OAHU, Hawaii - It was an epic close to the 2015 season at Turtle Bay, as we saw extremely competitive racing and dramatic finishes in both the long distance and sprint racing that led to the crowning of 2 new World Champions for 2015. Naish's Kai Lenny came into this final event with 2 wins and a second under his belt, needing to get a 3rd place or better in this Final event of the year in order to secure the 2015 World Racing Title. With a dominant performance in the World Series Sprint Racing on the final day of action at Turtle Bay, Kai was able to secure the event win, his 3rd of the season, and in doing so, the 2015 World Championship Title.
Kai is without doubt the most dominant competitive athlete in the sport so far, with 4 Surfing World Titles under his belt and now 3 for Racing, and it should be noted, that since the inception of the World Tour back in 2010 (when he entered his first event as a wild card at Sunset Beach), there hasn't been a single year he hasn't held a World Title, securing both Racing & Surfing Titles in 2013. An incredible achievement by this young World Champion and one thing is clear, it has only just begun, as Kai is only 23 years old!
Meanwhile in the women's, FCS athlete Candice Appleby was officially crowned World Champion at the World Series Finals at Turtle Bay, presented by Naish with her final win of the season capping a truly dominant year on Tour. Surprisingly, this was her maiden year on the Stand Up World Series, and as one of the most dangerous double threats as a competitor across both Surfing and Racing, there is no doubt that Candice will be looking to secure another racing World Title in 2016, but also a Surfing World Title, strengthened by the confidence gained from her performance in 2015. We look forward to seeing Candice back in Hawaii for the World Tour Opener of the 2016 season in February and congratulate her on what has been an incredible year.
Make sure to check out all the highlights and photos from this weekend's racing, but also from the entire season by scrolling through the playlist on the front page of www.watermanleague.com and checking out the galleries. In the meantime, stay tuned for the build up to a massive new season in 2016, as the professional platform is stepped up to a whole new level.
Kai Lenny puts on a dominant performance in the sprint racing to take the overall event win at the Turtle Bay World Series Finals. | Photo Courtesy: Waterman League
Kai Lenny came into this last event of the year in the ratings lead, but needed to solidify his position with a strong finish here at the World Series Finals presented by Naish. The first day saw arch rival, Title Contender and 2014 World Champion Connor Baxter put on a dominant performance in the long distance race, establishing a solid lead that would be enough to unsettle any Title Contender, as Kai would need to maintain his composure coming into the second day of racing in order to stay on target for the Title. However, there is no doubt that two of Kai's greatest strengths are surf racing and the ability to thrive under pressure. As the day progressed, his dominant performances made his intentions clear, with a climax in the final heat of the day as he was able to catch a victory wave to the finish line, far ahead of the other 7 finalists. This feat was enough to secure him not only the event win, but the World Championship Title for 2015.
An incredible weekend of action for the newly crowned World Champion to cap an impressive year, as Kai will return to Maui and make the most of what is predicted to be a magical winter surf season here in Hawaii.
Connor Baxter secures 2nd at the World Series Finals & overall for 2015, relinquishing the World Title, but looking faster than ever. | Photo Courtesy: Waterman League
Starboard SUP athlete Connor Baxter put on a dominant performance on Day 1 of the World Series Finals presented by Naish, with a solid 4 minute lead over 2nd place finisher Kai Lenny. However, Connor knew that he would have to pull out all the stops in order to secure the event and World Title for 2015, especially coming up against Kai once again in the Sprint Racing format. Connor made his way through the rounds to the Final, so it would once again, like in 2012 & 2013 come down to this final heat to decide the Title, as he, Kai and Starboard SUP teammate Zane Schweitzer, blasted off the start.
While Kai was able to establish a bit of a gap early, the door was still open for Connor to catch up, especially as a large set wave came through as they headed in on the first lap and could have potentially given him the push he needed. However, in an uncharacteristic turn of events, both Connor & Zane went down on the wave that could have saved them, effectively putting them out of the running for the finals, leaving them in 7th and 8th respectively for the sprints. However, it was enough for Connor to secure 2nd place behind Kai in the event, having to settle for 2nd place overall for the year, as he will now turn his attention to the winter surf season, but also prepare himself to earn back the yellow jersey and the coveted spot at the top of the World.
Bullet Obra is no longer a dark horse - he is a serious double threat on both the Stand Up World Tour & World Series. | Photo Courtesy: Waterman League
For those in the know, Bullet Obra has long been regarded as one of the most talented up and coming Stand Up Paddle surfers out of Hawaii, with a Finals finish in the 2011 Hawaii Island Finals, but more recently, with a solid finish in Tahiti earning him the coveted Air Tahiti Nui best barrel award. This year however, the world's best have been taken aback by a new face on the racing scene, as Bullet has stepped up beyond what anyone could have imagined and immediately established himself as a major threat in both distance and sprint racing.
After an impressive finish at the US Open of Stand Up Paddling last month and another impressive performance at the Pacific Paddle Games, Bullet returned home to Oahu's Fabled North Shore, to put on a performance to remember, with a 5th place finish in the long distance followed by a podium finish (3rd) in the sprint racing to secure 3rd place overall for the event. It is now clear that Bullet is no longer the dark horse coming into the World Series in 2016, but he is now well and truly a major force to be reckoned with as we see this double threat step up to do battle and take down the world's best.
