No introduction needed! Having amassed an impressive and seemingly endless list of accolades over the last year at some of the most prestigious competitive events in the SUP discipline, and having treated us to some truly inspired moments of stand up paddle superiority, we thought it an opportune time to gather Starboard rider Connor Baxter’s thoughts on his season. It ups, its downwinds, and how it feels to consistently top SUP Racer’s rankings as world number one. Added pressure? Perhaps. But there’s no better man for the job!
1st overall at the 2017 PPG, 1st overall for the APP World Tour, 2nd at the WPA Euro Tour and 2nd at the ISA World Championship. How do you feel about all these achievements?
This year has been incredible. I am so pleased to have reached the top of my game and that I’ve gotten the best results in most of the major events I have entered. Long may this continue!
Over the last number of years, I have spent an awful lot of time investing in my training and my preparations to reach the number 1 spot. It’s really rewarding to see the fruits of one’s labour.
But, for me, the best part is the travelling and getting together with all the different paddlers from around the world.
How does the atmosphere differ between an event like the Pacific Paddle Games and the ISA World Championship?
The atmosphere between the Pacific Paddle Games and the ISA World Championship is completely different. For the events like PPG, you are focusing on yourself, how to win each race and how to achieve your own individual goals and targets.
Whereas, at the ISA, you are a member of a team and there’s a more collective mentality. You are fighting hard to win for your team’s sake no matter what. Having that many countries come together to participate in stand up paddle is a beautiful thing. It’s what makes the ISA World Championship special.
At the ISA World Championship, we witnessed a great final dash between you and Mo Freitas. Were you glad to see your Hawaiian teammate take home the gold?
Indeed, at this year’s ISA, Mo Freitas and I had an incredible run-up the beach at the very end of the Technical Race and, though nobody likes to lose, he won it for our team, so no matter what I was super stoked.
By that point, we knew that whatever the outcome, Team Hawaii was going to take it home. That was a great feeling!
In general terms, what have been the highlights of your season? Any stand-out moments?
There have been many great moments this season, but a couple of stand-out moments spring to mind in particular.
The first would have to be the Molokai 2 Oahu battle with Travis Grant. That was great. And also, winning both the technical and distance races at PPG this year.
SUP Racer have ranked you as the world’s number 1 SUP rider. How does that feel? Does it create a greater sense of pressure?
Being ranked number 1 by SUP Racer has been a goal of mine for a long time. Having been able to hold onto to that number 1 spot for the last few years is just an incredible honour for me.
But it definitely comes with a sense of added pressure to hold on to it, especially as time goes on.
You’ve recently been training in Panama. What’s it like to train there?
Training in Panama was a lot of fun. All kinds of conditions, but above all, the temperatures were super hot. I really enjoyed my experience there, but there’s no place like home of course! I can’t wait to train in Hawaii again.
We get the impression that, as you have progressed ever more in your SUP career, you’ve become more serene and assured too. Would this be fair to say?
I would totally agree with that! Nowadays, I try to go into every event knowing that I have nothing to prove really. I am safe in the knowledge that, at one stage, I have beaten everyone else out there in pretty much every kind of condition.
This allows me to go out there and just have a good time with it. That’s the best!
What’s next? What are you most looking forward to as we approach the end of 2017?
Next up for me is to put the race board away and to go have some fun at home with all the winter swells. I cannot wait!