Connor Baxter wins the Technical Race at the 2015 ISA World Championships & Brings back Gold for Hawaii
The 2015 ISA World Championship in Sayulita Mexico was by far one of the most fun events ever. It was the first time for team Hawaii showing up and competing. The reason why the contest was so much fun was because we had 27 different countries come together for a week-long battle. It was a nice change up to be able to cheer for your fellow teammates and make game plans with them so everyone did well.
The contest started off with the march down the street and then the pouring of the world sands. We marched in alphabetical order through the town of Sayulita. The whole town was on the side of the street cheering us on while we walked to the beach where we would pour the sand. It was so cool to see how excited and welcoming everyone was to have us there. When we got to the stage they called up each country one by one to pour the sand from their home spot. By the end there was so many different colors of sand in the box, which was super cool to see.
The next day was the start of male and female surf and all I had to do was cheer on Zane, Mo and Jenny. They all did super good and all advanced to the next round. The team all got some good food and got some rest for the distance race for the women for day two. The next day was super hot and the course looked super grueling, but our Hawaii SUP and prone women paddlers hammered it out and both crossed the line super strong. I payed close attention to the race, because I was racing the next day on the same course. I did my pre-race ritual the night before and got in the zone.
I rolled up to the beach and knew who was my competition and what I had to do. I did a quick paddle and run on the beach to warm up. As soon as I could line up for the start I picked my spot and got in the zone. When the horn blew I sprinted to the beach and hit the water with great momentum. I sprinted hard for a bit then pulled into the train. It was a 20km race so I knew I had to save my energy. It was four laps that had 6 buoy turns and four were in the surf area which I was stoked on. Zane and I knew we both had to do good for the overall points.
The top 20 of us all stayed together for the whole race all switching places and every lap got faster and faster. Coming into the last lap I was in the worst spot sitting in 10th place. So coming into fourth to last buoy I pushed hard and got into 7th place. At this time 1st and 2nd pulled away and were in there own zone but the rest of us had to fight to the end.
I was still in 7th turning the last few buoys and thought it was over but when I turned the last buoy I snuck into a set wave that caught me up with 6th, 5th, 4th and 3rd. So I knew I had it with my legs and I used all the momentum I had and got just inches in front before I hit the beach. I didn’t look back and sprinted up the beach as hard as I could. I managed to go from 7th to 3rd right in front of fellow team member Zane. I was super beat but had two days to rest and prepare for the technical race.
The two days in between were the surfing days where Mo Freitas and Zane Schweitzer killed it. Going into the last two days I had to race two races the qualifying round for the SUP Technical and the Team Relay. I had to play it smart in both races. I paddled and raced just as hard as I needed to advance – but have enough fuel in the tank for the next day. Mo Freitas and I both made it through the qualifiers for the Finals of the Technical Race – and our Relay Team also made through to the finals which was the next day.
I knew the course and the conditions, which were for sure going play in my favor. I got a big meal in me and a great night of sleep so I was ready for action the next day. The Hawaii team rolled up to the beach first and started talking about strategies for both the Relay Race, which was the first race of the morning and also for our Technical Race for both SUP and Prone.
For the relay team it started off with women prone – then to male prone – next was female SUP and I was the anchor and would finished it off. We had a great start but the top three girls pulled away from us. Then it was a fight for fourth place. When Kai Hall went out he made sure we stayed in that fourth place spot. We had to battle, but Rachel hammered out to a wave that allowed us to have a little lead on fifth and sixth place. Then it was my turn and I hit it hard and sprinted to the first buoy and turned it quickly so I could get on a wave. When the wave finally came to me Dylan Frick from South Africa had caught the wave and caught up to me. I knew in my mind I had this because I do a lot of training on the beach – so when I hit the sand I sprinted as hard as I could and got us in the fourth place spot. And our team had another medal for Hawaii.
I quickly got into the shade so I could catch my breath and rest up before the technical finals, which was going to be the last event for the ISA Championships.
I wanted to finish up with a bang so I knew I had to have a great start. I hit the water with a lot of speed and somehow got into a nice little backwash bump – and then had a small hiccup – which put me into tenth place in all the mixed up water. Not how I wanted to start. I knew if I wanted to win I would have to hammer as hard as possible. Right after the first buoy turn I put my head down and passed a few people. After the next turn there was some small bumps and I used it to my advantage and gained on first place.
Then luckily for me there was pile up on the inside turn that allowed me to sneak into second place. I turned the last buoy for the first lap and snuck onto a wave with Slater and Casper. After the beach run I pushed into first and once I got into that spot I didn’t let go of it. When I turn the second buoy I pushed hard and caught a few small bumps which made a nice little gap. After I turned the inside buoy I noticed Mo right next to me and we had a nice lead on third place.
I kept the pedal to metal for the last two laps so no one could catch up. Mo and I turned the last buoy together and I once again knew it was going to be a sprint on the beach. So I took a few deep breaths before I hit the beach so I could sprint as hard as possible. I managed to hop onto a little bump in front of Mo and sprinted up the beach in first place. I am so unbelievably stoked to get Gold and bring it home for Hawaii.
It was a great week for Team Hawaii ending up in third place overall at the World Championships. Team USA was first and Team Australia second. And individually – I ended up with 4 medals – 1 Gold, 2 Bronze and 1 Copper. Super stoked.
None of this would have been possible without my amazing sponsors – Starboard, Discovery Land Company, Dakine, Maui Jim Sunglasses, Rainbow Sandals, Futures Fins, Hammer Nutrition, GoPro, Waterman’s Sunscreen, OnIt Pro and Hi-Tech Sports.
Also a big Mahalo to all the event organizers and all the volunteers. It was an incredible time in Sayulita!
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