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1st Pro Stand Up Paddleboarding Event Draws 75 Competitors

PR and California racers take top honors

Puerto Rican Adrian Garcia (subdivision men 14 ‘), Ernie Johnson from California (subdivision men 12’6”) and Heather Baus from Puerto Rico (subdivision women) were champions of the first professional competition Paddleboarding Stand Up Race in Puerto Rico held November 15 in Condado Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean.

A fleet of 75 competitors from California, Florida, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico participated in this unique event. The two main categories were "Elite" for high-level competitors, with a distance of 7.5 miles around the islet of San Juan, and "Weekend Warriors" for recreational competitors with a three-mile course in the lagoon and bay of San Juan. For children three to 11 years, "Keiki Kids” paddled right in front of the beach. The Elites were raced for $1000 in cash and the rest rowed for trophies.

A nice 4’ ground swell was running but the soft south wind helped keep the sea surface calm, which facilitated new record ‘round San Juan times. The Elites and Weekend Warriors took off together at 9:30 in front inside the lagoon, and seconds later came face to face with some challenging overhead waves. While the Elites went out to paddle around the islet of San Juan, the Weekend Warriors tacked back to make their way into the lagoon.

From the beginning, Garcia, paddling on competition BARK 14 ‘, and Johnson in the 12’6 category, grabbed the lead leaving behind the rest of the fleet. After a spectacular three-mile run down the north coast of San Juan, they reached the San Juan Bay entrance in front of the imposing 500-year old El Morro Castle.  Inspired by history, Garcia found a second wind that drove him to a significant advantage in the long but easy upwind leg back to lagoon. Hundreds of fans waiting for him cheered the local hero. Ernie “EJ” Johnson, a professional athlete from California who traveled to PR only for this tournament, dominated the 12’6 category but had no choice but to watch local Adrian Garcia take the overall win by a little over two minutes after the 65 minute paddle.

In the women’s category, Heather Baus killed her competition. This energetic athlete was not content with a wide margin win all over the rest of the Elite women, but went on to beat most men with her 16th overall in the 31-strong Elite fleet. This achievement is more remarkable because Baus interrupted her training for the past two months to address a serious medical condition.

Weekend Warriors enjoyed the day’s most fun race, their three-stage course punctuated by some exciting runs on foot, oar in hand, on the Lagoon Park. The fans were cheering as the warriors dismounted their rides at the beach and ran short sprint around the sponsor’s tents. Then, back on board for the next leg. Racers raved about this racing format that made the three miles total distance feel like a, well, a run in the park.

The Keikis event was suddenly interrupted by a massive deluge that fell moments after completing the first kid’s race. Sunday’s rains may have drowned the awards but not the enthusiasm of the competitors for the event.

Foreigners promised to return to defend their titles and locals promise to kick all asses! The quarrel will be resolved amicably next November with a bigger, better and richer SUP Run 2010.

Article submitted By Jaime Torres, SUP Run Pro Edition

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Photo courtesy Live Watersports/Sam Root

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