Candice Appleby takes on one of her closest battles of the year here at the World Series Finals, but maintains her unbeaten streak. | Photo Courtesy: Waterman League
Candice Appleby (Infinity) has a lot of reason to smile - she has had an incredible year on the World Series this year, with an unbeaten record for the year and another strong finish here at Turtle Bay. However the World Series Finals was perhaps her toughest battle yet, as she came up against an on form Fiona Wylde (Starboard, Werner Paddles) who took the long distance victory in dramatic style. While the pressure of securing the World Title was off, Candice is one of the fiercest competitors in the sport, as she stepped up to do battle on the final day of competition with refreshed vigor and commitment.
The first heat was tough for her, with Fiona once again taking the win, but a dominant performance in both heat 2 and 3 was enough to secure her the victory in the World Series Sprints, leading to a tie between her and Fiona with a win a piece for the overall event title. Utilizing the comparative time analysis, it was determined that Candice had won by 6 seconds over Fiona (when multiplied up to match the long distance timing), allowing her to secure victory at the 2015 World Series Finals at Turtle Bay presented by Naish, and making it 4 wins from 4 this season.
Watch out for Fiona Wylde who is one of Stand Up Paddling's brightest stars and destined for great things, finishing in 2nd. | Photo Courtesy: Waterman League
Fiona Wylde kicked off her year by earning her place in the Main event of the World Tour Men's competition at Sunset Beach by getting through the Open Trials in solid surf. She then attacked the World Series season with strong finishes in both Japan and California, before heading out to Hawaii for the prestigious World Series Finals at Turtle Bay, presented by Naish. Day 1 saw a truly dominant and unprecedented performance from the young talent from Oregon, as she stole victory and finished over 8 minutes ahead of the next competitor Candice Appleby in the challenging course from Turtle Bay to Haleiwa. Moving onto the World Series Sprints on day 2, Fiona knew what she had to do, with a strong finish in heat 1 out of 3. However a mistake in heat 2 put her back, in particular as far as the gap behind Candice was concerned, and then again in heat 3, where Candice was able to breakaway to take a solid win.
In an incredibly close margin, Fiona was edged into 2nd by the smallest of margins, having to settle for second overall for the event, but also in the overall World Rankings, as Fiona once again establishes herself as one of the strongest female competitors in the world.
Sonni Honsheid puts on another strong performance on Day 2 of the World Series Finals to secure 3rd place overall for the event. | Photo Courtesy: Waterman League
SIC Maui's Sonni Honscheid has long been regarded as one of Europe's leading lights, spending much of her year on the beautiful island of Maui, but also back in her home country of Germany, and once again showed her strengths, particularly when it comes to distance paddling on Day 1 of the World Series Finals. Having said that, Sonni is equally as comfortable in the surf, putting on a solid performance in the World Series Sprints that allowed her to secure 3rd place overall for the event. There is no doubt that Sonni will be a face to watch out for in 2016, as the Stand Up World Series steps up to a whole new level.
The Stars of the future take center stage at the Na Kama Kai Youth Challenge, as part of the World Series Finals at Turtle Bay. | Photo Courtesy: Waterman League
One of the most exciting components of the World Series Finals at Turtle Bay, presented by Naish is the opportunity to see the stars of the future at play in Kuilima Cove for the Na Kama Kai Youth Challenge. This year's event saw under 10 and over 10 year-old divisions, all competing on Naish One inflatables for a chance at victory here at Turtle Bay with World Champions watching on. In the end, it was Marley who won in the Over 10 division, with Trevor taking victory in the Under 10s. While you might not have heard of these names yet, you will soon, as these young athletes are the stars of the future and will be the ones that the likes of Kai Lenny and Candice Appleby will pass on the torch too when the time is right.
This Youth Challenge celebrates the work that the Hawaii non profit Na Kama Kai does to provide unique ocean sports, culture and education opportunities for Hawaii's youth, that is also complemented by a Clinic that was hosted on Day 1. Find out more about Na Kama Kai by going to www.nakamakai.org
Turtle Bay once again proves to be the ultimate close to the World Series, with big things are in store for 2016 and beyond. | Photo Courtesy: Waterman League / Matty Schweitzer
While the conditions were not as radical as they were at the 2014 World Series Finals, they did provide a unique showcase of World Championship Racing at its very best and a magical spectacle for viewers on site and online. With beautiful and groomed conditions for the World Series Sprints on Day 2, we saw some incredibly exciting racing and the World's best stepping it up once again for the World Championship Titles and for the thrill of competing in Stand Up Paddle racing's ultimate arena at Turtle Bay.
Big thanks to the sponsors of the World Series Finals, from event host, Turtle Bay Resort, to presenting partner, Naish, FIAT and their all new 500x, Pacifico and locally here in Oahu, Surf'n'Sea, your North Shore stop for all things Stand Up Paddle. Turtle Bay Resort is the official global headquarters for the Waterman League and it is also where the World Surfing Tour starts and World Racing Series ends, as it continues to celebrate its unique connection to water sports and culture here on Oahu's Fabled North Shore.
As we look ahead to 2016, there are major developments afoot for the Waterman League, as the Tour & Series will witness a major step forward for 2016 and beyond, all starting with a return to Sunset Beach on the North Shore from the 8th - 20th February for the 7th edition of the World Championship Surfing Tour Opener.
So make sure to stay tuned for all the news and updates from the World Surfing Tour, World Racing Series and its athletes as we build up to what will be a dramatic 2016 at watermanleague.com