DANA POINT, California – Competing against the world’s best stand up paddle athletes, Connor Baxter wins the Battle of the Paddle California 2011 title. In an extremely tight race between Conner Baxter, Jaime Mitchell and Danny Ching, the 17-year-old SUP phenomenon from Maui came out on top.
Under a misty grey sky, stand up paddlers from around the world descended upon Doheny State Beach in Dana Point California for the annual Battle of the Paddle. After two elite qualifying heats, the field of competitors was reduced to the best of the best.
Right from the start it was Baxter, Mitchell and Ching who separated themselves from the pack, each trading the lead spot through beach runs and buoy turns. The top three men pushed themselves to their limits, sprinting to catch the small surf, digging in their paddles to make the tight turns, and saving their last ounces of energy for the final lap.
On the final buoy turn, with all three stand up paddlers neck and neck, Mitchell took a disastrous fall, cutting off Ching’s line and allowing Baxter to make a powerful move to gain ground towards the finish line. With the two world champions at his back, Baxter dug in deep to make it to the beach and across the finish line first.
Baxter, who finished with a time of 43 min. 52 sec., said "This is just the icing on the cake. I've had a great year and just to be in the battle with Danny and Jamie means everything. I was stoked to be up there with them."
Further back, amidst the carnage of the thicker pack of competitors, the elite women were engaged in a battle of their own. Candice Appleby jumped out to the lead in the first lap but was followed closely, sometimes at board’s length, by Annabel Anderson. Pacing herself behind Appleby and Anderson was Brandi Baksic.
The low tide provided for some hairy buoy turns on the inside, sending some paddlers chasing their boards as the waves forced them into the water. But Appleby remained composed and poised amidst the scattered remains of stand up paddlers turned swimmers.
In the final lap, Appleby carved a considerable lead ahead of Baksic and Anderson. Crossing the finish line with a time of 49 min. 44 sec., Appleby said, "This is a great day for me and I'm so happy to be here and to have my family and God with me.”
Congratulations to this year’s Battle of the Paddle Elite Winners:
Men’s Elite: 1st Place – Connor Baxter (43:52) 2nd Place – Jaime Mitchell (43:55) 3rd Place – Danny Ching (44:00)
Women’s Elite: 1st Place – Candice Appleby (49:44) 2nd Place – Brandi Baksic (50:12) 3rd Place – Annabel Anderson (50:19)
WATCH all Videos from the Battle of Paddle California 2011