The 2021 ICF SUP World Championships in Hungary was a huge event with a massive turnout from the elite paddlers, amateurs and juniors. It was a four-day event with nonstop action starting out day one with some qualifying rounds and quarterfinal rounds for the sprints and technical races.
Mens 200m Sprint Final
Mens Technical Course Final
First off was the technical thousand meter race that included seven buoy turns, which made it super intense and exciting. In the first two rounds, the top four made it through and I was able to sneak in second place for the first heat conserving my energy for a long few days of racing. The next round was a bit more action, so I made sure to be in front and safely made it through to the semifinals.
It’s always nice to have the heat format to shake off the nerves and also get back into the swing of things competing at such a high level. This is only the second time I’ve competed since November 2019. The first event was last month in August for the 2021 Gorge Paddle Challenge in Oregon.Most major events for SUP, up to recently, were canceled because of the Pandemic.
I went to refuel and relax, because in the afternoon the two rounds of sprints were up and the 200 meter is always more intense with just seconds in between each other.
I sprinted as hard as I needed to in the first heat saving room to push harder and harder for later rounds and the days to come. Round two I made sure to safely pass and also be in one of the top lanes going into the semifinals.
Day one was a long, but a super fun day being back in action with the best of the best, from all corners of the world.
The next day was the distance race in the morning, which I decided to skip, as my focus was on the sprints and technical race. The semifinals of the sprints were in the afternoon, so it was a long day of waiting with nerves building up, because now only the top two go into the final 8.
I had a heat with some big names and definitely two of my biggest competitors with room for only two of us. I got into the zone and hit the water to warm up before the start of my heat. As I walked to the start line the adrenaline started to kick in and the laser focus was activated. Everything went quiet as the the start had us in ready position and when I heard “GO” I blasted off the starting line into the lead and then maintained it all the way to the finish line. I felt good and was happy to be in the finals the next day.
As usual I went back to the house to cook up some post race food and to fuel me up for the finals on Saturday. After a good night of sleep I was ready to hit the water to loosen up and break a sweat before the top 8 men lined up for the 200 meter sprint. As they called us up one by one, introducing each of us, my heart was racing and I remembered why I love this sport and feeling so much.
I stood up on my board and the tunnel vision set in with only the finish line in sight. Ready, Set, Go!!!! We were off and I felt explosive right from the first few strokes and was able to quickly jump to the front of the pack, but there was still 150 meters to go. I managed to hold the guys off until the last 20 meters of the race, where Noic switched paddling sides and was able to push past me right at the end! Of course this was a tough pill to swallow, but you live and you learn. This was a great way to see if I still had it and to learn from the young gun. And I still ended up with a Silver Medal.
After that race I was quick to refuel with electrolytes and a protein shake. I was rested up and ready for the last day of competition with the technical semifinals on the table.
I had a great starting position and it was time to push as hard as I needed and saving some for the finals. I heard Go and pushed hard for 60 strokes to get in clean water and then settled in a nice pace for the seven turns. I was able to lead the semis and take one of the two advancing spots for the final eight riders. The final was later in the day so my son Trestle and I went for a quick nap and some food to prepare for the last and final race of the event.
I lined up in lane 3 and it was go time. My strategy was to beat everyone to the first buoy and then defend my position. Once the race started it all was going to plan as I hit the first turn in the lead. Keeping a nice high pace I was able to lead into the technical section and hold off the pack of hungry paddlers behind. It wasn’t till the last two turns where I was definitely feeling fatigue and sure enough the young gun Noic smelt blood and made his move passing me on the inside. I tried to keep the power on but he had an extra gear that I wasn’t able to hold. Luckily we both were far enough in front at this point I was able to claim another Silver Medal. Again, always hard to loose when the goal was to come home with two gold medals, but after 12 years of paddling at the top, I was stoked to hold it down for the veterans and come out in front of a lot of the best paddlers.
Overall it was such an amazing experience and definitely one of the most memorable trips – as it was Trestle’s first international trip and first time meeting a lot of our close friends that we haven’t seen for over two years. Big shout out to the ICF for running such a phenomenal event and one of the most organized SUP competition I have ever been too.
I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Salt Life, Salt Life Sunglasses, Harmless Harvest Coconut Water, Haleakala Solar, Hi-Tech Sports.
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