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Marcus Hansen and Sonni Honscheid Victorious at Air France Paddle Festival

marcus hansen and sonni honscheid victorious at air france paddle festival 3Start of the 24k Elite Race at the 2018 Air France Paddle Festival. | Photo courtesy: Georgia Schofield / The Paddle League

PUNAAUIA, Tahiti - The Air France Paddle Festival took Tahiti by storm, with one of the most intense races the sport has seen. Around 300 paddlers came out to participate in the 8k Lagoon Race, 24k Elite Race, and 4k Fun Race, alongside a huge crowd of local supporters from the community that joined in on the action. The race course takes paddlers past spectacular views of the coastline and the nearby island of Moorea, however this year, paddlers were distracted by a much bigger and more cruel element - the heat. Althetes were pounded by the blazing sun and blistering heat throughout the day, making an already difficult race that much harder. In spite of the circumstances, the first stop of the Paddle League World Tour was a great kick off to an exciting race season ahead, and a very fun day on the water for all who attended. Check out the highlights from the Elite Race below.

24k Elite Race

marcus hansen and sonni honscheid victorious at air france paddle festival 8Marcus Hansen takes the victory after an epic comeback. | Photo courtesy: Georgia Schofield / The Paddle League

The elite race was a friendly yet fierce competition between the Tahitians and the Internationals. At the sound of the siren, the men were off with Michael Booth, Lincoln Dews, and Titouan Puyo making their way to the front in the first leg. The majority of the race saw Booth as the leader, with Dews and Puyo, along with Marcus Hansen, Steeve Tehotaata, and Manatea Bopp Du Pont battling it out for the second place spot. Booth was nothing short of a paddling machine on the water, creating a huge lead mid-way through the race and leading everyone to believe that the race was now a fight for second. But in the final stretch, Hansen took off, breaking away from the trailing pack, and closing the gap between him and Booth.

 marcus hansen and sonni honscheid victorious at air france paddle festival 6  marcus hansen and sonni honscheid victorious at air france paddle festival 7

Michael Booth and Lincoln Dews battling it out early (left). Steeve Teihotaata finishing 3rd (right). | Photo courtesy: Georgia Schofield / The Paddle League

"I was saving my energy during the race," says Hansen. Throughout the race, he says he tried to hold back on trying to catch every wave he wanted which would kill his energy in the long run. His strategy worked. In the last turn, Hansen, hammering away in an incredible showing of ultra endurance, passed Booth and slid into first place. What was looking to be a sure win for Booth, turned into an incredible performance and well deserved victory from the New Zealander. Booth crossed the finish line closely after, followed by island legend Stevee Tehotaata who gave Tahiti a face on the podium. And in a surprising turn of events, world number one Connor Baxter hit a major wall somewhere along the way, and did not finish the race.

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Start of the Women's Elite Race (left). Sonni Hoenscheid dominating in the women's field (right). | Photo courtesy: Georgia Schofield / The Paddle League

On the women's side, defending champion Sonni Honscheid claimed her second consecutive Air France Paddle Festival title with a crushing win. Honscheid had an early lead, creating distance in the initial upwind stretch and maintaining it throughout the race. Behind her was Japanese darkhorse Yuka Sato along with Fiona Wylde and Olivia Piana, all grinding for a top three finish. Sato broke off from the two, leaving Wylde and Piana to alternate leading and drafting each other. In the end, Wylde was able to pass Piana, rounding out the podium with a full Starboard sweep for the women. The race was grueling all around. "It was the hardest race I've ever done," says Wylde.

marcus hansen and sonni honscheid victorious at air france paddle festivalChampions of the 2018 Air France Paddle Festival - Marcus Hansen and Sonni Honscheid. | Photo courtesy: Georgia Schofield / The Paddle League

In brutal heat that caused many paddlers to abandon the race and retire from heat exhaustion, it was truly impressive to see so many amazing competitors across the board. Surprising results and inspiring performances, the 2018 Air France Paddle Festival was one for the books. Check out the race results below.

Race Results

Elite Men

  1. Marcus Hansen
  2. Michael Booth
  3. Steeve Tehotaata
  4. Titouan Puyo
  5. Manatea Bopp Du Pont
  6. Lorenzo Bennett
  7. Rete Ebb
  8. Haapoua Mai
  9. Georges Cronsteadt
  10. Niuhiti Buillard

Elite Women

  1. Sonni Honscheid
  2. Yuka Sato
  3. Fiona Wylde
  4. Olivia Piana
  5. Sylvana Ozbolt
  6. Hinarii Yiou
  7. Sandrine Berthe
  8. Lauriane Bisch

Open Men

  1. Kevin Kouider
  2. Mathieu Ayard
  3. Arotini Siaou Chin
  4. Serge, Rahiti Haereraaroa
  5. Teiva Veronique
  6. Robert Teaku
  7. Ariihau Bennett
  8. Daniel Tavanae
  9. Rangitea Bennett
  10. Manarii Flores

Open Women

  1. Leeloo Desanti
  2. Mahia Berdichevski-Poroi
  3. Floriane Broustal
  4. Regine Calmel
  5. Nathalie Haumani
  6. Haniarii Brillant
  7. Martine Fan
  8. Cindy Bernardino
  9. Meherio, Manuhere Mollon
  10. Vahine Moea Marama

Grom Race Boys

  1. Heremoana Chapelier
  2. Tangaroa Iotefa
  3. Dewk Van Cam
  4. Enzo Costa-Lacombe
  5. Manoa Goyat
  6. Hotuitehere Van Sam
  7. Mataiva Paro Ellis
  8. Teva Jourdaine
  9. Maunaterai Vairaaroa
  10. Manatoa Luciani
  11. Kehji Desanti

Grom Race Girls 

  1. Kimleen Van Cam

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Last modified onMonday, 09 April 2018 17:21
Marissa Scheid

Born and raised in the Golden State, Marissa Scheid is a true California girl through and through. She grew up in Livermore, a Northern California city in the suburbs of San Francisco's Easy Bay Area, where she developed a passion for writing and a love for competitive sports, especially soccer. After finishing high school, she moved down the coast to San Diego, California to study World Literature at UCSD and play for the university's collegiate soccer team. Transplanted from a town in the wine country to one of California's most beautiful coastal cities, she quickly grew an affinity for the water and all aspects of the ocean lifestyle.

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