Australian Powerhouse Michael Booth has been in great form early into the 2018 Stand Up Paddling racing season, but it was this year’s Quiksilver Waterman Carolina Cup that Boothy had very clearly set his sights on. Here are a few words from the 2018 Carolina Cup Champ…
„What a day, what a weekend! A few years ago when I first began SUP I set my self a goal of winning the Carolina Cup and now to have done it, it’s a dream come true.
For me it’s the biggest and most prestigious distance race in the SUP world. To have my name up there with the likes of Danny Ching, Travis Grant and Tituoan Puyo is really exciting for me. And to win with a downwind in the last section makes it by far my best victory in this sport.
Coming into this year it was almost my sole focus to win this event. I reduced my number of events in the Australian summer and just focused down on my training and preparation for the event. And to do this I had to get a lot of kilometres in but most importantly I had to do a lot of downwinding.
Most days over December to February I’d be down at Port Beach at Fremantle setting up to do the famous Drummers Downwind Challenge to City Beach. Once I hit the beach for that I’d be paddling back out again and continuing to Sorrento for a 24km paddle. At the time I knew it was important to improve my downwind but I didn’t realise how important it really was until race day.
Obviously, on race day I was nervous, it was 15+ knots and I thought to myself if I get top 6 in these conditions I’ll be stoked. But then I started analysing the conditions and started thinking you’ve done this hundreds of times. It’s over your left shoulder; you cut left all the time at home; there’s no swell like home… and then I started to become really positive and started thinking maybe I can do this. I know I’m fit and strong and probably in the best form of my SUP career. However, I knew my race was going to be a tough battle with the best in the business on the start line.
Off the beach, I had a great start and hit the can in the top 3 before we went south for a 3-4km paddle with the runs. I was really stiff in this section feeling a little bit unstable and just trying to get to the inlet in a reasonable position. I’d made mistakes in the past trying to blast out and then getting paddled down on the inside in the flat. So this year I took a very different approach. I didn’t try and break the field, I just stayed calm and composed and just waited for that downwind section. In the flat water, we were with the tide and there was a bunch of about 18 of us paddling at a very leisurely pace, I even started to get cold.
Once we hit the opposing inlet it was time to go, I wanted to hit the can first to give myself the best opportunity to win. I hit the can first and put the hammer down on the bumps. I thought that maybe I can’t surf as well as some of the boys I was racing like Mo, Travis, T2, Connor, George etc but I just wanted it so bad.
After surfing for about 7km I hit the can to come to the beach and made a big mistake. I went to turn in and did a cross stroke and nearly fell in. In my mind I was thinking “just don’t stuff it up” and then of course I did. I had led the whole downwind and because of the little mistake I gave Travis and Mo a sniff and on another day maybe I would’ve lost, but not this day. I was still feeling good so despite the mistake, I put the hammer down, got the rating up and snuck onto a bump which turned into a wave. I knew I had won at that point but I wouldn’t allow myself to accept victory till I hit the beach.
For me it was almost quite emotional to see the hours, weeks and months of training pay off. There’s no better feeling than really wanting something, putting a plan in place and then achieving it. What a feeling. Big thanks to all the boys for such an intense race and battle. I think the top 5 finished within about 30 seconds of each other which over 2 hours is crazy. Shows to me how strong the sport really is.
On Sunday I was able to make it back to back victories taking out the ski race. Makes you kind of miss it when you get back out there on the start line, maybe I’ll have to start doing a few more.
I really want to thank my partner Kristi for being there to support me this trip. It’s been a huge couple of months for her so to have her here means everything. Also to my friends, family, sponsors and fans over the past couple of weeks you’ve all been amazing and I appreciate every single one of you. It makes me that much stronger on the start line knowing I have so many amazing people around me.
Until next time,
Booth is renowned for his powerful flatwater paddling but he has stepped up his downwinding game and surprised everyone, including himself;
“To be honest, I have surprised myself, this is the biggest win of my career. I can’t wipe the smile off my face,” said Booth.
In what was a downwind sprint in the final kilometres, Booth beat the best in the business and left himself short of nothing when he crossed the finish line.
“I’m speechless. To have beaten the best downwind surfers I know is just crazy!”
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