NEWS

25/09/2017 | Connor Baxter wins Battle of the Bay, Dream Team fills podium

Next weekend, the best of the best stand up paddle racers will once again descend upon Doheny State Beach in Southern California for Pacific Paddle Games, the “Superbowl of SUP”. But before next weekend’s showdown in the waves, team Starboard offered a showcase of skill in another iconic California location, far north of Doho – at San Francisco’s Battle of the Bay.

Competitors at Battle of the Bay saw a epic long distance grind around former prison Alcatraz Island and under the famous Golden Gate Bridge, followed by a technical beach course race in the afternoon. Starboard swept first through fourth in the mens’ division against a competitive field and challenging conditions. Congrats to team Starboard on an epic showing!! See Connor Baxter’s recap below to experience Battle of the Bay from the champ’s perspective.

Overall

Athlete

Distance

Distance

Beach Race

Beach Race 

1

Connor Baxter

1:10:49

1

0:34:35

1

2

Michael Booth

1:10:58

2

0:35:37

3

3

Matt Nottage

1:11:10

4

0:35:31

2

4

Leonard Nika

1:11:10

3

0:36:22

7

Connor’s Baxter recap of the race.

“This year’s Battle of the Bay in San Francisco was an epic grind. The day started off beautiful, without a cloud in the sky, and the conditions were ramping up to be super fun, with some wind in the afternoon. It was going to be a full day with the a 8 mile distance race in the morning and then a 4 mile course race in the afternoon. I showed up to the beach, got my race jersey, and got my 21.5 wide Starboard Sprint ready for battle.

We could only choose one board for both races, and the Sprint was the perfect board. Not crazy wind, but enough to create some bumps for the Sprint to hunt down. It was a beach start straight out to a left shoulder turn and, like always, I lined up on the left side of the starting line to make sure I had priority going into the first turn.

 

Unfortunately, my start didn’t go as planned, with Mo and I both dropping our boards at the start. We both had to start a few board lengths behind the group and took the first buoy turn in the top 20 pack. I knew it was going to be a long race, so I wasn’t freaking out – but I knew the top five would be trying to break from the 20-man group. So I made my move, heading towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

I pulled out of the train with my head down, heading towards the front pack. I was able to catch the top four guys before we turned around the south tower and headed down toward Alcatraz. After we turned around the tower, there were a lot of bumps and the top four men started to pull away. I kept a good pace, trying to save energy and still keep up with the lead guys. Just before Alcatraz, we slowed down a bit, which allowed the second group to catch up to us. So we rounded the island with a big train. I didn’t want to be anywhere near this group for the final sprint! I stayed in second place, waiting for my opportunity to break from the pack. When I was about half way to the final buoy, I caught a few bumps and started to push hard. Michael was able to keep up until the second to last turn around a concrete buoy! I whipped the Sprint around and had a board length lead going into the last turn. I didn’t let off the gas until I was seconds away from the beach, and ran up in first.

I was super stoked to win the distance race (in less than ideal conditions for me) but there was still one more race to go! I had a few hours to kill before the course race, so I hydrated up with my Harmless Harvest coconut water and got ready to go. The women went first, so I took some notes on the course and planned out my strategy. Once everyone was lined up, I made sure I had a good grip on my board this time and lined up a great start. I reached the first buoy in second and sprinted up wind. The wind definitely picked up, and now there were some epic little bumps and glides. I made the turn around next buoy in first – knew we were turning downwind and wanted to make a gap right away. I turned my Sprint as quickly as possible and start paddling hard downwind looking for bumps. I was able to create a small gap before the next turn and had some clean water going into the next buoy. It was a right turn, straight downwind, and I knew that I had to push hard to catch bumps – but at the same time, save some energy for the gnarly upwind grind. So that’s exactly what I did and was able to create a comfortable lead.

This course race had a super lap, and two people took that super lap while I was heading downwind and came out in front of me. It was good to have some people in front so that I had something to chase. I pushed hard and caught up to second place before heading back downwind. The next guy took a little more energy to catch up to, but I took advantage of all the bumps and glides to reach the buoy turn furthest downwind. I got on his inside and went nuts going up wind to start my third lap. This was the lap I decided to take the short cut, or super lap, and this gave me an even bigger lead on second place. On the fourth and final lap, I was able to just have fun and take everything in before my biggest race next weekend [Pacific Paddle Games]. Winning the overall was super cool, but winning these early races against such tough competitors was a huge confidence builder going into next weekend. 

Aloha,

Connor Baxter “

Photos: Georgia Schofield – Starboard