OPEN LETTER FROM –
Photos – John Carter
The New York Experience
Coming here for the second stop for the APP World Tour was quite amazing. It was a bucket list of a paddle for the distance race in the city, around Ellis Island and then past the Statue of Liberty. For us Hawaii kids and other riders from around the world we don’t get to see that kind of a skyline, first of all and that kind of history in the US! To come here and see all of the city and to paddle round that was totally incredible.
The cool part of the event was that it was a grand slam and that we could transfer from the City over to the ocean at Long Beach and get the whole different vibe. It was big stormy Open Ocean for the Long Beach races so the Hawai’ian boys were really loving life.
The Liberty Race
The distance races are always interesting on how to play it. It depends how far the race is and luckily this one was not a crazy one if you compare it to the Eleven Cities Tour which happened a few weeks ago or Molokai where you are going for three hours. This was just an hour long race but then it was a whole different pace. You are not setting a rhythm for four hours this is a much quicker pace. There is no time for relaxation. I had a full Camel-Pack and I took maybe two sips other than that I was head down grinding. It’s all about chasing and staying in front of your rivals. The race conditions were crazy, we had boats going in every direction. They were putting out wake in every direction. Plus there was current involved really made it tricky for some riders wanting to get to that flat water in a big draft train! Right from the start there were little bumps and people were pulling away. Myself and Mo almost got ran over by a ferry. It was a close call. Danny Ching had to slam on the breaks and go round the back of a boat. Myself and Mo were the last two guys to make it in front of the ferry and a lot of other guys were pushed back. All that carnage made it interesting. But that is what we train for those kind of endurance missions. We are ready to react quickly and make the right call.
The race was super tactical, there were bumps and currents and different lines to take. Most riders were picking a different way to go. On the way back you wanted to get straight from Ellis Island to Manhattan and the current was ripping out so, I aimed a little bit more towards the event site and instead of the buoy turn and that pulled me up straight into the mark instead of having to fight the current. Just being able to read the water and see what was happening around you was a huge advantage. You need to know when to go hard and when to save energy. Those are all little things that can make or break a race.
Training for me is definitely a lot of land based fitness but even more water based. I paddle six days a week on the water, plus three days a week when I am travelling a home programme with resistant bands and some body weight exercise. Off season I am definitely in the gym pushing weights and that type of work out. During the season it is a matter of keeping fit and that gym strength so you are ready to race at all times.
The level of racing is now through the roof. The first year the APP world tour happened was 2012 and there were only really five of us in the mix. Up until this year it has just been one or two guys battling for the title. It was Kai and myself, Mo and myself or Casper, it was just a few of us. Now we have four of us within a hundred points of each other. Not only that you have the top twenty that are really serious and they are not just competitive but treating it like a job. So we have a lot more guys now not just the top five that are battling for the title. At any given point on any given day depending on the conditions, you can have totally different guys winning races. Arthur Arutkin has been battling for the top for a long time and now he is pulling it off. He is more serious training more and that is paying off. He won the distance race in New York and that was his first big win. The world tour is getting that much more competitive and serious which is making the sport much more interesting.
“Just being able to read the water and see what was happening around you was a huge advantage. You need to know when to go hard and when to save energy. Those are all little things that can make or break a race.”
The Sprint race was a great victory not only that winning the overall all as well was huge for me. That is why I threw my paddle to the ground when I crossed the line in the final. It has been a crazy year for me. I have had a whirlwind of emotions and results where I won some and lost some. The level is rising, I’ve been at the top and now everyone is biting at my heals. This is my tenth year of racing. It has been ten years of nonstop paddling and nonstop training and travelling. Now you are getting fresh guys who are coming into this for their first two or three years and they are hungry. They want every opportunity. It is fair enough. That is what is so motivating for myself and for the whole sport. It is not just two guys anymore. All the riders are there to win. The sport of SUP racing is rising and it is pretty incredible to see.
Going into this year was different for me. I was in a strange mind-set because I had a huge operation planning my wedding. We had to organize forty people including family and friends out to Italy, Europe and make sure they were all comfortable. That took quite a side track and some of my mental focus and hunger away from my racing. Now that has passed and the year is still going, my momentum is building back up. My tank is refuelled and I have had an opportunity to be home and reset. Now I am in the middle of a four month grind. From Oregon all the way until December in Paris. I need to keep my head in the right place and keep going for it for sure.
Travel is always mixed emotions for me. Luckily the last few years I have been able to been able to travel with my wife which has made it amazing. She is focussing on helping me be a comfortable as possible, by helping with the plane tickets and other travel arrangements so I can focus on training. I can just show up and not have to think or stress about anything. Of course having a travel partner and somebody that close at all times make it feel like home on the road as well.
On The Road
The travel quiver is not as crazy as you might think. I come from a windsurfing background where we seven boards bags, booms and sails. Racing we have one or two board options for each race. The boards are 14 feet so they are being shipped to each spot. In New York I borrowed a board and have a couple on the west coast the races over there. So we don’t have to travel with the boards too much. They are transported to each stop. I picked up two new boards in Europe for the beginning of the year. Plus I have my quiver in Hawaii for all those races over there. On this four month trip we have one big suitcase that we are sharing, my paddle bag and then two carry-ons. We are travelling light made easier by the fact the boards are being transported.
The City races have made a huge difference to the tour. I have been there from the beginning in Fiji where everything was king of slung together. We already had the surfing world tour that Tristan was running so he knew how to run great events. We just went for it. Fast forward six years and we are here now with London, New York, San Francisco, Paris and Gran Canaria as destinations. These are some major cities and key destinations where people from all round the world want to go and visit. We are at these places in peak season and the SUP tour for sure is hitting the masses. There are so many people asking and wanting to know what is going on. Paris at Christmas time will be pretty surreal. Just to see the APP tour step up the locations is cool but on the day of events we are treated like real athletes we have our own VIP areas and board storage. Everything is taken care of and it is a real legitimate tour where previous years there were only a few of us doing it. The APP are making it easier and more accessible for us so everything is looking positive! SUP