May 11, 2019

Conner Baxter & Yuka Sato Crowned Salt Life Columbus Cup Champions

The 2019 Salt Life Columbus Cup provided the most unique Elite-Pro course format in all of stand up paddling May 4th in Columbus, GA with Conner Baxter and Yuka Sato being crowned champions.  The Salt Life Columbus Cup was also a WPA U.S. Cup and APP World Tour Qualifying Series event.  The Salt Life Columbus Cup combined with the RiverFest music and food festival provided the spectators exciting action on the Elite-Pro rapid course with Connor Baxter stating, “the best and most challenging course I have ever competed on” and was echoed by all of the Elite competitors.  The Salt Life Columbus Cup also included Open, Juniors and the SIC ONE CLASS-One Mile fun race.

This years event included two firsts in the sport of stand up paddling with the Elite-Pro course being conducted on a combined double rapid technical 4.5 mile course and on 14′ & under inflatable boards that challenged every aspect of the competitors.  With the inclusion of inflatable boards, this provided additional safety, ease of travel and freight costs.  The Elite-Pro competitors started mid course with a mild current on the Chattahoochee River along the famous Riverwalk in Columbus, GA up to the rapid section where the competitors had to dismount their boards, walk (for safety) 20 yards and put back in to enter the double rapid section.  With hundreds of spectators taking in the action at the double rapid section, most competitors where able to make it through the double rapid section about half of the laps without falling.  The competitors then needed to take an immediate right turn to a buoy after the rapid section and make their way down the river into a technical “M” shape buoy section for a total of four laps that left the best athletes worn out at the finish, but exhilarated with the format that tested all of their skills.

Connor and Yuka Sato from Japan topped both the Men’s and Women’s races and receiving $6,000.00 each of the total $27,000 in cash being offered to the Elite-Pro competitors with equal pay for Men & Women to sixth place.  While Connor held off Mo Freitas for the win, Yuka had to contend with April Zilg the entire four laps that came down to the second to last buoy turn on the final lap.  April held the lead throughout the first two laps with Yuka in close pursuit, then April had difficulties navigating the rapid section on the third lap that allowed Yuka to pass.  April fought her way back in the last lap coming into the “M” buoy section with only two more buoy’s turns.  Yuka, having a one board length advantage going into the second to last buoy turn, April tried to squeeze the nose of her board to the inside of Yuka and caused Yuka’s leash to get caught on the nose of April’s board.  Both paddlers had to stop and try to remove the Yuka’s leash from the nose of April’s board that allowed Yuka to burst away and claim a seven board length victory over April (USA) in second, Laura Quetglas (Spain) third and Shelby Taylor-Jimenez (Mexico) in fourth.  The Men’s top four finishers behind Conner (Haw) were, Mo Freitas (Haw) second, Javier Jimenez (Mexico) third and Quique Hurtado (Spain) fourth.

While the Elite-Pro competitors had a challenging course, the Salt Life Columbus Cup provided a fun 1 & 3 mile course for the Open and Junior competitors with little or no current to contend with during their races.  The Open races were set up so all abilities could have a fun competitive course with an up river paddle to a buoy and another buoy at the lower portion of the river with one lap on the one mile race and three laps for the three mile race.  All of the competitors had a fun and fair race with safety for all competitors being the most important.  All competitors in the Open race were required to wear a PFD with leashes recommended.  The Elite-Pro competitors had to not only wear a PFD, helmets were also mandatory given the double rapid section for additional safety.  While the Elite-Pro competitors competed on inflatable boards for added safety and travel ease, the Open competitors were able to use any type of board since they were competing on flat clam water.

In an effort to help grow the sport of stand up paddling, the WPA and SIC have developed the “ONE CLASS” with identical boards provided for all participants to compete in a one mile fun race.  The goal in this first event with the SIC One Class is to offer the format to select races in 2019 and develop the One Class for the best growth of the sport that SIC will provide identical 12’6 x 30″ wide touring boards to give the paddler a nice glide with very good stability.   Paddles and PFD’s will also be provided so anyone that wants to compete can show up and paddle without bringing or owning their own equipment.  Heat races will be be offered to those that register and awards given to the top Men’s, Women’s, Boys and Girls divisions.  Look for more details with future events, go to and

Here is the top placing Open & Junior competitors and the SIC One Class:

Open 1 Mile

Men- Adrian Barnett

Women- Angie Keihauer

Junior- Shiloh Perry

Open 3 Mile

Men- Mitch Cherry

Women- Karin Helfmann

SIC One Class- One Mile

Men- Curt Hawn

Women- Dana Butler


The Salt Life Columbus Cup was the second event in the WPA U.S. Cup Series, sanctioned by the APP World Tour that features the premier events across the U.S., boasting premium qualifying points and prize-money to provide an inclusive and ideal qualifying platform for aspiring athletes across the globe.  The next WPA U.S. Cup Series race is the Olukai Ho’olualea on June 9, 2019 in Maui, HI on the famous Maliko Downwind Run.

The Top 5 Men and top 3 Women at seasons end of the 2019 U.S. Cup Series who are not qualified for the 2020 APP World Tour will receive full exemption on the 2020 APP World Tour. Here is the list U.S. Cup Series races for qualifying points:

1.      Carolina Cup: 27th – 28th April

2.      Salt Life Columbus Cup: 4th May

3.      Olukai Ho’olaulea: 9th June

4.      SIC Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge: 17th – 18th August

5.      New York SUP Open (Pro-Am): 31st Aug – 2nd Sept. (Race: 5th – 7th Sept.)

6.      Battle of the Bay: 6th October

Please find below link the points standings for the WPA U.S. Cup Series and to crown the U.S. Cup Series champions to be crowned at the season’s end Battle of the Bay.  Look for more information and updates at and


US Cup Series Standings_2019



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