Last weekend on the 4th and 5th May the 4th annual Connacht Battle of the Paddle organised by Harbour Sup & Sail took place. This year was the 4th edition of the event held between Enniscrone beach, Co. Sligo and the River Moy in Ballina, Co.Mayo Ireland. The event got off to a roaring start with a decent field present and nice solid swell.
The schedule for the weekend was packed with a Surf SUP contest,Tech Sprint and Distance race all on the programme. Not very many locations could provide such conditions to hold all 3 events over a weekend! The swell and weather charts in the lead up to the event looked stacked to deliver some good conditions for the race event, and on Saturday morning Enniscrone beach greeted competitors with a contestable 2-3ft surf condtitions. Organiser Mikee Hamilton gives TotalSUP the event recap.
SUP Surf Event
After a quick riders meeting at 9 am, the event got underway with the first round of Ladies and Mens SUP Surf contest. The ladies kicked things off, despite strong wind the ladies quickly got busy in the fun size left and right peaks, local ladies Nicola McCutcheon and sisters Lucy & Mia Hamilton advancing.
Next up the mens heat one got underway, and with the ebbing tide the spot threw up some good ramps. Paul Byrne had the better of several exchanges with long fading rights and crisply finished lefts . John Stapleton also advanced from heat one finding the speed down the line to bag a couple of good scores.
Heat two was a four man battle, Tony Doherty had traveled down from Northern Ireland and looked on point after a dawn pre comp free surf. Sets were consistent allowing everyone plenty of chance to rack up some scores. The heat went down to the wire with Samir Naji just edging Nick Seymour out to head to the Semis with Tony Doherty. Heat four spread the field over 3 peaks with Jonathan Woods and Nat Forde both picking up long walled left n right wedges to comfortably advance to the Semis.
The session was capped off with a great bbq that have become the standard at the Connacht for the Paddle. The forecast for Sunday was looking sweet, with a new NW swell due to kick in overnight, it was decided to go on hold till midday Sunday with the surf event. Most of the competitors enjoyed a good catch up and chat. The wind had died off late evening and Tony Doherty and John Stapleton capped off the day with some glassy sunset walls.
Downwind Distance Delight
Sunday morning arrived and as predicted the swell had increased with good head high sets .The Distance race of 7 KM was all set. The strong southerly left the whole course down wind, much to everyone’s delight. After getting on the water and facing upstream, the 30 second call went up and boards were turned for a rolling start. The horn sounded and Mia Hamilton powered away closely followed by Paul Byrne, Nat Forde and John Stapleton, with Keith Gorman and Lucy Hamilton also well in touch with the lead group .
The field opened up with some outstanding paddles in the crossover class, with two First Racers Mens and Ladies; Hans Fredricks and Mich Muldoon going on to claim class victories. The elite race passed the halfway point, with Nat Forde holding a tight lead over Paul Byrne and John Stapleton. With around 1 KM to go, Byrne dropped the head, shifted up a gear and made a break along the forest rim. Nat and John left it too late to answer as Paul crossed the line with a solid finish with three board lengths to spare .
Irish racer Mia Hamilton never looked like getting caught from the start, despite sister Lucy holding her draft for a few KM, Mia cruised home to take the Ladies, with Lucy second and First time racer Orna Woods claiming Third.
SUP Surf Finals
With the distance out of the way just a 7 km drive back to Enniscrone. It was quickly decided to make the best of the swell, the ladies SUP SURF final got underway on the beach. After a trojan effort and some quick gear ups; Nicola, Lucy and Mia took to the water. The waves were tricky, and the wind, had to be battled at every stage . Nicola racked up 9 waves in the heat, with Lucy and Mia both picking up some respectable scores given the tough conditions. Amazing spirit between the ladies, the heat concluded on the beach with big hugs and smiles. When the scores were totaled up, Nicola was out on top with Mia just edging Lucy out by 1 point to claim second place in the SUP Surf ladies.
The Men’s Semis followed on the beach break, with a five minute overlap to keep the event fluid. Paul Byrne and Tony Doherty both picked off solid waves in their respective heats, with solid down the line carves and fluid style to secure places in the final. The level of surfing in the Semis’ was excellent from all competitors, with Johnathan Woods and Nat Forde placing worthy seconds in there respective heats and gaining spots in the surf off for 3rd overall.
After another brief riders meeting and study of conditions, it was decided to move the event onto the reef break; to take advantage of some quality wind swept wedges. The crew pulled together and 45 mins later we were set up and ready to go with the Men’s final and Surf Off . Tony and Paul made the walk out across the reef and after a 10 minute paddle out, it was on!!
Conditions were on the limit wind wise. Tony Doherty was throwing himself over the ledge on anything decent that came his way, and made light of tricky overhead drops on his backhand . Paul Byrne took a slightly more calculated approach, after winning the distance that morning, still found the strength to bag the wave of the day and tame some fairly crazy sections to get a solid score on the board . Paul backed up with a shorter wedge with a strong finishing turn to clinch the final.
The last heat of the Men’s surf for third place did not disappoint; both competitors dug deep and gave the conditions their all. Johnathan Woods got a long solid wall and put down a good line, to leave him needing just a solid backup . Nat Forde moved in deep to pick off a small inside wedge, as he paddled back he found himself in prime position to nail the best wave of the heat, and capitalize on the sections as it wheeled down the reef . Johnathan had a last dig at a couple, to try and back up his keeper, but as the clock ran down, it was Nat Forde who had done enough to secure the third place .
With one event left to run, the Technical sprint, everyone was feeling the weekend. Quick decisions needed to be made . The tide was filling, the wind and swell were raging, so we decided to throw out an 1.5 KM ‘L shaped course’, in and out of the surf, which included an upwind and downwind leg. The field began to grow with Nicola McCutcheon and Martha O’Reilly jumping on crossovers and Samir Naji, just back from kiting the beach gearing up.
Boards and kit assembled on the ramp at Enniscrone Pier, it was time to get it on. Eight racers took to the water. After a solid start from all, Keith Gorman took control and led the race from start to finish. Some epic mini battles, short and long glides and the usual carnage around the buoy made the race one of the highlights of the weekend; which really wrapped up the event in style.
Paul Byrne fought hard, never letting off the gas, to claim second in the Tech, also to clinch the ‘Connacht Battle for the Paddle Men’s title’. While Mia Hamilton held a solid lead in the Tech, also came home 1st in the ladies, securing the Connacht Battle for the Paddle Ladies title, with two firsts and one second .
Massive congratulations to all the winners and to everyone who competed in the event .
Special thanks to everyone who helped out, supported in any way large or small or helped make the event such a great success . Plans are already being hatched for next year, we hope to welcome more competitors from Ireland the UK ,Europe or even further afield!
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