Connor Baxter Wins the Pacific Paddle Games

The PPG – Super Bowl of SUP

The 2017 Pacific Paddle Games was another huge success and an epic show. As always, it took place over two days at the infamous Doheny State Park in Dana Point California. The weekend was non-stop action.

Saturday, the first day, was basically a warm-up day with only one race heat to do. The top 10 from the heat made it to the semi finals, which took place on Sunday. So as always when that horn blew I went all out to the first buoy turn and was able to catch a few bumps to the next buoy. Once I was comfortably in the top five I was able to let off the throttle a bit and focus on technique and conserving energy. It was a two lap race so I just conserved energy and was able to run up in third place and into the semi finals. I got a great meal and a good night sleep, because the next day was going to be a long, intense day of nonstop paddling.

Sunday’s schedule consisted of the long distance race in the morning, then the semifinals midday and finally to wrap up the whole day, we finished it with the technical finals.

“The Blade” Photo Credit: Georgia Schofield

I woke up early and went to the beach to get warmed up and get my equipment ready. For the distance race I geared up my 2018 Sprint 14×23 with my Manta Future Fin.

The long distance race started at 8:30am with a water start and I lined myself up with a straight shot to the first turn. The horn blew and I sprinted as hard as I could, but got caught in the traffic just behind the top few guys. I stayed in the draft train is about fifth place with one thing on my mind and that was to save energy to win it. It was a two lap course outside of the surf zone, but there was some wind that broke the top five guys away from the rest of the pack of hungry paddlers.

The first lap basically stayed the same and I just conserved energy and caught as many bumps as possible. The top five hung in together until the last stretch from the far south buoy to the last right-hand turn into the finish line. There were some nice bumps going with us to the last buoy so I put my head down and did what I do best.

I was able to stick with Danny and Michael just before we had to turn. That’s where I made my move and kicked into sixth gear which allowed me to turn the buoy first. There were no waves to help but I just kept hammering and catching as many little bumps as possible all the way up the beach in first place. I was super stoked to win the distance race, but I knew it wasn’t over yet.

I still had to race the semifinals and the finals, so a lot more work had to be done. My semifinal was definitely stacked with the top 6 distance men in the first semifinals. I didn’t have the best start but was able to pull back up in the front towards the end of the race for a 5th place finish. There was an hour in between the next race so I took a quick power nap and got refueled.

I got lined up and picked my position on the start line for a straight line to the first buoy. The race horn sounded and I hit the water full speed! Casper Steinfath and I got the best starts and sprinted hard to that first buoy. I was able to have a nice first turn not getting to caught up in the madness behind me. From that point on I wanted to make it clear that I was here to win!

The top four of us made a quick turn the next buoy and that’s where I knew I could spread the field out going downwind with the bumps and small swell. I broke away a couple of board lengths, but Lincoln Dews eventually caught me back up. For the entire rest of the course, Lincoln and I battled it out switching places back and forth. On the second lap at the inside buoy Lincoln got my inside line and from there on out I knew it was going to be a grind. We picked up the pace and we’re talking back and forth before each buoy turn to make sure we had a clean turn.

On the last lap we both caught a wave again to that inside buoy, but this time I wasn’t letting him get the inside line.

I hammered away out of that second to last turn and Lincoln stayed right behind me. On the last turn I put my head down and gave it everything I had left. I pulled a board length ahead of Lincoln and got a little bump. Right before the finish Lincoln caught a wave and almost caught me, but I sprinted to the finish and was able to outlast Lincoln on the run up the beach.

This is my 3rd PPG Title, but this one means so much more than any other. It has always been my goal to win both the distance and course race and I finally won the PPG with a clean sweep!

Couldn’t have done it without all the help from my sponsors. What an epic weekend and great end to the year!

I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – StarboardDakine, Salt LifeMaui Jim SunglassesFutures Fins, GoProWaterman’s Sunscreen, and Harmless Harvest Coconut Water.

Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers, sponsors, race director and all the volunteers.

Connor Baxter

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