The 10th Annual 2021 Carolina Cup did not disappoint. As always, the Graveyard Course was a long-distance race in brutal conditions. And to put a twist on things, on day two of the event, the APP World Tour brought in the famous Surf Race Sprints in some heavy weather conditions.
Things kicked off with the Graveyard Race to welcome everyone back, but with the high winds and big surf the Coast Guard changed it up. The morning of the race it was switched to just the sound side to keep everyone safe. Nonetheless, conditions were still brutal, which made it challenging, yet very exciting.
The race started as usual, with everyone hot off the line heading upwind. We had two bridges to navigate and the first one allowed for some wiggle room making me just have to kneel down. The second one, on the other hand, all the racers had to prone paddle to barely sneak under. After getting through the two bridges and the headwinds, it was straight into some brutal cross winds making it hard to navigate around the island. At least on the other side was a mellow downwind section allowing all of us to choose our own line surfing the tiny bumps. The backstretch was a decent paddle and at this point, I was sitting in eighth place. I wanted to finish strong, so I kept the pressure on and kept my head down. As I rounded the island I was with Itzel and Arthur and we were always behind the lead pack.
With 30-40 mph headwinds, this was the last upwind grind until the finish line and I was feeling good, but it felt too late for a top-five finish. Itzel started to push a bit hard to catch up and at the same time crossed over to the right side of the sound.
At this moment I remembered someone telling me to stick to the left and I rolled the dice. It ended up to be the right move, as I jumped from 10th to 5th. I was stoked on this result as I wanted to focus on the Surf Sprints!!
So, I fueled up and got to bed for a good nights rest. All night I could hear the wind and waves picking up, which got me excited and nervous all at the same time.
The next morning I was ready for action and was able to win all my heats in some tough conditions, 4-10 foot seas with gale-force winds. The game plan was, play it simple and conserve energy with an additional variable, and that was to try and stay warm. I managed to have some clean starts and also some nice crashes on the inside double up. The finals approached and the nerves were high and excitement was through the roof.
All of us lined up and I dug my toes into the sand ready to burst down the beach into the water. The horn blew and I tried to time the waves as best as possible and managed to get a nice start. I aimed above the buoy compensating for the heavy winds. I focused on trying to ride as many bumps out and over to the buoy as possible, which allowed me to get to the turn first. I whipped my board around and instantly started hunting for a wave. I kept my lead, but nothing came to me until I looked over my shoulder and set waves were rolling in. Casper and Arthur took off, but the wind was insane and both of them wiped out leaving just Christian and myself. I rode the wave into the beach but didn’t quite jump off perfectly, which gave Christian and little head start for the sprint up the beach. I kept the gas pedal on and tried everything possible to pass him and at the last moment, he looked back and stumbled. Allowing me to take the win!!!
Winning the Surf Sprints and my 5th place in the Graveyard Long Distance – I am stoked to be the Overall Winner of the Event.
I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Salt Life, Salt Life Sunglasses, Black Project Fins, Flying Embers, Haleakala Solar, Hi-Tech Sports.
Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers, the safety patrol and all the volunteers.
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