June 20, 2011

Connor Baxter on the Wet Feet Hawaii WPA National Race

This recap was sent in by first-place finisher Connor Baxter:

The 2011 Wet feet WPA National Race was a super fun event. I flew over to Oahu from Maui on Friday and the event was on Saturday. The WPA – World Paddle Association – has a series of qualifying events for the Hennessey’s World Event in San Diego in September, an event I definitely want to compete in!

The morning of the race there was no wind, so I was pretty bummed. But the race started at 12:00pm, so there was some time for the wind to pick up. And, sure enough, around 11:45am the wind started to blow about 10-12 mph. And once we were all on the start line there was good wind.

The race was on the North Shore from Sunset Beach to Haleiwa, which is about 7 miles. There were 105 competitors – 90 were standup paddlers and there were 15 prone paddlers.  Once the race started Scott Gamble and I took off and were in the lead. There were good bumps until we got to Waimea where the wind turned off and the little wind we had was slightly offshore.

When there was still about 5 miles left, I was a little too far outside and Scott pulled a huge gap on me and took the lead. So all I was thinking was, “Anything can happen.” I waited until I saw a good opportunity and I paddled like crazy and made up some ground on him – but I didn’t catch up. Then I did the same thing again – and finally caught up to him and started to pull away from him.

As I got closer to the finish, the third place guy, Kaeo Abbey, caught up to Scott and was right behind me and was starting to catch up. As we rounded the point, Kaeo caught a wave and was right next to me, and for the last little bit it was a full sprint to the beach. I put my head down and gripped my paddle tight and ended up winning – and am now qualified for the World Event. Super stoked.

Top Six
1 – CONNOR BAXTER   1:03:08
2 – KAEO ABBEY  1:03:17
3 – SCOTT GAMBLE  1:04:12
4 – JOEY NAPOLEAN 1:06:40
5 – ROBERT STEHLIK   1:07:54
6 – KAINOA BEAUPRE   1:08:37

I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Nike 6.0, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Dakine, EFX Technology, GoPro Cameras, On It Pro, Waterman’s Sunscreen, Sunrite Maui, SIC and Hi-Tech Sports.

Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and volunteers. It was a good fun event!!

Connor Baxter