Updated: Mar 1
GREAT BRITAIN ON TOP OF THE WORLD
WINNING A GOLD, SILVER AND BRONZE IN THE INDIVIDUAL EVENTS AND SILVER AND BRONZE IN THE TEAM NATIONS CUPS
Photo credits Ó SupJunkie
Some of the 14 Athletes from Great Britain that made the trip to Gdynia
The 3rd ICF Stand-up Paddling World Championships saw nearly 500 competitors from 42 countries compete over the 5-days to crown this year’s SUP World Champions.
Great Britain had 14 athletes who made the trip including the teams selected by British Canoeing to represent Team GB in the Nations Cup Technical and Distance events.
Gdynia is a seaport on the polish Baltic coast and was a superb location for the event with hotels, promenades, beach restaurants and local historic attractions. Across the stunning bay was the most incredible set up of athlete’s areas, secure board storage for hundreds of 14ft race boards, huge screens to watch events unfold and spectator areas.
Blue Ewer, 9th in the Open Men’s Sprint A Final
Wednesday saw some preliminary rounds for the men’s sprinting and, in the evening, an opening ceremony. Then we kicked off the main events with the Sprints on Thursday. Lining up for the start next to some of the world's best we had ICF volunteers holding the tail of our boards, a normal procedure in ICF seated disciplines. However, as we are standing, this represents an additional challenge. Seeing other competitors losing balance and falling in before for the start meant we approached with some trepidation.
Suddenly those starting buckets that we all love to hate from our own national sprint course seemed so much more appealing! So, coaches, add that to your constraints led approach because it certainly requires some practice.
Paddling in temporary lanes, it was difficult to see and maintain course which combined with large wake and reverb caused some carnage in the early rounds with a paddler free for all cutting across lanes.
After a dominating start Ben Moreham was 5th in the second round heats following being completely cut off by two paddlers crossing his lane.
Additional discipline was enforced by the later rounds in which the excitement built with an electric atmosphere.
Ben Moreham was dominating his early rounds before some interesting tactics blocked his progress
The British supporters were incredible throughout the week bringing a passion and spirit to the event that gave the impression of a much larger presence. The cheering reached unbelievable heights by the time we were witnessing our paddlers in their respective finals.
This saw Great Britain achieve some fantastic results with Emily Evans finishing first and Holly Pye 8th in the Open Ladies B final.
Marie Buchanan placed 6th Ladies 40+ final, Sarah Perkins 6th Ladies 50+final and Blue Ewer was 9th in the Men’s Open A Final.
Emily Evans winning the Open Ladies Sprint B Final
For the Juniors Will Keetley was 7th in Sprint Final B and Molly McKibben 2nd in Sprint Final C.
The forecast storm arrived on Thursday night and we awoke to wild winds, rain, angry seas and postponement of the long-distance race.
A tense wait followed as further postponements were made until eventually, we lined up for the start of what was to be a most challenging race.
THE LONG DISTANCE RACE
GREAT BRITAIN INDIVIDUAL GOLD, SILVER AND TEAM BRONZE
With the swell crashing towards us we waded out over the sand bar through the breaking waves to start the 4 laps with 25 knot gusts and confused 1.5 M swell for this 16km long distance race.
The start of the 16km Ocean Distance Race with GB support cheering on. Photo credit Georgie Photography, Planet Canoe
As I made good progress staying in the mix, I soon saw the familiar colours of Holly Pye and Marie Buchanan’s wetsuits and their Starboards drawing past as they progressed towards the front.
Holly spends much of her training sup surfing and downwinding near Plymouth and having spent time on the Eurotour this year her experienced showed. Marie Buchanan, a seasoned GB team member with enormous experience similarly trains around the South Devon coastline. I regularly train in these sorts of conditions on the Solent at Hayling Island. So being ocean paddlers, we settled into a rhythm and started to enjoy some of the larger bumps whilst looking forward to the downwind section.
Unfortunately, the downwind had a turbulent groundswell, wind swell and chop mixing in all directions like a giant washing machine so apart from catching the odd glide it was more of riding an ocean rodeo.
We all took some swims and after the second time hauling myself out of the freezing Baltic Sea my heart sank as I saw my leash was wrapped around my fin. The only way to continue was to jump back in to untangle it and remount. This, combined with the fierce and bitter wind was a killer.
I fought hard to complete a 3rd lap but by now was shaking with the cold so violently that I just knew I had to make the safe but bitterly disappointing decision to retire. It was a similar story for Emily Evans who despite being an extremely skilled ocean paddler in the biggest conditions, also became overcome with the cold to retire after two laps.
