I knew this was going to be big, I didn’t know it would be that HUGE! On June 3, 4 and 5, the 3rd edition of the World SUP Festival Costa Blanca was held in Santa Pola, in the region of Alicante, Spain and it did not leave anyone indifferent. Whether on the water, the beach or behind their screens, participants, exhibitors, visitors and viewers have been able to feel the emotion of this great sporting event, considered now by many, a new European PPG in reference to the Pacific Paddle Games in Dana Point aka the Superbowl of SUP racing. During the 3 day event, sport, leisure, nature, but also food and music fused in a unique atmosphere guaranteeing an experience unforgettable for everyone. Photos: Georgia Schofield
Three years had passed since the last edition in 2019, and the World SUP Festival returned this year with pretty much everything bigger. A huge THANK YOU and CONGRATULATIONS to 3-time 50+ ICF World Champion Daniel Parresfor putting together an enormous and perfect event following months of hard work. 3 days and 3 big separate events: the Spanish Sprints Champs, the Eurotour Long Distance Race and the International Technical Race Open … + Foil/Wing Foil + Surfski + OC + Prone + Food Trucks + LIVE Music + Exhibitors.
I am also pretty confident to say this event has brought together the largest amount of pro and pro-am racers, outside of any world championships, in a very long time. This third edition has registered more than 450 participants, which is an increase of more than 50% from the previous edition. International athletes arrived from 21 countries; Japan, New Caledonia, Australia, Israel, Peru, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, England, Slovenia and of course Spain. On the national scene, the World SUP Festival received participants from most Spanish provinces and islands. No less than 9 Elite ISA or ICF world champions were on the starting line this weekend in Santa Pola, if you add the junior world champions that figures would easily reach 13 or 14 given how the Spanish Tormenta stole the show in the Juniors and +40 / +50 category last year at the 2021 ICF SUP WORLDS. A pity half of them disappeared on Day 3 after a well-deserved fiesta the night before because the Tech Races were AWESOME with a 4-hour emotional show of technical prowess.
I am so impressed with the number of SUP Racing groms and juniors I saw this weekend, it gives me at the same time a great shot of optimism for the sport and the realization that a lot of work needs now to be done for the world to follow this examplary example. I am not kidding, you have more kids racing in Spain right now than on the entire planet and I am not talking kids being pushed on all-round iSUPs by their competiting parents but u10, u12, u14, u16, u18 with impeccable technique heat after heat: 93 races on Day 1 from 9.30 unil 7.30pm on Day 1!!!! Seriously the level in Spain is a little scary right now and Espe Barreras + Duna Gordillo Rodriguez are just the tip of the iceberg.
Another event within the event was the mass participation of all the top French athletes, as oddly enough, this event was picked by the French Surfing Federation as one of tour selection events for the French SUP Racing team. Everyone was there but Tom Auber. It is worth adding that 3-time world champion Olivia Piana declined the invitation from the FFS to represent France as her love story with foiling/wing foiling unfolds.
I am so glad that I got to share this incredible experience with 3 stars: Christopher Parker, Nico Dinovo and Americo Correa. We unfortunately had the usual “oops we forgot to test if there was a 4G signal on half of the race” totally independent from us commentators on the Eurotour race (it was the 1st question I asked when I met the production crew), but overall the remaining Youtube streams below are pretty entertaining with great drone, beach and booth cam shots.
Friday – Spanish Sprint Championships
The event began on Friday June 3 with the Spanish Championship 200m Sprints open water. Following a full day of heat / semi / B finals and A finals racing, with a total of 93 races (!!!!), in the men’s, the local hero and Starboard athlete Rafael Sirvent won in front of his crowd in an epic battle against Manuel Hoyuela (2nd) and Aaron Sanchez (3rd). In the Women’s, the mysterious Victoria Ryzhova, who only showed up on Day 1 of the event for the Sprints, swept the field and took first place in front of new Spanish star Duna Gordillo and and 2016 ISA world champion Laura Quetglas
Saturday – Eurotour Race
On Saturday, June 4, the Long Distance race, part of the Eurotour, was held in the morning. The Elite and Open categories boarded a ferry to the Island of Tabarca, 7km away from Santa Pola. The Elite had ahead of them a 15 km race going round the island first to reach a bouy 3km East of the island and then a 10 km downwind past the Isla Tabarca and all the way down to Santa Pola. The amateur category took a straight 7km line back to Santa Pola.
In the Elite women’s category, Spain dominated with 2019 ISA World Champion Esperanza Barreras who led the race from start to finish. In second position, the young Mallorquina Duna Gordillo made a 3rd consecutive statement this year following her victory at the Eurotour’s stop in Bari and placing 2nd behind “Espe” the weekend before at the Port Adriano SUP Race on her home turf of El Toro, Mallorca. 20-year-old French SUP racer Anais Guyomarch (3rd), managed to outtake another French champion, Amandine Chazot in the 2nd part of the race (4th) who suffered from heat exhaustion in the last part of the race. Mélanie Lafenêtre did a great race and her disappointment with her 5th place makes us think that we should see more of her this year. Caterina Stenta from Italy takes 6th and the 1st junior woman also from Italy, Cecilia Pampinella, arrives in 7th.
In the Men’s, Noïc Garioud from New Caledonia won his first race under his new Starboard colors, following a disappointing entrance on the SUP scene this year at the Carolina Cup were abdominal cramps in the last 2k crushed his ambitions to be on the podium then. In second position, 3-time Eurotour winner Michael Booth was actually in the lead for most of the way back from Isla Tabarca. Another Aussie climbs on the podium, Ty Judson, who did most of the work in the first part of the race, pulling a group of 25 top international racers which completely exploded as soon as the pack entered the 10km downwind leg. An exhausted Titouan Puyo, who has not gotten us used to seeing him outside of the 1st place on the podium lately arrived in 4th. In the juniors’, Japanese superstar in the making Shuri Araki aka “Shrimpy” won a much-expected battle against another Under 18 A-list rival, Ethan Bry from France.
The amateur ended with two 100% Spanish podiums in both the women’s and the men’s with Alexia Soto, Amelia Moral and Inés Blin ranking first, second and third respectively, and in the men’s, Jorge Soler in first position, followed by Angel Guerrero and Pablo Carbonell.
Meanwhile on Levante beach in Santa Pola, the start of the premiering canoe race was given, in which Surfksis and OCs had to go through a 13km route from the beach to Tabarca Island and back to the beach. Carlos López from Barcelona won the OC1 race. Angeles Belda and Rosana Leri were first and second in the women’s surkski category and Antonio Gil and Gonzalo García were first and second in the men’s category.
The prone paddlers were also invited for the first time and Frenchman Christophe Mora took the trip from Bordeaux to win the event.
On Saturday afternoon, the SUP Foil test started, which also had a prize money of 1,500 euros to distribute among the winners. In the women’s, the winner was the French champ Amandine Chazot, and in the men’s category, two other French countrymen Clement Colmas and Boris Jinvresse in first and second position respectively and the Spaniard Ruben Salvador in third.
Sunday – International Open Technical Race
The International Open Technical Race took place on Sunday morning, June 5, with 1,500 euros of prize money, a nice bait for the two Frenchmen from New Caledonia Titouan Puyo 1st, Noïc Garioud 2nd and theJapanese Shuri Araki, 3rd. Mélanie Lafenetre showed who’s the boss on the choppy body of water, leading from start to finish in front of the Dane Caroline Küntzel in 2nd and the Brit Holly Pye in 3rd position. A good rehearsal for what’s to come at EUROSUP 22 DENMARK in 2 months!
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