Water Festival: 2nd Euro Tour Win for Rivera and Araki in Sicily

Under the radiant Sicilian sun, Mondello’s turquoise waters became the stage for a spectacular convergence of sportsmanship, fun, and music during the 2024 Water Festival. Organized by the visionary entrepreneur Vincenzo Michelucci, this event marked a significant evolution from the previous Mondello SUP Festival, expanding its horizons to embrace a multitude of water and multisport activities. Spanning three days, the festival provided a vibrant platform for enthusiasts of yoga, slackline, stand-up paddle (SUP), e-foil, wing foil, beach volleyball, and beach tennis. However, the center piece remained the fiercely contested Stand-Up Paddle Elite race, designated as the second stop of the prestigious 2024 Euro Tour for the very first time. (Photos Mario Entero, Euro Tour)


Pre-Race Highlights

Following a thrilling kick-off in Punta Ala, Italy, the Euro Tour’s momentum surged into Mondello. Last week’s champions, the prodigious Shuri Araki from Japan and the seasoned Mariecarmen Rivera of Puerto Rico, arrived as formidable favorites, each boasting impressive credentials and recent victories.

Stacked Athlete Roster

The startlist for the event was nothing short of spectacular, boasting a roster brimming with approximately 30 top-tier international athletes. Among them stood nine former and reigning world champions, adorned with titles from prestigious organizations such as ISA, ICF, and the APP World Tour. Two Euro Tour victors added further luster to the ensemble, alongside a multitude of world championship medallists hailing from the far reaches of the globe: Japan, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Brazil, the Netherlands, the French territory of New Caledonia, France, Great Britain, etc. the lineup represented a kaleidoscope of nations worthy of a world championship.

Notably absent were representatives from Spain, the reigning European champions and world’s second-ranked team. Their absence stemmed from their collective participation in the Spanish Sprint and Technical Race Championship held in A Coru√Īa, Northern Spain. However, the absence of Spanish contenders did little to dampen the intensity of the competition, as a plethora of Italian racers stood ready to defend their home turf and vie for supremacy amidst the global talent on display.

Course and Conditions

Mondello’s expansive and picturesque bay served as the dynamic battleground for the 12-kilometer race. With its semi-circular layout, the course posed a multifaceted challenge, subjecting competitors to a gamut of conditions, from serene flat stretches to turbulent crosswinds and even intermittent swells along the shoreline.

Unstoppable Rivera dominates once again in the women’s race

In the thrilling Women’s race, the Infinity powerhouse duo of 2023 ISA silver and bronze medallist Mariecarmen Rivera and 2023 APP World Tour champion Juliette Duhaime surged forth from the starting line, swiftly reaching the initial buoy. Close on their heels trailed the formidable M√©lanie Lafen√™tre, 2023 ISA and 2022 ICF world champion from France, accompanied by her compatriot Iona Rivet and Spain’s Susak Molinero, a Sunova SUP racing stalwart. Not far behind, the Italian contingent showcased its prowess, with two Junior world champions, Cecilia Pampinella and Claudia Posiglione, shadowing the leading pack.

At the pivotal 4-kilometer mark, Rivera, leading the charge, executed a meticulously planned strategy, unleashing a blistering acceleration that swiftly distanced her from her rivals. With steely determination, she extended her lead, leaving the chasing trio of Lafenêtre, Duhaime, and Molinero to vie for the remaining podium positions. Meanwhile, Iona Rivet valiantly paddled solo, maintaining her course ahead of the two junior world champions.

As Rivera secured her dominant lead, the focus shifted to the enthralling battle for second place. Lafen√™tre and Duhaime engaged in a neck-and-neck sprint to the finish line, with Lafen√™tre ultimately clinching the runner-up position by a mere meter, echoing the top-3 women’s podium finish from the previous week in Punta Ala. Molinero, displaying grit and determination, claimed fourth place, an improvement from her previous 6th place performance in Punta Ala. Rivet maintained her steady pace to secure fifth place, an impressive feat for her maiden international race of the season. Further back, the young Italian sensation Pampinella showcased her talent by pulling away from Postiglione in the closing kilometers, therefore winning the Italian derby betwen the two world champions.

Who can stop Shuri Araki?

With 25 top names in a 36-men field, many of whom were racing for the first time this season, it was difficult to make any predictions before the race. One thing was certain: Shuri Araki, the current ISA and ICF Long Distance World Title holder, was the clear favorite, having beaten the entire field repeatedly over the past two years and again last week in Punta Ala at stop #1 of the Euro Tour.

“Shrimpy”, who announced his first-ever board sponsorship with the Florida-based brand Flying Fish last month, had the best start and was joined after 30 meters by his Flying Fish teammate from Brazil, Eri Tenorio, who passed the first buoy 200 meters into the race in first position.

While the three-time Brazilian sprint champion from SIC Maui, David Le√£o, had a good start, as well as the French team captain Titouan Puyo, the next 8 kilometers of the race saw a huge pack of up to 18 international racers battling out for equal first position, alternating at the front of the group next to “Shrimpy”, in no particular order: Davide Alpino, Rai Taguchi, Arthur Arutkin, Leo Nika, Filippo Mercuriali, Vaic Garioud, Eri Tenorio, David Le√£o, Blue Ewer, Ludovic Teulade. One of them, in particular, was Donato Freens, the 19-year-old Dutchman, who had a disastrous start sitting in the 20th position range at the first buoy but was able to catch up with the front of the pack 2 kilometers into the race, which was in itself a huge achievement already.

At the end of lap #1, that lead group had reduced to 12 riders, and it was a shock to see two multiple-time world champions and living legends, Michael Booth and Titouan Puyo, both in their early 30s, unable to sustain the rhythm, this time around, imposed by the new generation of SUP racers, a few of whom are under 20.

It was at the 8 km mark though that 17 year old Araki made his much-awaited signature move, a gradual acceleration in the downwind leg which dislocated the field within a couple of minutes. While Shrimpy was escaping from his challengers much like last week, it was soon time for the bravest to regroup at the far-end buoy to prepare a final showdown to decide who was going to take second within the last 3 kilometers.

A big group of 10 paddlers did manage to stay together until the last 200m sprints, and the sprint specialist David Le√£o indeed had the upper hand. His skills spoke, and he finished second! A tight sprint finish between Ludovic Teulade, Donato Freens, and Filippo Mercuriali went in favor of the Infinity Speed Freak Donnie, who scored another huge international podium, his seventh one already this year! An unbelievable ocean race comeback which seals the deal for anyone who still thinks the Infinity rider is a Dutch canal flatwater racer. The underdog, not sure if it’s the right terminology after his early season results in Comacchio, Filippo Mercuriali, finished strong on the left of the course and managed to swoop the fourth place just ahead of the French SIC Maui racer Ludovic Teulade, three-time winner of the Gla Gla Race and sixth at the 2023 ICF SUP Worlds in Long Distance. Behind him, the big names kept pouring: Blue Ewer, Rai Taguchi, Davide Alpino, Ollie Houghton, Eri Tenorio, Paolo Marconi, Va√Įc Garioud, Arthur Arutkin, Itzel Delgado, Ricardo Rossi, Titouan Puyo, Leo Nika. A special shoutout to junior racer Giancarlo Conte, unknown on the world stage as far as I am aware, finishing between Leo Nika and Michael Booth.

2024 Water Festival – Euro Tour Race #2 – Full Results

Next week, the international field of athletes will be split between two major events: Euro Tour stop #3 in Sancti Petri, Spain and The Lake Rocks Festival, ICF circuit stop #2 in Faaker See, Austria (LIVE on the TotalSUP Facebook page!)

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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