It was a wild day in San Francisco: XL swell coupled with a heavier than expected tidal flow and fog almost completely whiting out the course at some points made for one of the most intense and crazy race courses ever seen today for the 2019 Red Bull Heavy Water.
The day dawned bright, beautiful and big, with absolutely no wind: the perfect scenario for Red Bull Heavy Water and vindication for the expert forecasting Team led by Grant Washburn and powered by Official Partner of this year's Red Bull Heavy Water, Sofar Ocean, who perfectly predicted what we saw today.
However, once the race got underway at Aquatic Park, the tide proved far more of a challenge than anticipated, coupled with an increase in wind and arrival of thick fog, notorious for San Francisco over the Summer months, but treacherous for Red Bull Heavy Water athletes and the APP's expert Safety Teams, whiting out much of the Race Course.
However, in a show of courage and determination, the World's Best grit their teeth and charged on, taking on everything that Mother Nature had to offer and turning it into a survival of the fittest (and bravest) out in what can only be termed as a wild Ocean, further defining the term, "Heavy Water".
Here is snapshot with full recap to follow:
Red Bull Heavy Water, a highlight on the pro Standup Paddleboard circuit, returned to San Francisco today, Friday October 18th, after a cancellation in 2018 due to unfavorable weather conditions. Ideal conditions of over 10ft waves were called early in the weather window of Oct 15 – Nov 7, and athletes from all over the world descended on the Bay Area in anticipation of an event for the history books.
The Men’s title was claimed for the second straight time by pro paddler Casper Steinfath, 26, of Klitmøller, Denmark, an area he likes to call, “Cold Hawaii.” Trailing race leaders Mo Freitas and Connor Baxter for most of the race, Steinfath was nearly 400 meters behind when the paddlers reached the pounding surf at Ocean Beach, where 10 - 15 foot waves were obscured by a dense fog.
“I wanted to conserve energy, for sure. I’m a sprinter, not a long-distance racer,” said Steinfath. “This race is all about keeping your head calm, because we literally couldn’t see the set waves. I’m still in shock. This is by far the wildest and craziest race in the world, and I wish there were more of them.”
This year marked the first time women paddled in the competition, and from the starting gun, North Carolina native April Zilg, current World #2, comfortably led the five-women field, arriving at the beach first. While competition was called off due to deteriorating conditions before they could finish, it was Australian Terrene Black who had made the most headway, to break through the seemingly impenetrable surf at Ocean Beach to be awarded 1st place by Race Officials.
Given the commitment and fortitude of the remaining women taking part, it was deemed appropriate to share the remaining purse equally.
The 13.5km (8 miles) course, paddling through rough waters and strong eddies from Aquatic Park, under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and finishing at Ocean Beach, saw 25 of the world’s best male and female athletes assembled to test their skills against the best of the best in the rapidly growing sport of Standup Paddleboarding.
Split evenly between the male and female categories, $75,000 was designated for the prize purse, along with important points towards the Overall APP World Tour Rankings.
Red Bull Heavy Water Race Director and CEO of the Waterman League, Tristan Boxford, expressed his enthusiasm for the caliber of athletes in the 2019 race, stating,
“It was an incredible show of bravado and skill out in the challenging waters of San Francisco today. Ocean Beach has been regarded as the real equalizer since the inception of Red Bull Heavy Water back in 2016, but this year, the whole course provided what was without a doubt the most challenging and ‘heavy’ race to date. A big congratulations to all our competitors this year - what a spectacular show.”
Here are the Final Results from this year's Red Bull Heavy Water:
1) Casper Steinfath (Denmark)
2) Arthur Arutkin (France)
3) Mo Freitas (Hawaii)
4) Christian Anderson (Denmark)
5) Zane Schweitzer (Hawaii)
6) Kody Kerbox (Hawaii)
7) James Casey (Australia)
8) Fernando Stalla (Mexico)
9) Itzel Delgado (PER) / Slater Trout (USA) /Tyler Bashor (USA) / Martin Vitry (FR) / Connor Baxter (HI) / Riggs Napoleon (HI) / John Hadley (USA) / J Stephens (HI) / Mark Alfaro (USA)
1) Terrene Black
2) April Zilg (USA) / Annie Reickert (HI) / Fiona Wylde (USA) / Shakira Westdorp (AUS)
Red Bull Heavy Water also partnered with San Francisco-based nonprofit Sustainable Surf, advocating for an #oceanpositive event, and committing to a carbon neutral event experience by empowering all involved athletes to off-set their carbon footprint for travel through the innovative SeaTrees initiative.
Red Bull Heavy Water is held in San Francisco, California and all interested parties can visit https://www.redbull.com/us-en/events/heavy-water and www.appworldtour.com/san-fancisco-red-bull-2019 for more information.