The Battle of the Paddle (BoP) is upon us, again! How did it get here SO fast?? What does Team Hobie have going on?? Are they ready?? Who is racing?? What are they racing?? Have they been training?? Are they drowning in a sea of hype??
If you are like me, and you feel like you have a million question for our gifted paddlers, don’t worry; I’ll take you through the top ten questions our team has been getting asked leading into the BoP. Hopefully, by the time Kelly French yells “Are you ready?!!!!”, you’ll have answers and be ready to cheer on your favorite Hobian!
I talked with Brandi Baksic, Byron Kurt, Jay Wild, and Colin McPhillips. (I couldn’t get a hold of Rob Pelkey in time to get his thoughts as he was in Japan, but here is a link to a fun tribute we made for him after he won the California Waterman Championship.) Here are their thoughts on all things BoP! Enjoy!!
1. What events are you in at The Battle of the Paddle?
Byron: Elite race, Distance race, and the relay.
Jay: Elite Race, Distance race, and if they have a spot, I’ll be on a relay for Hobie.
Brandi: Elite Race, distance race, and the relay… but if I win the elite, I won’t do anything else! :)
Colin: Elite race, distance, and the relay… and I’ll probably paddle the fun race with my kids.
2. How have your finishes in the elite race been in the past?
Byron: My best finish was 5th in Hawaii in 2010. In 2009 I was 16th, 2010 (Dana Point Battle) I was 17th. Then last year I was 42nd…. I was injured and had a staff infection, so as I was going down hill, everyone else was going up.. I was behind the 8 ball before the race ever started.
Jay: This is my 3rd Battle.. I was 37th, then 16th, then 16th again. My goal will always be to be in the top ten.
Brandi: Three years ago, I got 3rd, then the past two years I was second.
Colin: Two top tens, then 11th… and last year I was 18th or 20th… I don’t remember. As long as I beat Byron Kurt, I’ve achieved my goal. haha!
3. What has your training been like leading into the event?
Byron: Good. Finally. My training is aggressive, I’ve been duplicating the BoP courses. I’m spending my time conditioning and training with Brandi-playing cat and mouse. She goes out first, then I try and chase her down and she tries to stay out front. Age is going to be a factor for both of us… haha.
Jay: I just came off 3 weeks of training for a 9 man (outrigger) Catalina to Newport race. Most of that time I spent in an OC1. This next week will be all SUP… short sprints, buoy turns, and beach runs.
Brandi: The past three weeks I’ve been training with Byron, doing a longer version of the BoP elite course. He gives me a head start then tries to catch me. Lately he has been getting me.. which means either he is getting faster, or I’m getting slower. Going into the next week, it is time to taper so we will see on race day if the training paid off.
Colin: Surfing. Training for me is always about surfing… I haven’t trained very much on flat water, defiantly slipped on my miles. So, I’m just doing as much regular and SUP surfing as I can.
4. Who is your biggest competition?
Byron: Everyone is my competition. There are so many factors out of your control in the elite race… miss a wave and you can be out of contention just off that miss.
Jay: I just want to be first one to finish from Team Hobie..haha.. just kidding. Everyone is so fast, they are all competition. That is why being in the top ten would be great.. “top ten in the world”, but as of now, there are 15 faster than me. They are my main focus.
Brandi: Always Candice… If you look at the past results the same group of girls have always been at the top. Morgan, Jenny, Gillian, Rachel, Annabel.. even though the sport has had immense growth, it is the same girls at the top for three years, but this could be a year when other girls breakout. Girls from Canada, Australia… it can be anyone this year.
Colin: Everyone. It’s the Battle.. you can have a good start, you can get the waves, you can be in it. Realistically you can’t keep pace with Jamie, Conner, Kai and the like, but if you get lucky, get the waves and they miss.. you are in it. I want to get a good start, trail the top pack, get the waves, stay out of turmoil and who knows where I’ll finish, I’m looking forward to getting in the mix.
5. What is your favorite past memory from the BoP?
Byron: Getting 5th in Hawaii. I paddled a strong smart race.
