Connor Baxter puts on an exclamation point on his year by winning Red Bull Heavy Water and securing the 2016 Word Title. All photos:watermanleague
Surf News Network, 24 October, 2016 – The first ever Red Bull Heavy Water stand up paddle board race saw optimal weather conditions with sunny skies and challenging conditions of 6-8ft waves in San Francisco today. 15 of the world’s best watermen were tasked to a grueling 12km (7.5 miles) battle of athleticism, with the ultimate victor Connor Baxter, 22, of Maui, HI, crowned Champion of Red Bull Heavy Water.
A specialty event on the SUP World Championship Series, Red Bull Heavy Water required the perfect mix of paddling skills, ocean knowledge, supreme fitness and the courage to take on one of the most intimidating stretches of coastline in the world.
The event truly lived up to its namesake, of the fifteen starters, 10 watermen achieved the lofty goal of completing the entire course. The heavy conditions manifested in overhead-plus waves and strong tidal pull, adding increased degrees of difficulty to the already strenuous course that zig zagged out and back from Ocean Beach several times through the crashing surf break, along the iconic rocky coastline of Land’s End, under the Golden Gate Bridge and into San Francisco Bay.
As the current #1 in the 2016 SUP World Series standings, champion Baxter proved his strength and determination with today’s performance in the event. After overtaking Kai Lenny on the third leg of the out and back, Baxter tackled the rough conditions out through the surf and around Land’s End with spirited focus and was able to complete his race in 1hr, 11 minutes and 32 seconds, earning him the top podium spot, $20,000 in prize money, and securing his #1 spot in the World Series standings.
“I’ve been training my whole life to be a waterman,” said an elated Baxter. “This race was way more than I expected in many ways. The water is coming from every direction; you have backwash, wind-wash, ground-swell, and current moving underneath you, so all those different variables made it really interesting and very difficult at the same time. So, to win it, I just feel like the luckiest guy, the hard work is definitely paying off and I can’t wait for next year.”
Kai Lenny secures second in this groundbreaking event, with Zane Schweitzer rounding out the podium in third place
Second out of the water was Red Bull elite waterman Kai Lenny, 24, from Maui, HI, in 1hr, 12 minutes and 15 seconds closely followed by Zane Schweitzer, 22, of Maui, HI, in 1hr, 13 minutes and 22 seconds, completing the podium of Maui-based athletes.
“The heavy water was everything I anticipated and expected,” said Lenny. “With these conditions it’s so gnarly that you can get so lucky or totally pounded. I got pounded at one point but that wasn’t the whole race. If I would have had a half-mile more I could have caught him (Baxter). I was feeling really good and making great distance on him but he kind of got away. Overall the entire race was fantastic and the course was epic.”