Battle For Hercules: Spanish Starboard Duo Alba Frey and Aaron Sanchez Conquer

The 2nd edition of the Battle for Hercules emerged as a pivotal battleground for two Starboard riders, each hailing from distinct corners of Spain’s vibrant coastline. Alba Frey, a formidable force from the Canary Island of Fuerteventura, defied expectations with a stunning victory, cementing her status as an underdog to watch. Meanwhile, Aaron Sanchez, representing the Balearic island of Mallorca, showcased his prowess with a masterful display of skill and determination, clinching victory in a fiercely contested race. As only the second international event of the 2024 SUP Race season, the Battle for Hercules served as a litmus test, offering valuable insights into the training regimens and competitive spirit of some of the best athletes from across the globe. (Photos TotalSUP, UP SUPING and Nick Guardano)

Bigger, Stronger and Independent: Welcome to Battle for Hercules 2024

The Battle for Hercules returned for its highly anticipated second edition, marking a significant departure from its previous stint as part of the Euro Tour circuit. While the inaugural event unfolded amidst the historic landscapes of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in North Africa, this time, the battleground shifted to the picturesque shores of Benalmadena, nestled within the Spanish province of Malaga. Spearheaded by the visionary organizers of Team Hercules, comprising the dynamic trio of Rocio Recio, Fofi Recio, and Martin Andersen, the event promised an exhilarating showcase of paddleboarding prowess and unwavering camaraderie.

With a staggering turnout of 228 participants spanning various races and categories, including a formidable contingent of 90 elite athletes, the Battle for Hercules underscored its status as a premier event in the paddleboarding calendar. From open racers to juniors, masters, and kahunas, competitors from far and wide converged to test their mettle in the grueling 12k race, fueled by a shared passion for the sport.

The day commenced with a burst of youthful energy as the kids’ race kicked off, attracting a throng of eager participants as young as 7 years old. With over 80 kids taking to the water, the event showcased Spain’s leading role in fostering the next generation of SUP racers, with youngsters traveling from every corner of the country to partake in the festivities.

Amidst the sea of competitors, a palpable sense of anticipation hung in the air as Spanish athletes, hailing from mainland Spain to the sun-drenched shores of Fuerteventura and Mallorca, prepared to battle it out against a formidable lineup of international racers. From reigning junior and open world champions to seasoned world championship medallists, the field boasted an impressive array of talent, with representatives from the UK, Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands, and South Africa adding a global dimension to the competition.

With a total prize pool of 6000€ up for grabs, including two coveted money grabs of 300€ each during the race, the stakes were high. Against the backdrop of a challenging race course, which commenced with a rigorous 1.5k technical race format before segueing into a demanding 10.5k ocean stretch, competitors grappled with small swells, choppy waters, and intermittent downwind sections, testing their skills and resilience to the limit.

Battle for Hercules 2024 – Elite Men’s Race

The men’s division of the Battle for Hercules emerged as a battleground of fierce competition, boasting a formidable lineup of international racers and rising Spanish talents, each vying for supremacy amidst the tumultuous waves of Benalmadena’s shoreline.

The field brimmed with talent, comprising 15 international racers alongside a cohort of promising Spanish contenders, adding an extra layer of intensity to an already dense competition. Among them, NSP rider Christian Andersen, affectionately known as the Polar Bear, surged ahead with an electrifying start, dominating the initial 1.5k technical race course with ease. Despite an unfortunate injury sustained upon entering the water, Andersen’s tenacity shone through as he gallantly persisted, keeping pace with a select group of six elite racers who quickly surged ahead, leaving the pack in their wake.

Among the frontrunners was the new Infinity “Speed Freak”, 19-year-old Donato Freens, making waves in his debut year in the open category after clinching two podium finishes the previous weekend in Comacchio, Italy. Alongside him, Blue Ewer, hailing from England and back from a winter training tour visiting fellow international athletes in Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia. The trio of Spanish SUP racers, Aaron Sanchez and Fernando Perez representing Starboard, and Antonio Morillo, from Cadiz and riding for NSP, showcased their formidable skills, bolstering the ranks of contenders with their unwavering determination.

