Eighteen-year-old Connor Baxter put on a legendary performance in Fiji to win the epic long distance from Natadola Beach to Namotu Island ahead of a stellar fleet of athletes in the Namotu World Paddle Challenge. Taking an early lead out of the gate, Connor navigated his way successfully down the 22-mile course to win the first leg of the first stop on the 2012 Stand Up World Series–-an event sponsored by SUP magazine. “The course was long and hard, but definitely worth it,” he said after the win. “Super stoked on the win and thank you to Starboard for their support and Namotu Island for their incredible welcome.”

Two-time Stand Up Paddlesurfing World Champion Kai Lenny again showed his athletic ability that his expertise is not limited to surfing, with a phenomenal performance in the challenging 22 mile race. Chasing Baxter, a fellow Maui native, from the outset, Kai solidified his second place, but could not catch Baxter. “That was the longest paddle that I’ve ever done in my life – it was gruelling but a great experience and I am stoked for Connor, he is such an amazing paddler and reads the ocean so well”

Proving that age and experience certainly plays a strong role in challenging distance paddle races such as this, Jeremy Stephenson gets the best of young Australian Jake Jensen, Oahu’s Noa Ginella and Maui resident Slater Trout to finish third. It was grand first step for the Stand Up World Series in a race that was verging on an endurance contest in the vein of the Moloka’i to Oahu, but with all paddlers racing on a 12’6″ boards.

Another Kiwi also proved her New Zealand grit: Annabel Anderson finished in a phenonenal 10th place overall as the only woman in the event with an incredibly fast time. Annabel was excited to represent the women here in Fiji, and concurred with Kai and Connor on the race’s extreme nature that challenged both physical and mental limits of the athletes.

The Fijian welcome has long been famous the world over, and it has not failed to disappoint this time for the Namotu World Paddle Challenge, presented by Air Pacific. From the flight in on Air Pacific, the welcome at the InterContinental at the Opening Ceremony and kids clinic to the unsurpassed hopitality of Namotu Island, Fiji has provided an unforgettable experience for the attending international athletes, rivaled only by the beaty that surrounds us. A traditional Kava Ceremony opened proceedings, followed by Vonu beers, pupus and a traditional danse that successfully laid the foundations for this groundbreaking event in Fiji.

With the long distance now complete, still to come here in Fiji is the widely acclaimed Sprint slalom to be held in front of the beautiful Namotu Island, the Cloudbreak Surf Exhibition and the Vonu Cup, the unique Waterman Challenge that will test our athletes skill and versatility, true to the Waterman League’s core identity. So stay tuned to Standupworldseries.com/namotu.html and SUPthemag.com for the latest news and highlights that will follow tomorrow from this incredible event deep in the South Pacific.

1. Connor Baxter (HI)
2. Kai Lenny (HI)
3. Jeremy Stephenson (NZ)
4. Jake Jensen (AUS)
5. Noa Ginella (HI)
6. Slater Trout (US)
7. Andrew Davies (AUS)
8. Zane Schweitzer (HI)
9. Greg Barfoot (NZ)
10. Annabel Anderson (NZ)