More than 130 paddlers competing in three classes (Badass, Weekend Warrior and Keikis) sprinted off the start line of the Paddle Royal – San Juan SUP Cup on Saturday, October 29th to kick off the weekend’s events. After two days of intense and exhausting racing it that combined the results of a long distance race and several sprint races, it was Florida’s Chase Kosterlitz riding his Fanatic 14’ Flatwater dominating the 14’ division and the Badass Overall. Anthony Vela from Huntington Beach California and riding a custom Boardworks Morelli and Melvin won the 12’6 division and took 2nd overall while Puerto Rico’s own Heather Baus, on a locally built MHL, claimed first place overall among the women, beating by the narrowest of margins, World Champion Candice Appleby who rode her signature model Surftech/Bark.
The iconic 8.4-mile Around San Juan race started inside the protected lagoon and took the stand up paddlers around a collection of turn marks before they ventured into the brutally choppy Atlantic for the open-water 3-mile downwind section. The ocean portion of the course included two buoys positioned to keep the racers’ course away from the dangerous breaking surf. The entrance of San Juan Bay, guarded by the breath-taking Morro Castle, ended the long downwind and marked the start the challenging 4-mile upwind grind back to the lagoon.
Crossing the finish line first was Kosterlitz by a good margin. The big surprise was Candice Appleby finishing 4th overall beating all but three men in the Badass Class. We were later to find out that, apparently, the spectacular views of the 500-year old city of San Juan distracted 8 of the racers into missing one of the downwind marks, a mistake that cost the leading competitors a 7 point penalty in the double-counting long distance score. That penalty erased the leaders points-advantage and the contest for the prize money started anew on even ground on day two.
Sunday’s four separate and unique sprint races tested not only the competitor’s speed and endurance but also their board handling skills around the numerous and tight buoy turns. Kosterlitz continued his Puerto Rico SUP domination by winning every race, securing his 1st place division and overall finish. Close behind him was Anthony Vela, who finished 1st in the 12’6” division and 2nd in the overall standings. In the women’s division, Heather Baus and World Champion Candice Appleby fought each other throughout the day, trading off the lead in several of the sprint races. In the end, it was Appleby’s costly mistake in the long distance race and a bad fall in one of the sprints that put Baus over the top by just 1 point in spite of Appleby besting Baus in 4 out of 5 races.
Meanwhile the Weekend Warriors were fighting their own battles inside the lagoon. They had the unique experience of joining the Badass at the start their long distance race and then challenging the pros around the initial buoys under the watchful eyes of our photo helicopter. Where the pros continued their course offshore, the Weekend Warriors turned back to head downwind, under few bridges, to a buoy in San Juan Bay before trekking back upwind for a lagoon finish of the 3-mile WW long Distance. They also did the sprints on Sunday and these short races were a sight to see as 85 racers converged on the first marks at the same time! The finishes were only slightly less crowded and the race committee often had to refer to video to sort out some of the finishing positions.
Killing it in the Men 12’6” Raceboard class was Ron Gossard from Florida who paddled a rented Fanatic 12’6 to a decisive win with 4 bullets. Xavier Lay from PR used his Naish Glide to beat all comers in the biggest division of the event, Men 12’6 Surf. Local racer Dixon Rivera won the 11’ Surf Class and event sponsor, Luis Mendez raced his new MHL 14’ to an overwhelming victory in the 14’ Class.
SUP racing among women has taken off here and novice Gisselle Delgado’s hard training schedule paid off as she topped the 12’6 Race division on her Surftech Bark. Ana Campo has dominated the 12’6 Surf division for so long and this event was no exception. She ended up with nearly half the points of the 2nd place finisher, newcomer Cristina Martinez. The 11’ division was won by French transplant Sylvie Tarbox (S.Tarbox!).
The most impressive thing was how 12 to 15 year olds Young Guns performed against the whole of the 85-racer strong Weekend Warrior fleet. Bobby Flynn was an amazing 32nd overall while Savannah still beat more than half of the fleet with her 41st. Both of YG Leaders rode small MHL raceboards. Kelvin Maldonado turned in a very respectable 58th overall.
The really young kids had their own 3 race series and the top performer among 15 competitors was Lenny Rumph who won every race. He was followed by Diego Lopez and our top girl Camila Colon. 5 year old SUP sensation Miranda Torres was on her own on under 6 division but still managed to finish every race!
An emotional awards ceremony was held at the spectacular Condado Plaza were we distributed the $15,000 in prize money and held a wicked raffle with thousands in presents from the sponsors including 2 full carbon paddles from Werner Paddles, 10 pairs of Maui Jim polarized sunglasses, 2 Allison race fins and lots of other prizes.
Congratulations to all racers who participated in this year’s challenging Paddle Royal 4. Kosterlitz continues to prove that Florida produces elite paddlers on par with Hawaii and California and Baus valiantly defended her home turf against Appleby.
1. Chase Kosterlitz (Fanatic)
2. Nick Leason
3. Elvin Maldonado
1. Anthony Vela
2. Packet Casey (Jimmy Lewis Prototype)
3. Adrian Garcia
1. Heather Baus
2. Candice Appleby (Surftech)
3. Helga Goeble
The buzz is on about Paddle Royal, its unique and challenging racing format and the amazing location and race-courses. Sorry you missed this year's event? We expect next year to be even bigger and better. The date has already been set: Save the date! October 28-29, 2012.
More info: www.Paddle Royal.info
Paddle Royal is organized, run and funded by Velauno Paddleboarding. This year’s event was presented by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company, Vertica Media and Nestle. The host hotel and sponsor was the Conrad Condado Plaza.