The Paddle Stars race in Daytona Beach left me tired and achy, but not without a giant smile on my face. This race showcased some of the best and most talented paddlers in the sport with the likes of Danny Ching and Slater Trout. And although, their presence at this race took center stage, I would say that the women who participated in this event stole the show.
The elite division of the race consisted of a “tri-paddle event,” in which the the best combined times from three races would receive a winner take all $10k dollar cash prize. The races consisted of three different events over a two day period. On day one, the first event was a ½ mile sprint- a mad dash from a land start out a ¼ mile, left turn around a buoy, and then back to a land finish. The second event consisted of a four-mile technical course filled with twists and turns. The final event on day two of Paddle Stars was a 7.5 mile ocean race. These events tested the paddlers speed, technique, and endurance – a Paddle Stars trifecta.
Only three women participated in the elite category, Heather Frogge, Milla Mavarro, and Anna Blackburn. The latter two being young ladies in the U17 age category. I think there is something to be said about the direction of women’s SUP racing when junior females fearlessly line up next to some of the best men in the sport. The future of ladie’s SUP racing looks bright, full of fierce competitors, spurring female paddlers such as myself to train harder and smarter. Hats off to all three of you, Heather, Milla, and Anna! Great job, mad props.
The rec division of the Paddle Stars consisted of the same races as the elite division, however, the rec racers could choose which races they wanted to participate in. They could opt to race all three or just one. Anticipation for the rec division 4 mile technical course ran high as Paddle Stars was offering a cash prize of $1000 dollars to the first female AND male finisher of the 4 mile technical course. Paddle Stars did a top notch job in keeping the excitement and stakes high for all racers both elite and rec.
Danny Ching won the Elite Division of the Paddle Stars pocketing a cool $10k for his efforts. Normally, the winners podium is stacked with men when looking at top finishers. However, this was not the case for the 7.5 mile Rec Division. When Kimberly Barnes stood on the third place podium the crowd became audibly louder with cheers of support, especially as Stoke Radio announced, “who says the girls can’t keep up with the boys?!?!” Watch out dudes, the field of dudette paddlers is getting faster.
Smaller victories were won on a personal scale. I took 3rd (female 12’6 division) in the 4.5 mile tech course, 2nd in the 7.5 mile (female division), and 1st in the ½ mile sprint (female division). I will say that I did beat all of the dudes in my sprint heat except for one, and you know what, that felt pretty good too.
Paddle Stars 2015 watch out! You might be bringing in some big names, but the ladies will be bringing the heat to win!