June 2, 2015

Coconut Cup SUP Recap

East Coast Paddler Brian Meyer from Capital SUP went down to the Coconut Cup in the USVI this year to take part in one of the Salt Life Cup Points races for 2015. We caught up with Brian at a few other east cost races and asked him about the experience. He had this to say:
The Coconut Cup located on St. Croix, USVI during Memorial Day weekend was an experience I will never forget! Prime race location, underground race feel, all-star lineup of racers, beautiful scenery, and aloha and good vibes all around! The race site hosted by Freedom City Surf and Teres Veho was the perfect race location. White sandy beach, crystal blue water, a surf/SUP shop with a bar & grill, and even a half pipe greeted the racers everyday! I could go and on about my 2015 Coconut Cup experience, but to keep you engaged and ready to book your flights for next years race, I’ll break my experience down in three days.

Day 1- 12k Downwinder

Friday’s 12k downwinder race was the main reason why I came down to paddle. I was told stories of epic downwind conditions on the north side of the island where the race took place. I had to experience it for myself! The start of the downwinder was located at Cane Bay, one of the most scenic places I’ve ever seen. There was nothing around except for a small little restaurant and dive shop overlooking the beach. Before I get into the race, I want to talk about who showed up to race. World-class racers, regional standouts, traveling paddle enthusiasts, and the local paddle community combined to form an underground feel, but an all-star lineup. Back to the race….The start of the race was a beach run and then a 100-yard sprint to the buoy. After the left shoulder turn at the buoy, 12-15 knot easterly winds greeted us for the downwind portion of the race. With the course being in very deep water, there were times where I felt like I was riding bumps in Hawaii! The northeast coast of the island, which is all rainforest, reminded me on the Na Pali coast. I fell 3 times from my focus drifting off admiring the beauty of the coastline and the water I was paddling over. After rounding the northeast point of the island, we were greeted with a grueling headwind for the final 3 miles of the race. At the end Zane Schweitzer pulled away from Mo Frietas and Josh Riccio to claim the downwind race for the second year in a row. The awards ceremony that night was help at the Captain Morgan’s distillery. A few drinks were drunk that night, as Saturday was a lay day for most of the racers!

Day 2- 5k Race and SUP Clinic

The day started out interesting with strong winds greeting the racers for the 5k race. It was a challenging course, but most paddlers were able to finish. In the early afternoon a group of the elite racers held a SUP clinic for the kids. It was great to see so many kids on boards, as they were all smiles while being instructed. My mom, and aunt, who came along for the adventure drove with me over to the other side of the island to do some sightseeing. The city of Christiansted was bigger and more touristy than Fredicksted, where the race was located, however St. Croix has a whole is the least visited of the three USVI islands.

Day 3- 10k Elite Technical Race

The “Money” race of the weekend. For such a small field of competitors, the race organizers put together a $10,000 cash purse spread out between the two elite races! To make this day even better, a cruise ship holding 3,000 people docked right by the race. By the start of the race, the entire beach was full of people! The course buoys were placed close enough to the beach, so that the whole race would be easily watched. The beginning of race was a running beach start surrounded by eager onlookers. The course itself consisted of five (5) buoy turns and then a 30-yard beach run with your board in hand. I had a horrible start as I slipped off my board while trying to jump on it. My hopes of trying to stay with the lead group quickly vanished. With a whole race still ahead of me, I put my head down and started to pound away on lost time. By the 3rd buoy turn I caught up with the second draft train consisting of local star Q Everest, and Florida standout Connor Bonham. By the end of the first lap, the lead pack of Zane Schweitzer, Mo Frietas, Josh Riccio, and Kieran Grant, had a pretty sizable lead, so the three of us decided to work together and lineup for a sprint at the end to give the spectators on the beach something to cheer about. While we were about to turn for our sprint, we watched Mo and Zane battle it out at the finish. Mo was able to out sprint Zane for the win! Q, Connor, and myself all made the turn and lined up for the sprint finish. I counted down 3…2….1 and we were off! With about 30 yards to go, Q pulled away, and then Connor and I were neck and neck till we got to the beach. I was able to outlast him by a few yards. All in all, a challenging but fun race with plenty of beautiful people and scenery to look at along the way.

What really made this trip great was the time all the paddlers got to spend together. No matter what age, what skill level, or where you’re from, everyone was equal off the water. I could write an entire other article on the after party, but I’ll just say there was plenty of good music, food, beverages, and people to make it a great night. To really find out what goes on, you’ll just have to plan on being there next year. There’s a great chance I’ll be standing next to you at the start!