Felicity Hurst was open to say these conditions were beyond her current experience but still had a positive attitude and started the race to complete her one lap. Many experienced and world class paddlers retired after 1 lap or decided not to start.
Blue Ewer looked super strong showing his experience in all conditions. With plenty of international racing experience between them, he and Ben Moreham both completed the Open Men’s race for fantastic results.
MARIE BUCHANAN IS LONG DISTANCE ICF WORLD CHAMPION
Marie Buchanan dominated the Ladies 40+ field to take the Gold Medal.
Holly Pye completed the race finishing an incredible 13th place in the Open Ladies category.
The GB team of Holly Pye, Sonya Brotherton, Emily Evans and Felicity Hurst won the Bronze in the Nations Cup.
In the Open men’s race Blue Ewer finished in 21st with Ben Moreham in 22nd.
For the Juniors, Will Keetley finished in 31st position.
Later in the day Sarah Perkins, another paddler with amazing talent in the surf and on the ocean bumps, relished the conditions and finished the Ladies 50+ to take the Silver medal.
Steve Lynn was on the start line for the Men’s 50+ alongside the Junior boys and commented later how impressed he was with the sheer numbers of these youngsters from other countries and their incredible excitement to be there.
This is something Great Britain really need to focus on now with a long-term athlete development program.
Sarah Perkins and Steve Lynn celebrating their distance race.
Steve is another experienced ocean paddler that trains in all conditions and had a great race to finish 19th overall in a large field.
Steve Lynn bib 439 centre of shot starting the Men’s 50+ distance race to finish 19th overall.
THE TECHNICAL RACES
GREAT BRITAIN INDIVIDUAL SILVER, BRONZE AND TEAM SILVER
Conditions were much improved for the technical heats on Saturday over a 1km course with 8 buoy turns. Another day of intoxicating atmosphere with all paddlers putting in strong performances.
Blue Ewer had his fortunes dictated by some foul play in his semi-final involving being pushed in the ribs by a paddle at a buoy turn. The competitor that did this was disqualified but that was no consolation for Blue who finished 6th so missed out on the final he looked sure to do well in. Some say that’s the nature of technical racing but this was a blow too far, literally.
In the Open Ladies Holly Pye continued her consistent form progressing through the rounds for another overall 13th position.
Holly Pye 13th place overall in the Ladies Open Technical
Emily Evans finished overall 15th to top off an incredible month of international competition.
Verity Thomas known as “VeeJay” had a great heat against a stacked field in the Open Ladies to finish 4th and progress to the semi-finals. Unfortunately, as VeeJay ran for the finish she heard the snap of a calf muscle tear which put an end to her championship campaign. Veejay continued to be a pivotal team member and had secured enough points to add another medal to the
GB tally, this time a Silver with the GB Technical Team along with Holly Pye and Emily Evans.
VeeJay 4th in her Open Ladies heat to qualify for the semi finals
The technical course was inventive and great fun with still a few bumps and texture. I was very happy to take a qualifying spot for the Ladies Open semi – finals with a 4th place
Felicity Hurst enjoyed her technical heat finishing in 7th
Marie Buchanan put in another dominating performance for a win in her Ladies 40+ heats and semi-final to then claim her second medal of the championship in the final with a Silver.
Marie Buchanan Silver in the Ladies 40+ Technical
Sarah Perkins had another outstanding performance in the Ladies 50+ Technical race winning the Bronze medal.
Anni Ridsdill Smith topped qualifying for her Sprints semi with another fantastic 4th to qualify for the technical semi finals for Ladies 50+ where she finished 8th.
A huge and deserving achievement for one of our best known female paddlers that tirelessly works to help and inspire others. Anni competes with enormous pride to be representing Great Britain and is a huge support to us all.
In the Juniors, Molly McKibben finished her impressive week with 8th place in Sunday’s technical B final.
Will Keetley continued his consistent form to finish 11th overall by coming 3rd in his B Final.
We would like to thank the International Canoe Federation and all of their volunteers, the Polish Canoe Federation, the Polish authorities and city of Gdynia for hosting this event.
We also need to mention the amazing supporters both at the championships and at home to whom we were so appreciative of.
I will leave the final comment to the biggest supporter of British SUP, Sarah Elizabeth Thornely of SupJunkie; "It has been such a privilege to follow and support the Team from the UK, most of whom we know personally from the race circuit. To see them compete against some of the best paddlers in the World and perform so well was just wonderful. We are proud of them all and the way they have shown pure Team spirit at these Championships."
Holly Pye and Verity Thomas aka “VeeJay”
Ian McCarthy, who competed in the men’s 40+ finishing 7th in his sprint heat and 6th in his technical heat
Photo credits Ó SupJunkie