Interview by Phil White
With little more than three weeks remaining until the world's best standup paddlers converge at Dana Point, California, for the inaugural Pacific Paddle Games, buzz among athletes and industry affiliates is becoming ballistic. And for good reason—#PPG2015 is gearing up to be the most monumental event SUP has ever experienced. To tune into the anticipatory chatter, last week we talked to some of SUP's elite female racers—the likes of Shae Foudy, Candice Appleby, Fiona Wylde and Angie Jackson—about their hopes and expectations for October's momentous occasion. Here's what some of SUP's top male contenders and one of Dana Point's legendary locals had to say about the year's biggest paddling event.
Kai Lenny: "What makes SUP so special is the community it brings to each event and I feel that if the PPG organizers make it fun for everyone to stay at the beach all day and socialize then the event will be a success. Given the amount of training, dedication and commitment we put into the sport, I think the prize money should be a lot more in the future but this year's purse is great and we're moving in the right direction. I haven’t been able to try out the new buoys yet, but I’m really excited because the design will bring a new experience to racing."
Travis Grant: "The course race looks super short and might come down to positioning on the first few turns as there won't be many wide open areas for paddlers to catch up if they have a bad start. It should be captivating from the moment the gun goes off. The distance race isn't very long and that sets us up well for an exciting sprint finish as every place counts in the final standings. Also, we'll have to be carefully not to kill ourselves during the distance race. I know I'll need some explosive speed left in the tank for the course race later that day.
Connor Baxter: "I'm glad that the PPG is at Doheny, as I feel it's the best venue to show a large audience that SUP racing is fun to watch. It will be my first time coming in and out of the surf on a 14-foot board so I'm going to spend some more time training on my 14 footer in the next few weeks. With the SUP Awards coming up the week before the Games, it's a good excuse for me to spend most of October in SoCal and hang out with other paddlers I usually only see for a couple of days at a time. Huntington will be a good tune up and I'm looking forward to competing hard against the best athletes in our sport at PPG. "
Mo Freitas: "I'm really excited to see how all the athletes battle it out for $55,000. I think the sport needs that kind of support, especially for the paddlers trying to take it to the next level. The way the payout is structured for the combined race results forces the sprinters to try their best in the distance race, and the distance racers to work in the waves. This way the entire event is competitive. The new buoy turns and courses for the 2015 PPG look like they're going to be some of the most advanced in SUP racing. With the pro technical course coming in and out through the surf, it's really going to take a lot of balance, strategy and wave knowledge. The distance race will go in favor of the people who train the hardest and know how to read ocean water conditions the best."
Byron Kurt: "Doheny State Beach meets all the criteria for spectators, competitors and sponsors. It's the best location for this type of event given the conditions, type of wave, access for spectators, parking and weather. Now add the largest prize purse in paddling to attract the best SUP athletes in the world, and there's no reason why PPG shouldn't be able to sustain success for years to come. The event has something for everyone with races for all ability levels, vendor booths, board and paddle manufacturer demos and courses that will keep spectators' attention. The Pacific Paddle Games has it all."
Read responses from the elite women.
Find out what to ride for PPG.