HONOLULU - (May 5, 2012) -- Australian Travis Grant mastered a brand new stand-up paddle race format today to win the elite "Survivor SUP" race of the Quiksilver Waterman Collection Waikiki Paddle Festival. Grant finished ahead of Danny Ching (Redondo Beach, California), and the designer of today's course, Jamie Mitchell (Australia), who were second and third respectively. Grant won $2,000 for the result. The women's division was a clear upset with a win by California's Gillian Gibree (San Diego) over Hawaii pair Jenny Kalmbach and Candice Appleby respectively. Gibree won $1,500.
Jamie Mitchell's Survivor SUP format was a major hit by both competitor and spectator's standards. For the men, it featured five elimination rounds on an M-shaped buoy course, followed by an eight-man final. All rounds were raced in the Le Mans style, with just five minutes break in between. The ladies' race consisted of two rounds and a final but was just as hotly contested as the men's division.
Grant, 29, from Queensland's Gold Coast, won here for the first time last year racing the "Battle of the Paddle" format and today proved that he is still the man to beat. He paced himself through the rounds, peaking perfectly in the final. Ching held the lead in the final until the outside buoy turn in the wave zone, where Grant made a push, found a small swell and passed him up. With Ching and Mitchell still hot on his heels to the beach, Grant never looked back and gave every stroke his all.
"I couldn't be happier, seriously," said Grant. "I didn't know what to expect. Those top 10 were literally the top 10 fastest guys in the world at the moment. It was a stacked final and it's all about getting a good start. I knew what to do, it was just whether or not I could do it. But I love this sort of tricky water and my board just dropped in on this little bump and I took off.
"There were a lot of tactics. I tried to conserve as much as I could (in the early rounds). I think all the top guys did. But in the end I had the perfect race."
Ching was satisfied with his result, knowing full well that it could have gone either way between the three of them.
"Those two guys (Grant and Mitchell), and everybody in that final were so fast and so competitive. When you look at it, it's always a bump here... a buoy turn there... it's one little mistake. I think with this format you get the opportunity to get some of the nerves out, but it's still very similar to a long distance paddle - in the end it still hurts."
The women's race was equally close but ended in a major upset when Gillian Gibree stole the victory from the two local Hawaii paddlers who were tipped as the favorites: Kalmbach and defending event champion Appleby.
Gibree, formerly from land-locked Massachusetts, surprised none more than herself. Though she is no stranger to SUP competition, she has never beaten either Appleby or Kalmbach. Regardless, she had them following in her wake today.
"It was amazing, I didn't expect this at all," said Gibree. "It was a nice surprise. I love the sprints - they're so much fun to me, the excitement and the adrenaline. It was a great race. I've never beaten Candice or Jenny before. I'm originally from Massachusetts - really cold water, so this is like a dream come true being able to experience this. I grew up in the country. My dad's a hockey player. When I started learning to do this I got my butt kicked a million times over but I guess I finally learned and I'm loving it. I love everything about the ocean."
Kalmbach found plenty to be pleased about in finishing ahead of Appleby.
"Every lap, somebody different led and there was a lot of tactics involved," said Kalmbach. "But it was really fun. I don't think I've beaten Candice in a few years. She's such a phenomenal athlete, so I'm really stoked about that."
Other events held today included prone paddleboard racing, open SUP racing, and outrigger canoe sprints.
Coming up tomorrow will be the 10-mile Hawaii Kai to Waikiki downwind distance race for all paddleboard and outriggers classes.
Complete listing of results for all events not available at time of writing.
RESULTS OF THE ELITE RACE:
SURVIVOR SUP ELITE MEN
1. Travis Grant (Aus); 2. Danny Ching (CA); 3. Jamie Mitchell (Aus); 4. Connor Baxter (Maui); 5. Jake Jensen (Aus); 6. Kelly Margetts (Aus); 7. Paul Jackson (Aus); 8. Slater Trout (Maui)
SURVIVOR SUP ELITE WOMEN
1. Gillian Gibree (CA); 2. Jenny Kalmbach (Haw); 3. Candice Appleby (Haw); 4. Angela Jackson; 5. Terrene Black (Aus)
For more information and complete results: