18 year old Connor Baxter puts on a legendary performance here in Fiji to win the epic long distance from Natadola Beach to Namotu Island ahead of a stellar fleet of athletes. Taking an early lead out of the gate, Connor navigated his way successfuly down the 22 mile course to win the first leg of the first stop on the 2012 Stand Up World Series. In Connor's words:
"The course was long and hard, but definitely worth it. Super stoked on the win and thank you to Starboard for their support and Namotu Island for their incredible welcome."
Kai Lenny once again proves his worth ahead of elite field
2 x Stand Up Paddlesurfing World Champion Kai Lenny once again proves that his expertise is not limited to surfing, with a phenomenal performance in the challenging 22 mile race. Chasing fellow Mauian Connor from the outset, Kai solidified his second place, but could not catch Baxter. In Lenny's words:
"That was the longest paddle that I have ever done in my life - it was gruelling but a great experience and I am stoked for Connor, he is such an amazing paddler and reads the ocean so well"
New Zealand's Jeremy Stephenson steps up close to home
Proving that age and experience certainly plays a strong role in challenging distance paddle races such as this, Jeremy Stephenson gets the best of young Australian Jake Jensen, Oahu's Noa Ginella and Maui resident Slater Trout to take 3rd place, and then the others, 4th, 5th and 6th respectively.
Congratulations to all the paddlers for an incredible race that has been a great first step for the Stand Up World Series in a race that was verging on an endurance race of the likes of the Moloka'i to Oahu, but with all paddlers racing on a 12'6.
Annabel Anderson represents women paddlers worldwide
Annabel Anderson finished in a phenonenal 10th place overall and 1st and only woman in an incredibly fast time. Annabel was excited to represent the women here in Fiji, and added to Kai and Connor's comments on the extreme nature of the race that challenged both physical and mental limits of the athletes. What a great performance from this leading female athlete from New Zealand.
Top 10 positions at the Namotu World Paddle Challenge
Connor Baxter (HI)
Kai Lenny (HI)
Jeremy Stephenson (NZ)
Jake Jensen (AUS)
Noa Ginella (HI)
Slater Trout (US)
Andrew Davies (AUS)
Zane Schweitzer (HI)
Greg Barfoot (NZ)
Annabel Anderson (NZ)
Fiji doesn't disappoint, with beauty, culture and action
The Fijian welcome has long been famous the world over, and it has not failed to disappoint this time for the Namotu World Paddle Challenge, presented by Air Pacific.
From the flight in on Air Pacific, the welcome at the InterContinental at the Opening Ceremony and kids clinic to the unsurpassed hopitality of Namotu Island, Fiji has provided an unforgettable experience for the attending international athletes, rivaled only by the beaty that surrounds us.
A traditional Kava Ceremony opened proceedings, followed by Vonu beers, pupus and a traditional danse that successfully laid the foundations for this groundbreaking event in Fiji.
The Fijian kids steal the show at the youth clinic
The Fijian kids from the local village steal the show at the youth clinic held on the beautiful Natadola Beach, in front of the InterContinental Resort.
The infectious smiles and energy brought by these kids was like nowhere else, as the Champion paddlers took the kids out for an unforgettable experience, both for the kids and the athletes.
Plenty more to come at the Namotu World Paddle Challenge presented by Air Pacific
With the long distance now complete, still to come here in Fiji is the widely acclaimed Sprint slalom to be held in front of the beautiful Namotu Island, the Cloudbreak Surf Exhibition and the Vonu Cup, the unique Waterman Challenge that will test our athletes skill and versatility, true to the Waterman League's core identity.
So stay tuned to Stand Up World Tour Facebook and www.standupworldseries.com/namotu.html for the latest news and highlights that will follow tomorrow from this incredible event deep in the South Pacific. In the meantime, from all of us here in Fiji, Bula!