The APP World Tour has kicked off in Hawaii over the last month and the first two events have run smoothly with an overall more professional feel. The surfing competition took place from 11th to 24th of February in Oahu, and the racing one from 10th to 12th of March in Maui. James Casey was present to the competitions of the first edition of the APP World Tour and gave us his feeling about the riders on this new season.
APP World Tour: Sunset Beach Men´s Form Guide
At Sunset you probably already know the story. Kai Lenny was on fire from the get go, winning every heat except his round 3 match up with fellow Maui Boy Kody Kerbox, although still advancing in second place. He just got better and better throughout the contest peaking in the final with a 10 point ride comboing, Mo Freitas, Giorgio Gomez and Bernd Roediger. Bernd was runner up drawing super clean lines throughout the contest, Giorgio showed there was no disadvantage on your back hand consistently hooking it tight in the pocket and Mo showed the mix of power carves and off the lip flare to wow the judges.
While everyone was ripping, especially the guys in the final, there were a few surfers that really stood out in the early rounds but just lacked that consistency.
Poenaki Raioha was arguably the form surfer heading into the final day absolutely destroying lips from the start of the event and getting rewarded accordingly. He seems to have bulked up a bit and is really throwing his muscle around, well suited to the powerful waves of Hawaii. He has also proven to be a powerhouse in smaller waves too so look out for him blasting his way through rounds at New York in September.
Caio Vaz the reigning World Champ was unlucky to not advance in his semi final. An interference call after getting tangled up with Bernd Roediger on a mediocre wave ultimately cost him as he was surfing well and looking good to back up his Sunset Crown for the third year in a row. The surf contest king, always in the spot for the best waves and rarely making a mistake, he won’t be giving up the title without a fight this year.
Keahi De Aboitz back from a string of injuries that saw him miss the contest last year he picked up from where he left off two years ago when he made the final. Really the only guy that can consistently hit the lip, bust the fins and stick it. He is literally blowing the entire back half of his board out the back of the wave on some of his turns. Got a bit unlucky drawing some big names in the quarters and going down but he will definitely be one to watch this year.
Kai Bates was probably the unluckiest surfer on finals day. In a tough quarterfinal heat, he was sitting in third for much of the heat. Then he picked up a solid to medium wave from the west bowl and did a silky smooth roundhouse into a pocket jam and then what was probably the best manoeuvre of the day. A big fins free lay back hack on the closing out west bowl. Personally I thought he got the score to advance, Mo admitted he had gotten very lucky to hang on for second place. Kai was obviously bummed but that is the nature of competitive surfing and he handled it like a champ. Better known for his small wave antics, if he doesn’t make the finals in New York I will be surprised.
Benoit Carpentier was looking sharp throughout the event just couldn’t manage to get any waves in the semi final. Solid on rail surfing and has an uncanny knack of going 12 o’clock, it seems like Benoit’s surfing has matured and he will be one to watch in all conditions for the rest of the Tour.
Other honourable mentions go to Kieran Grant who looked super sharp in his Round 2 heat but couldn’t buy a wave in round 3 and World Tour rookies Harry Maskell and Alec Amir who took some impressive scalps early.
APP World Tour: Maui Pro AM Men´s Form Guide
It isn’t getting any easier to win races. The level of stand up paddle racing continues to escalate with the Maui Pro Am showcasing some of the worlds the best talent.
While last years world champ Connor Baxter and World Title contender Casper Steinfath continued to impress, Mo Freitas showed he means business this year, holding both of them off to claim the overall win. Incredible in sprint races but a little inconsistent in distance races Mo was on song this weekend placing 2nd and 3rd to claim a win over hometown hero Connor Baxter.
Lincoln Dews placed fourth in both the distance and sprints showing some great early season form. While we know Lincoln is great at Beach Races winning the technical race at Australian Titles on a number of occasions, what was really impressive to me was his ability to grind it out with the top guys. Holding off Travis Grant in a flat Maliko run is something to be proud of, I’m tipping big things from Linc this year.
Travis Grant showed his class mixing it with the youngsters in the surf at Hookipa and getting a solid result in the distance race. Was cool to see Trav competing on the APP and I’m hoping he can make it to a few more later in the year.
Ryan Funk to me this kid doesn’t get enough recognition. A training partner of Connor Baxter, the kid keeps getting better every race he enters. Seems to be flying under the radar maybe because he is young or because there is so much talent on Maui but this kid has a strong head and is hungry to improve. My number one dark horse for the remainder of the year, his hard work is paying off.
After staying on Maui for the best part of a month prior the event, Arthur Arutkin‘s race board finally arrived a few days before race day. He obviously was getting into some serious cross training as he paddled as solid as ever over the weekend.
Michael Booth is still the king of distance races. His technical racing seems to gradually get better at each event but the waves aren’t his strength and an altercation with Leo didn’t help his cause this weekend.
Matt Nottage proved he isn’t just a downwind guy, mixing it with the best in the waves at Ho’okipa and then grinding out a top ten result in the flat Maliko race reminiscent of his heroics at Carolina Cup last year.
Others to impress included Kenny Kaneko who has put in a big pre season and is looking as fit as ever and Toby Cracknell who has the skills to win any race with a wave element.
The next stop in Japan is set to be another exciting one with Kai Lenny and Zane Schweitzer expected to make their first appearance for the year just making the competition even more fierce.