After nearly two weeks of action-packed SUP and paddleboard racing and surfing in Denmark, the 2017 ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship is officially over with Australia claiming the country’s fifth ISA World Title.
With a split venue featuring flatwater race events in Copenhagen and surf/technical races in Vorupør, Denmark proved a gracious host and provided not only a gorgeous backdrop for the competition, but great conditions and heated contention. Over the course of the competition, we saw SUP and prone events in Distance and Technical and Team racing, as well as Sprint and Surf events for the standup paddlers. And as usual with the ISA Worlds, we saw new standards set of speed and technique set for the sport with new and repeat champions crowned.
Here’s how it all went down.
After 18 kilometers of grueling paddling, a new star was born in the Men's SUP Distance race.
Hungarian Bruno Hasulyo narrowly defeated SUP titan Connor Baxter to claim his first-ever ISA SUP Gold Medal. After shaking the rest of the field in the waning stages of the race, the duo swapped the lead repeatedly before Baxter bobbled while rounding the final buoy turn, opening the door for Hasulyo to paddle away for the victory.
"I've been training so hard for this every day for the last two years [and] this was the main goal in front of me, so I am speechless. I couldn't be happier!"
Tituoan Puyo claimed bronze while Bruno's brother, Daniel, finished fourth to claim copper and cement the duo as the fastest brothers in SUP.
Meanwhile, Annabel Anderson continued her impressive season with yet another dominant performance in the Women's SUP Distance race. Despite some equipment challenges, the Kiwi was able to steadily increase her lead throughout the race and finished over two minutes ahead of silver medalist Sonni Hönscheid.
"I started out the day with no equipment and only my paddles managed to arrive here in Denmark," said Anderson. "I just tried to get a feel for the course on the first lap and waited for my chance to attack. I had to ride on borrowed equipment, so it was a great result for me today."
France's Olivia Piana put in a strong effort to claim bronze while American Fiona Wylde would finish fourth.
In one of the most memorable moments of the weekend, Danish hero Casper Steinfath thrilled the home crowd by claiming ISA gold in the 200-meter SUP Sprint Race Final.
After edging fellow speedster Connor Baxter by inches to advance out of the semi-final round, "The Viking" laid down a blistering run in the final round to win by a full board length in front of the iconic Copenhagen Opera House.
"This is the biggest moment in my life," said Steinfath. "It doesn't feel real," said Steinfath. "People talk about Denmark as the country of fairy tales and I feel the fairy tale of my life just came true. To win in front of my home crowd was just a wild dream."
Rounding out the podium was New Zealand powerhouse Trevor Tunnington in second and Brazil's Arthur Santacreu claiming bronze.
For the ladies, it was Slovenian Manca Notar who dominated the field to claim her first-ever ISA Gold Medal. Despite the short distance raced, she managed to open up an impressive three second margin of victory.
"This is incredible," said Notar. "Coming from Slovenia we only have lakes and a little bit of seaside. I train all the time alone at home and I knew that I had pretty good times, but I didn't know I was this good. All the girls pushed so hard. I can't believe it."
Following the Slovenian was Frenchwoman Amandine Chazot claiming silver and USA's Jade Howson receiving bronze.
In stark contrast to last year’s world-class surfing venue at Fiji’s Cloudbreak, last weekend’s conditions at Denmark’s Cold Hawaii weren’t entirely ideal for showcasing and testing the world’s top paddle surfers.
After the brilliant flatwater display in Copenhagen, the competition turned to Vorupør, also known as Cold Hawaii, for the opening rounds of SUP surfing. The early rounds looked pretty bleak as the contest kicked off in knee-high wind-swell under overcast skies and blustery onshore wind. But surfing well in bad waves can be just as difficult as doing so in great waves, and the elite field of SUP specialists put on impressive performances with the wind turning offshore and conditions improving drastically for the later rounds.
Conditions improved drastically for the later rounds and by the time of the Men’s Final we were starting to see how Cold Hawaii earned its name. It was a clash between 2016 runner-up Mo Freitas (HAW), Harry Maskell (AUS), Benoit Carpentier (FRA) and Luiz Diniz (BRA), with the battle for gold coming down to a matchup between Diniz, a newcomer to the ISAs, and Freitas, the veteran favorite who trailed Diniz’s lead by less than a point. The shocker of the event came when Freitas received an interference penalty toward the end of the heat, resulting in a major point reduction that left him in fourth place behind Carpentier and runner-up Maskell.
For the women, decorated ISA competitor Shakira Westdorp claimed her second consecutive gold medal for the Australian SUP surfing team with a heat total of 11.87. France's Justin Dupont earned the Silver, USA's Emily Merrill took the Bronze and Brazil's Aline Adisaka finished with the Copper.
Two-tenths of a second. That was the margin of victory in an absolutely thrilling finish during the Men's Beach Technical race.
Connor Baxter, Casper Steinfath and Mo Freitas were locked together as the race entered its final lap, the anticipation building as the finish line drew closer. With Baxter leading around the final buoy, Freitas unleashed his powerful stroke to catch a micro-bump that propelled him from third place into a side-by-side frantic battle with Baxter. Neither paddler owned an advantage as they leapt from their boards and sprinted across the finish line.
The victor? Freitas by a half a step.
"The emotion is just flowing right now," said Freitas. "So many times I've finished in second or third and I've finally won. Connor Baxter is such a great paddler and today I am just overwhelmed with joy."
The Women's SUP Technical Race was not quite as close with New Zealand's Annabel Anderson racking up her second gold medal of the event by a healthy 37-second margin over silver medalist Olivia Piana of France. Australia's Terrene Black finished third.
"Thank you Team New Zealand and all those that made it possible for me to be here," said Anderson. "I have the flag and won two golds, but we are going to give it our all in the relay tomorrow and see if we can get that top spot to win Team Gold. That would cap off the ultimate week in Cold Hawaii."
Coming into the final event of the competition, both France and New Zealand had an opportunity to snatch the overall title from Australia–a country that had only been denied gold once in the event's five year history. But the Aussies had no intention of making it twice.
The Australian relay team–Lincoln Dews, Jordie Mercer, Lachie Lansdown and Terrene Black–put on a dominant display from start to finish and put a final exclamation point on their incredible fifth team gold medal in the past six years.
"Winning gold is what we come here for," said Shakira Westdorp, Australia's team captain. "This time around was definitely our most hard-fought Team Gold. There was so much high competition from other countries. It's awesome to see the growth of SUP and paddleboarding."
France and New Zealand mirrored the final team standings in the relay race by taking second and third, respectively. Finishing just behind the top three in the relay event was the home country of Denmark, fueled by an incredible charge from Casper Steinfath in which he passed both the USA and Hawaii's Connor Baxter on the final lap to claim the Copper Medal. Steinfath's Team Denmark would wind up finishing seventh overall, an impressive showing for the hosting country.
Overall Team Rankings
1 (Gold) – Australia
2 (Silver) – France
3 (Bronze) – New Zealand
4 (Copper) – Hawaii
5 – USA
6 – Brazil
7 – Denmark
8 – Italy
9 – Japan
10 – South Africa
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