Connor Baxter and Annabel Anderson stepped to the top tier of the podium, popped a couple corks, shook vigorously and had the pleasure of covering their fellow racers with Champaign Sunday evening after two ferocious and exhausting days of racing.
The two elite stand up paddlers – Baxter from Hawaii and Anderson from New Zealand – battled through an all-star field of pros from around the world to claim top overall honors at the 2014 Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge.
The two-day event, headquartered at the Hood River Waterfront Park, brought almost 200 SUP racers of all ages and abilities to town to take part in what has become one of the most competitive paddling races in the world. Since its inaugural event four years ago, the Paddle Challenge has grown consistantly each year.
Due to lack of wind Saturday, the weekend’s two stages were swapped – course racing was held Saturday, with stifling heat and dead-calm water adding to the challenge for racers, while the distance race was Sunday, with light but helpful wind aiding competitors as they paddled upriver from Viento to Hood River.
Baxter and Anderson both had clean sweeps of the field, claiming first both days despite fierce competition close behind. In the men’s field, top five finishers were all big names in the business : Baxter, Gorges Cronsteadt, Travis Grant, Danny Ching and Jake Jensen. The women’s field saw Anderson claim the title with a comfortable margin over Angela Jackson, Candice Appleby, Fiona Wylde and Sonni Honscheid in the top five. Wylde was last year’s overall champion and was one of the only resident Gorge racers to compete in the elite division.
Top five finishes in each division are as follows (find full results at gorgepaddlechallenge.com):
Grom male: Pele Bergstrom, Luke Allen, Veta Boersma, Kaden Sponhauer, Rhys Staples
Grom female: Jane Staples, Erika Anderson, Katie Lohr, Tori Hopkins, Payton Kincaid
Open women 14’: Alison Wood
Open women 12-6: Hannah Hill, Kim Rueter, Erin Mayer, Sarah Sandstrom, Sam Davies
Open men 14’: Seth Springer, Jon Davies, Evan Derdowski, Ryan Knysh, TJ Gulizia
Open men 12-6: Dave Billenness, James Thesiger, Ian Light, Jason Lexa, Liam Cursley
Elite men: Connor Baxter, Travis Grant, Danny Ching, Georges Cronsteadt, Kody Kerbox
Elite women: Annabel Anderson, Linda Augaitis, Candice Appleby, Sonni Honscheid, Angela Jackson
Groms: Veta Boersma, Luke Allen, Pelle Bergstrom, Rhys Staples, Matix Springer
Open women 14’: Sofia Dewolfe, Bonnie Fromm, Kim Rueter, Amy Staples, Alison Wood
Open women 12-6: Savannah Boersma, Hannah Hill, Sam Davies, Erin Mayer, Rose Appel
Open men 14’: Alan Teurquetil, Kristian Mulholland, Jon Davies, Matt Spencer, Corey Litnick
Open men 12-6: Bruce Barry, Dave Billenness, James Thesiger, Ian Light, Veta Boersma
Elite women: Annabel Anderson, Angela Jackson, Fiona Wylde, Candice Appleby, Sonni Honscheid
Elite men: Connor Baxter, Georges Cronsteadt, Travis Grant, Jake Jensen, Danny Ching