Thrilling Finish at Bilbao World SUP Challenge
In the shadows of the world famous Guggenheim Museum, the Euro Tour made its fifth stop of the season this past weekend at the Bilbao World SUP Challenge. In what is widely-regarded as the biggest race of the Euro Tour schedule, the anticipation levels were high and the action did not disappoint.
From 10-man Supsquatch racing to thrilling finishes and post-race controversy, this year’s event had a little bit of everything. In the end, it was Connor Baxter and Seychelle Hattingh who stood atop the podium following hard fought battles in the 14 kilometer race on the narrow Nervión River.
In the men’s division, it was race of attrition. 23 paddlers made up the lead pack until a blistering pace in the closing stages narrowed the lead train down to eight. Much like the previous two weeks, the final push to the finish line came down to a Battle Royale between Starboard teammates Baxter and Michael Booth. The hard-charging Maui man timed his move just right and passed Booth during the final few hundred yards of the race to win by a mere board-length.
However, the action didn’t end at the finish line. Following the race, Booth disputed the finish–claiming that Baxter ran him too close to the river wall and boxed him out–before having some choice words for his teammate. Race organizers deemed the finish clean, so Booth will be forced to wait until next week to get another shot at Baxter. After three straight weeks of close finishes and head-to-head racing, it should be no surprise that a rivalry has developed between the tour’s top paddlers.
The women’s race also featured an exciting finish between Americans Fiona Wylde and Seychelle Hattingh. Wylde grabbed the lead early and set the pace for much of the race. However, Hattingh was lurking behind her and charged to the lead during the final sprint to the finish. Between this win and claiming last week’s “Fastest Paddler on Earth” title, Hattingh is quickly becoming a major force in the women’s circuit.
Following the high stakes racing on Saturday, the paddlers got to enjoy a Sunday fun day with the always entertaining Supsquatch racing. Ten paddlers hopped on giant inflatable SUPs for a wild and wacky race that was definitely a crowd-pleaser. Highlights from that race and the rest of the weekend can be found in the attached recap video.
Next week the tour will head to San Sebastian for the sixth stop on the tour. With a new rivalry and some very fast contenders, it’s expected to be another exciting race. As always, stay current on all Euro Tour action at supthemag.com.
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