A Historic Start to #PPG2015 | Day One Recap and Results
The surf was big Saturday during the opening day of the Pacific Paddle Games presented by Salt Life in Dana Point, California. But the athletic performances more than matched the oversized waves.
The men's technical race got started in fine fashion with Danny Ching being Danny Ching, easily winning his first heat that sent him directly into the semi-finals Sunday. The Southern California native caught a wave at each buoy turn, quickly extending his lead. Unfortunately, he broke a board in the mayhem. "I was playing it safe," he said. " I had to be pretty careful when I broke the board." Ching will use a production 14-foot board on Sunday to replace his custom ride. "(The production board) is what I've been training on," he said. "Hopefully it was me catching all those waves and not just the board."
The top ten men from each of the four men's heats moved on to the semis. Maui's Zane Schweitzer won the second heat while Denmark's Casper Steinfath took the third matchup. San Diego native Noa Hopper won the fourth heat of the day.
The women's side was intense as usual. Candice Appleby had a fantastic start and built a sizeable lead in the pumping surf, catching several solid waves. But Hood River, Oregon's Fiona Wylde continued to chip away at her lead and was able to overtake the world champion at the end of the semi-final heat after Appleby fell. Both moved on to Sunday.
Mayhem reigned during the second women's heat. Annabel Anderson and Shae Foudy jockeyed for position early with Foudy pushing the decorated Anderson. The duo caught a wave together and while rounding the first buoy, Foudy's leash became tangled in the marker as a cluster of paddlers came in to make the turn. “So basically once I fell, there’s a voice (in my head going), 'you can fight or you can give up'," she said. "There's nothing to do but get back up.”
Anderson was able to create a substantial lead and win the heat with Foudy fighting hard to finish second. Anderson's win sets up a much-anticipated showdown with Candice Appleby. The Santa Monica Pier Race was the only head-to-head matchup this year for the sport's two best racers. Their rivalry has driven interest in the sport of women's SUP racing for the last four years.
The day was filled with competition from open SUP racing to junior pro technical races. Local racers had solid showings. Aside from Foudy, Hopper took second in the Junior Pro Technical race to Riggs Napoleon then won his men's heat on his way to the semis Sunday.
There was a lot of strategy involved, too. Pacific Paddle Games rules state that the men can use boards up to 14 feet long. Some chose to use a 12'6" board for mobility. “I’m going to stick with the 12’6 (for Sunday)," said Steinfath. "It has a little more pop to round the buoys. It says ‘up to 14 feet,’ so I’m going to stick with my game plan and what’s working.”
And of course, the 5- to 8-foot surf was the great equalizer at Doheny State Beach. "It’s all about timing in this race: location, location, location," said Travis Grant. "There’s that element of skill and luck. (But) no one can out-paddle anyone in this one because you can catch one wave.”
Action resumes Sunday with the Distance Race and the semis and finals for the Elite Technical races. The overall winner is based on finishes in both events. "I'm really excited for tomorrow," said Anderson. — Joe Carberry
Tune in to PacificPaddleGames.com for all the action.
Check out our gallery from the early rounds.
Full Results from Day 1 #PPG2015