Jordanelle on board with SUP
August 3, 2010
For 15-year-old Slater Trout to be winded, it takes some doing.
The Jordanelle State Park was up to the task at midday Saturday, when many of the world’s premiere stand-up paddle surfers competed in the H2O Overdrive SUP CUP series near the Hailstone Recreation Area. Trout, a soon-to-be high school sophomore, won the men’s pro race and collected a fat wad of cash for a truck he can’t yet drive – but not before enduring a five-mile ride at an altitude of more than 6,000 feet.
"There was no air," said the Hawaii native. "It was so thin up here. I was coughing the whole time, my nose started bleeding in the middle, I couldn’t get power, and it was one of the most brutal races I’ve ever done."
Stand-up paddle surfing (SUP), an up-and-coming sport for water enthusiasts, involves a specialized surfboard and a long paddle which propels the rider through the water and helps him or her maintain balance. Most of the sport’s participants hail from Hawaii and California, and the only other inland high-elevation lake to host an SUP event is Lake Tahoe.
"Many of the athletes are absolutely, truly suffering," said beach master Kelly French. "All the California guys who came from sea level – you finish your second lap out here, you’re on your third, and you’re starting to bonk. Your lungs are screaming. You feel like you’ve already smoked a pack of cigarettes just finishing the first two laps."
With a purse of $5,000 up for grabs in the professional race, bongo drums rattled and crack organizer Barrett Tester yelled out noteworthy accolades for each contestant between laps as they dismounted, ran around a yellow flag on the beach, and then swan dived back out onto their 14-foot boards.
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"The sport is really growing," said Hawaii’s Candace Applebee, the top-rated women’s racer in the world, who solidified her claim to that spot with an easy victory Saturday. "A lot of people are calling it the fastest growing sport in the world, and it’s really great because there are so many different disciplines in the sport. Whether you’re a beginner or one of the most experienced water athletes in the world, there’s something you can do in it to challenge yourself."
Prior to the pro race, about 40 amateur paddlers atop crafts of all sizes took part in the Ghost Town Paddle. Participants – most from Utah – travelled a four-mile loop above the submerged ghost town of Keetley.
"We really wanted our Ghost Town Paddle to be focused on bringing Utahns out to the race," said Randy Olshen, co-founder and CEO of H2O Overdrive, a sports hydration company based in Kamas. "We had a great turnout and they all had a blast. A lot of people were gasping for air."
In the pro race, which was sanctioned by the World Paddling Association, a five-mile course tested the endurance and technical skills of some of the world’s best premier athletes. Although used to riding big waves, with the surf carrying them into shore for "turnarounds" between laps, the ocean farers made do on the lake.
"The water on the outside (of the course) was really choppy and tippy and hard to go on, but other than that it was a beautiful spot, sunny day," Trout said after topping the men’s field by enough time to dry off. Trout, who said he would spend his prize money on a lift kit for his new Toyota Tundra, will next attend a 32-mile race around Manhattan Island on Aug. 13.
"It’s going to be a fun race and it’s going to be a long one, but at least it’s nice and warm and there’s air there," he said.
A crowd favorite at the Jordanelle – and likely everywhere he goes – was 12-year-old Riggs Napoleon. Napoleon was faster than a number of the pros despite falling off his board trying to remount after a turnaround and weighing about 150 pounds less than some of the sport’s top-rated athletes.
The icing on the pre-teen’s cake: Napoleon completed the 32-mile Molokai to Oahu race in his native Hawaii just a week beforehand. "I’ll bet he had 1,000 people on the beach go crazy when he finished," French said.
Napoleon’s grandfather was a famous outrigger who made the Molokai to Oahu trip 50 times, and his father, Aaron, is a well-known North Shore lifeguard.
"Right when I got out of the hospital, I think I went in the water," Napoleon said.
"He’s got the true Hawaii waterman blood and he’s just a phenomenal talent," Applebee said. "He’s a really great kid and just a really good ambassador for the sport."
Olshen said it’s not that unusual that a smaller competitor will keep pace with his bigger foes – even if some of them could pass for professional bodybuilders.
"Bigger means they’re going to be lagging in the water more," Olshen said. "Smaller and lighter means you’re on top of the water and you can travel faster. Bigger means you have more muscles so you have more power, whereas a little guy doesn’t have enough power. It’s just kind of interesting how it all works out in the wash."
All proceeds from the event benefitted the National Ability Center.