For the burgeoning stand-up crowd, the annual Gerry Lopez Rainbow Sandals Battle of the Paddle in Dana Point, Calif., has become the de facto World Championships in the sport, with some of its biggest year-long bragging rights on the line. And in one of the tightest racers ever, this year those accolades went to Redondo Beach local Danny Ching, who won his third Battle of the Paddle.
“The event has gotten huge,” says SUP magazine editor Joe Carberry, whose offices lay just a stone’s throw away. “It regularly draws the world’s best stand-up racers and has really come into its own.”
Ching was almost an underdog this year coming in, based in large part to the solid showing out in throughout the year by upstart Connor Baxter, who had wins all over the world, including this summer’s prestigious Molokai to Oahu race. Two-time world champion Kai Lenny was also a threat —with recent wins in Hood River and on the Standup World Series. But despite Lenny’s early strong lead on the first lap, Ching stayed with both Baxter and Lenny to take home the crown.
But it didn’t come without a little help from the stand-up gods. On the treacherous south buoy, Lenny fell after rounding the corner and Baxter was taken out by a wave that broke his paddle. Ching made it through unscathed and, heading into the final turn, had a relatively clear path to victory. “It feels great,” Ching says of the win. “Kai caught a wave I didn’t at the start so I had to really work to get back in it.”
“It came down to that final lap,” Lenny told SUP magazine at the finish line. “You always want to end up in first, but second feels good because Danny is such a good paddler.”
Australian lifeguard Kelly Margetts took fourth while Slater Trout dug himself out of a slow start to take fifth. Sixteen-year-old Mo Freitas finished sixth.
For the women, 30-year-old former ski racer Annabel Anderson, a native of Lake Wanaka, New Zealand, took first with a strong finish as well after slowly building the lead on Candice Appleby, shooting for her fifth win in the event.
“I feel pretty blessed,” she told SUP magazine. “A huge team of people behind me helped make it happen.”
Brandi Baksic finished third while Jenny Kalmbach ended fourth and Gillian Gibree rounded out the top five.
1. Danny Ching
2. Kai Lenny
3. Connor Baxter
4. Kelly Margetts
5. Slater Trout
6. Mo Freitas
7. Jamie Mitchell
1. Annabel Anderson
2. Candice Appleby
3. Brand Baksic
4. Jenny Kalmbach
5. Gillian Gibree
More info: supthemag.com