-ever Red Bull Heavy Water standup paddleboard race saw optimal weather conditions with sunny skies and challenging conditions of 6- to 8-foot waves in San Francisco today. For the occasion—also the Final event of the 2016 Standup World Series—15 of the world's best watermen were tasked to a grueling 7.5-mile (12km) battle of athleticism in truely heavy waters, with the ultimate victor, 22-year-old Connor Baxter of Maui, HI, crowned Champion of Red Bull Heavy Water.
A specialty event on the SUP World Championship Series, Red Bull Heavy Water required a dynamic mix of paddling skills, ocean knowledge, supreme fitness and the courage to take on one of the most intimidating stretches of coastline in the world. The event truly lived up to its namesake, of the fifteen starters, 10 watermen achieved the lofty goal of completing the entire course. The heavy conditions manifested in overhead-plus waves and strong tidal pull, adding increased degrees of difficulty to the already strenuous course that zig zagged out and back from Ocean Beach several times through the crashing surf break, along the iconic rocky coastline of Land's End, under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay.
As the current #1 in the 2016 SUP World Series standings, champion Baxter proved his strength and determination with today's performance in the event. After overtaking Kai Lenny on the third leg of the out and back, Baxter tackled the rough conditions out through the surf and around Land's End with spirited focus and was able to complete his race in 1:11:32, earning him the top podium spot—$20,000 in prize money—and securing his No. 1 spot in the World Series standings.
"I've been training my whole life to be a waterman," said an elated Baxter. "This race was way more than I expected in many ways. The water is coming from every direction; you have backwash, wind-wash, ground-swell, and current moving underneath you, so all those different variables made it really interesting and very difficult at the same time. So, to win it, I just feel like the luckiest guy, the hard work is definitely paying off and I can't wait for next year."
Second out of the water was Red Bull’s elite waterman Kai Lenny, 24, from Maui, HI, in 1:12:15, closely followed by fellow Maui boy, 22-year-old Zane Schweitzer in 1:13:22, completing the podium with all Maui-based athletes.
"The Heavy Water was everything I anticipated and expected," said Lenny. "With these conditions it's so gnarly that you can get so lucky or totally pounded. I got pounded at one point but that wasn't the whole race. If I would have had a half-mile more I could have caught him (Baxter). I was feeling really good and making great distance on him but he kind of got away. Overall the entire race was fantastic and the course was epic."
Today's Red Bull Heavy Water marked the completion of the 2016 Standup World Series, the final of six long-distance SUP competitions in the 2016 tour. The top three athletes for the 2016 Standup World Series are Connor Baxter with 33,000 points in first, Casper Steinfath (Denmark) with 32,500 in second and Kai Lenny with 30,500 in third place.
More about Red Bull Heavy Water.