Jay: The first year I competed, going into the turn at the Hammer.. it just… it was chaos. Total carnage and chaos. It was difficult to even figure out which way to get out of it. But, I learned more in that one turn than anything else.
Brandi: The first year I competed, I got 3rd and I had only been paddling for a few months.
Colin: I like everything… the motocross style. My best moments are when we are in it, banging boards and banging paddles, the collisions. Those are always my favorite memories.
6. What is your favorite event at the BoP?
Byron: The elite race. By far.
Jay: The relay. By then all the pressure is off and you are just racing for a good time.
Brandi: The relay. I place more personal emphasis on the elite, but the relay is way more fun. No matter what place you are in.
Colin: The relay. It gets everyone involved. The camaraderie on the beach at the start is the best part of the weekend.
7. What is either a bad memory, or maybe something you would change if you could from a past BoP?
Byron: In the 2010 relay, it was Jamie Mitchel and I racing the final leg for the win. I had a lead on him and instead of trying to block him out, I didn’t do anything. I didn’t do a thing. And he beat me. I should have paddled smarter.
Jay: Crossing last year and realizing I was 16th again. It was hurtful because- well it’s hard to say why. I had high hopes. I got off to a bad start and I couldn’t get it back. There was a false start, and it changed everything for me. I had a rock under my foot and I was set to push off of it-when they called us back, I was off. I was slow the next start.. I had lost my rock and I couldn’t recover.
Brandi: I don’t have one. There hasn’t been anything I could change, it was only getting out paddled.
Colin: Two years ago, I was up with the leaders. I fell on the last lap at the Boneyard and lost the board.. I was bear hugging that thing and it still got ripped out of my hands. I have never gotten so wiped out at Doheny.. I went from 4th to 1oth. If I could go back, I would have kept my leash on for that last lap.
8. Do you like the courses, would you like to see something changed?
Byron: Yes and yes. I love the elite course. But the distance, the way it’s set up… it’s side chop the whole way. It would be better if it was into the wind.
Jay: I’ll race whatever they say. If you are good enough, you should be able to race anything, anytime.
Brandi: I like them the way they are… the distance gets a little boring, but I still like it.
Colin: No. I think Sparky, Gerry, and Pat designed the perfect elite course. The buoys are set up for the best chance at getting a wave, or wiping out. More waves and more carnage, that is the only way it could get better.
9. How do you deal with the hype that surrounds the BoP?
Byron: I just have fun. The hype doesn’t affect my mental game. If you let it get into your head it can alter your performance.
Jay: I took myself off of Facebook. I don’t want to keep looking at it. I want to stay focused on fitness and training-not the hype.
Brandi: I still go to work full time, so I won’t be in the hype until I’m off for the SUP awards Thursday night.
Colin: I stay clear of the hype. I just go surfing. No buoy turn practice, no ins and outs.. just go surf and have fun. I figure if I stay up with the front pack, I have the best seat in the house to watch the best in the world battle it out. For me, surfing is way more fun than training on flat water and stressing.
10. Any Last thoughts?
Byron: Looking forward to a fun race and battling against the best.
Jay: I’m stoked… I’m ready for great surf.
Brandi: I hope I win.. and if not, top 5.
Colin: Hope for waves and a clean start…. and waves.
11. Oops.. I think you better thank your sponsors!
Byron: Hobie Surfboards and Hobie Stand Up Paddleboards, Hobie Polarized, Hobie Luggage, Futures Fins, and On It.
Jay: Hobie Stand Up Paddleboards, Hobie Polarized, Waterman’s Landing, Virus International, Ocean Minded, On A Mission, Futures Fins, Watermans Sunscreen, LaCore Pro, and of course, Quickblade Paddles.
Brandi: Hobie SUP, Hobie Polarized, Quickblade, Sambazon, Waterman’s Sunscreen, Virus Intl., Inno Racks, Sportkini, On A Mission, Onit Pro, and SPI.
Colin: Hobie Surfboards and Hobie SUP; and Pat and Sparky at Rainbow Sandals for keeping the dream alive!