Connor Baxter Wins the Oleron

Connor Baxter battles a strong field to win the Oleron World Series in France - June 2013
Connor Baxter battles a strong field to win the Oleron World Series in France – June 2013

The June 2013  Oleron Stand Up Paddle Challenge opened the European leg of the Stand Up World Series on the beautiful Oleron Island.   Featuring one of the most stunning and challenging long distance courses combined with the exciting World Series Sprint Racing, Oleron Island is always an exciting stop for the 2013 Stand Up World Series.

This World Series event featured the world’s very best athletes, from Ratings leader Connor Baxter (Starboard), Kai Lenny (Naish), Jamie Mitchell, Beau O’Brian (Starboard) and Paul Jackson (Fanatic), to Europe’s leading lights Casper Steinfath (Naish), Leonard Nika (Starboard) and Bart de Swart (Starboard), the Oleron Stand Up Paddle Challenge will provide the ideal platform for competitive stand up paddle-racing.

The second stop of the 2013 European leg of the Stand Up World Series was the Bilbao World SUP Challenge, held in the Basque country of Spain. The Bilbao World SUP Challenge inspired the world’s best paddlers to the City to battle it out for the $20,000 prize-purse and all important ranking points on the Stand Up World Series. After breathtaking performances and close finishes throughout the series, Connor Baxter came out on top giving him a 100% winning record this year!

Connor Baxter surging his Starboard to speed - photo by Michael Terrien
Connor Baxter surging his Starboard to speed – photo by Michael Terrien

June 10, 2013: In the words of Connor Baxter after paddling to his third straight win in the World Series Stop 3 for the World Series in Oleron, ” France was an amazing event. This was a two-day event and like always we had both a long distance and sprint races.”

A last-minute storm just before the start of the distance race created a change in the course distance from 30 km to 6.5 km due to heavy winds. The beach start in the storm conditions caused some chaos for the athletes.  By the time the leaders arrived at the first buoy, Connor Baxter held the lead with Kai Lenny pushing a close second. He was followed by Casper Steinfath, Leonardo Nika and the rest of the elite field.

A bevy of spectator and filming boats created side chop and added to the difficult conditions. At a crucial moment one random choppy wave hit Connor and cause him to fall of the board. A quick scramble back and he was paddling hard, but the interruption gave Kai the break he needed to capture and hold the lead.

Day two of the series brought better, though cool, weather and a field of athletes raring to go in the sprints. As the heats progressed toward the final field, it was apparent that the competition was still strong. The heat was stacked with the world’s fastest racers all trained and ready to excel.   

Along with Connor Baxter,  Eric Terrien , Kai Lenny, Casper Steinfath, Jake Jensen, Leonardo Nika, Chase Kosterlitz, and Beau O’Brian were ready to sprint from the start.

From the moment of “GO!” in that final heat, Connor sprinted off the beach, into the water and didn’t look back. His fellow Starboard teammate Beau O’Brian was right beside Connor all the way to the first buoy. In spite of a fall at the second buoy, Connor had a good distance in front of second place.

With two more buoys to go, Connor’s strategy was simple,  “I just kept my head down and my paddling on full throttle. I pretty much had it in the bag after I turned the third buoy and the last buoy but I didn’t let up – just in case. I caught a bunch of little swells on the way in and secured my first place.”

Casper Steinfath came in second then Connor’s  Starboard teammate Beau O’Brian in third. It was a sweet win for Baxter who stayed focused and positive in spite of battling health issues just last year. The grin on his face said it all. This is a waterman whose heart and passion for what he does inspires us all. Find Connor Baxter, water athlete, on Facebook.

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