Standup's best battle it out for record crowd at Hamburg, Germany's Jever SUP World Cup

On the typical weekend in Hamburg, 55,000 soccer fans pour into HSH Nordbank Arena to cheer on Hamburg SV, the fanatically supported home team. But with the team playing away on the weekend of August 27-29, an estimated 30,000 sports fans, tourists and ordinary city folk alike crowded the banks of the Elbe River at the HafenCity district to watch elite male and female standup paddlers compete over a 1,000-meter sprint course and 10 laps of an island in the 10K event.

"The crowd dwarfed anything I've ever seen at an SUP race, and unlike in California where it's paddlers and their families, there were all kinds of people drinking and hollering from the grass and the two bridges we paddled under," Starboard paddler Ernie "E.J." Johnson (Dana Point, Calif.) said of the unique atmosphere. "Some guys I met here last year had promised to bring me their home-brewed beer and sure enough they showed up and gave it to me."

Johnson lined up against an extremely tough international field in both the sprint and distance events. In the former, Eric Terrien burst into an early lead. Despite Xavier Masdevall, John Hibbard, Bart de Zwart and Paul Jackson closing fast as the racers turned left to complete the 1K loop, Terrien held on to win. It has been a breakout season for the 29-year-old Frenchman, claiming the 5K and 20-mile double at England's Paddle Round the Pier, first-place overall at the North Point SUP Classic (France) and first in the beach and distance events at the EuroSUPA European SUP Championship (France).

Terrien shook off any lingering fatigue the next day in the men's 10K, fighting for the lead on the first lap with Jerry Bess. On the top turn of the second lap, the two leaders collided, with Bess tipping off his board into the rushing waters of the Elbe. Despite a quick recovery, Bess was unable to make up the lost ground on Terrien, who held off a late burst of speed from Jackson to claim his second victory of the weekend. Bess was third, a valiant effort considering his early fall.

"It was a hard push the whole way but Eric was just too strong all round and held us all off," Jackson said. "The vibe between competitors is awesome and it really is a must-do event."

In the women's sprint, Hawaii's Jenny Kalmbach took an early lead and was never caught, with Annabel Anderson (Australia) and the crowd favorite, Germany's Jasmin Schornberg finishing just seconds apart in second and third. Click here to read more about Kalmbach's crazy summer and her win at the Ta-hoe Nalu. For full results, visit the event website here.

Wrenn (near) and Kalmbach (far) battle it out in the women's distance event

There was a familiar story in the women's 10K, with Kalmbach pacing the 10 laps perfectly to maintain her advantage over Anderson and compatriot Karen Wrenn. After the race, Wrenn commented on the development of women's pro SUP racing.

"The women’s pro scene has gotten a lot tighter," she said. "The races are very competitive with the top pros challenging each other and battling it out. We are forcing each other to train harder, go faster and be mentally tough. Off the water, we are able to hang out and have fun together which is great."

After two days of hectic competition, Wrenn and her fellow competitors rewarded themselves by sharing a few well-earned beer steins with the locals.

Casper Steinfath, the event's youngest male competitor, who at 16 was just about able to partake in the festivities and finished eighth in the 10K, summed up how the success of the Jever SUP cup represents the growth of SUP in Germany, his home country of Denmark and beyond.

"SUP is starting to take off here in Europe with the Jever World Cup in Hamburg and the 11-city tour in Holland, the SUP Tour de France of Europe and other big competitions," he said. "All over the continent people are paddling on lakes, rivers, oceans, creeks, pools and harbors. There are some very fine, serious paddlers coming out of Europe so look out for us over there in the U.S!"  Phil White