As the race reached its climax, tensions soared as the group of six navigated the final stretch, with Sanchez summoning a burst of energy to surge ahead just before the last buoy. Yet, victory remained elusive until the very last moment, as Freens and Morillo caughta small wave, narrowing the gap and setting the stage for a dramatic beach sprint showdown. In a heart-pounding finale, Sanchez emerged triumphant, edging out Freens to claim the top spot on the podium, with Morillo securing a commendable third place finish.

Behind the podium finishers, Fernando Perez Serra crossed the line in fourth place, followed closely by Ewer in fifth and Andersen, who showcased remarkable resilience despite his injury, securing sixth place. Meanwhile, Czech and Mallorca-based rider Tomas Grosup delivered a notable performance to clinch seventh place, while junior talents Ivan Puente from A Coruña, Marc Simoncelli from Mallorca, and Jorge Valenzuela of Team Hercules left an indelible mark, finishing eighth, ninth, and seventeenth overall respectively.

Men’s Top 10
1. Aaaron Sanchez / Spain / Starboard
2. Donato Freens / Netherlands / Infinity
3. Antonio Morillo / Spain / NSP
4. Fernando Perez / Spain / Starboard
5. Blue Ewer / UK / NSP
6. Christian Andersen / Denmark / NSP
7. Tomas Grosup / Czech Republic
8. Augusto Garcia Villegas / Spain
9. Ivan Puente / Spain
10. Marc Simoncelli / Spain

Battle for Hercules 2024 – Elite Women’s Race

At the forefront of the women’s narrative stood Tarryn King, a formidable force in sprint paddling with accolades that spoke volumes of her prowess. As the 2018 sprint world champion and a two-time ISA and ICF Sprint Bronze medallist in 2023, King’s reputation preceded her. However, the Battle for Hercules marked a significant milestone in her career as she ventured into uncharted waters, embracing her very first long-distance race with gusto. Adding to the allure was King’s recent sponsorship deal with SUNOVA, injecting a fresh surge of energy and anticipation into her debut.

From the onset, King wasted no time in asserting her sprint dominance, seizing the lead with a commanding start on the technical course. Her strokes carved through the water with precision, setting a blistering pace that left her competitors trailing in her wake. However, the dynamic duo of Duna Gordillo and Alba Frey emerged as formidable contenders, swiftly overtaking King as they surged ahead, vying for supremacy.

Frey, the underdog of the competition, orchestrated a masterful maneuver to claim the first money grab of the race, marking a pivotal moment in her ascent. Despite relentless efforts from Gordillo to shake off her pursuers, Frey’s determination proved unyielding as she surged ahead in the final stretch, propelled by sheer grit and determination. In a thrilling climax, Frey crossed the finish line triumphant, etching her name in the annals of paddleboarding history with a stunning victory over one of the sport’s long-distance specialists.

Meanwhile, Sonia Caimari emerged as another surprise contender, clinching the third spot on the podium with a performance that defied expectations. Former world and European champion Laura Quetglas, and the winner of the Spring SUP Race in Italy just a few days ago, securing a respectable fourth-place finish, while King’s debut in the long-distance arena culminated in a commendable fifth place, the last position to be awarded with prize money.

Not to be overlooked amidst the whirlwind of competition was the rising star, Alexia Soto, whose stellar performance signaled her arrival on the international stage. Celebrating her 17th birthday in Benalmadena, Soto left an indelible mark with a display of skill and composure beyond her years, choosing to compete in the open women’s category when she could have won the junior division. Just behind her, a new name on the international scene and the first female junior, Laura Paricio.

Rounding out the top ranks were Holly Pye, whose seventh-place finish underscored her prowess as a formidable competitor, and junior sensation Amelia Moral, who blazed through the course with remarkable speed and finesse, clinching the second spot among her peers in under 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Women’s Top 10
1. Alba Frey / Spain / Starboard
2. Duna Gordilloa  / Spain / NSP
3. Sonia Caimari / Spain
4. Laura Quetglas / Spain / NSP
5. Tarryn King / South Africa / SUNOVA
6. Alexia Soto / Spain
7. Laura Paricio / Spain
8. Holly Pye / UK
9. Amelia Moral / Spain
10. Marina Navarro Moya / Spain

For the full results + all categories, go to:

Battle for Hercules 2024 – LIVE FEED REPLAY!

About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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