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How It’s Going Down This Weekend at #PPG2017 Presented by Salt Life
September 29, 2017 | by Jack Haworth
The biggest race in SUP is here. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

The best weekend of the year is upon us once again.

#PPG2017 presented by Salt Life starts tomorrow at Doheny State Beach and the sun-laden SoCal air is buzzing with excitement. After cutting loose with the SUP community at Thursday night’s blowout #PPG2017 Kickoff Party featuring SUP Awards, it’s back to business and racers have shifted attention back to the biggest race of the year.

While more than 400 paddlers from around the globe are busy making preparations and taking practice runs, we’ll give you a complete rundown of what to expect this weekend.

Conditions

Early fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year in Dana Point and this weekend is a testament. Temperatures are expected to remain in the low- to mid-70s, with a mild onshore flow developing in the afternoon.

Join hundreds of your closest SUP friends (or rivals) this weekend at #PPG2017. Photo: Aaron Black-Schmidt

As for the surf, a blend of trace south swell and minor northwest windswell is expected to keep waves in the knee- to waist-high zone for the weekend. Managing surf will be less of a factor than in previous two years when the surf was head-high and pumping, and the smaller surf will undoubtedly change the racers’ strategy. Here’s how:

Less surf equals less chance and more paddling. Fewer sets will be on offer to mop up the pack and re-calibrate the field, as well as less opportunity to catch the lucky bumps that send paddlers across the finish early. The strongest and fastest flatwater paddlers will be favored—athletes like Michael Booth and Annabel Anderson—as opposed to those with the most prowess handling waves—athletes like Mo Freitas and Candice Appleby.

Smaller swell also makes it more difficult for paddlers to make up time if they fall behind, so quality beach starts will be rewarded while mistakes will be costly. Even still, raceboards are capable of picking up even the most minor bumps, and the surf at Doho has been better than forecasted so far this week. The element of luck is still entirely in play, and don’t be surprised to see pros going 10-abreast on a single wave.

The Races

Whether seasoned pro or frothing grom, there’s a race for every paddler at #PPG2017. While the pro races are the hallmark of the weekend, we’ve made sure to shine a spotlight on the open racers who make up the backbone of our sport. Here’s a quick preview of each race going down this weekend.

Pro Technical – Time and again, these prove to be the wildest races of the weekend. The 1.2 mile course is shaped like a bow-tie and forces paddlers to race in and out of the surf zone for two laps in the early rounds and three laps in the finals.

In past years, the combo of punishing surf and six buoy turns–including the infamous “Hammer Buoy”–have pushed paddler’s physical and mental strength to their breaking points. Annabel Anderson saw victory slip away after missing the final buoy turn during last year’s Women’s Final and wild wipeouts have left dinged boards and bruised egos in their wake.

This year, smaller swell means it will be much harder to recover from mistakes. Getting out front early will be key, so expect the beach starts to take on an added significance.

Open Technical

We wanted to give everyday paddlers a bigger platform at #PPG2017, so we took the liberty of completely redesigning the Open Technical course. Not only is the race longer, but it also features six buoy turns per lap with a mix of left and right-hand turns outside the surf break. This will reward paddlers with refined turning abilities as they navigate two laps on the 1.2 mile course.

While large surf has made this race intimidating for amateur paddlers in the past, this weekend’s gentle swell makes it a perfect first race for those looking to try their hand at SUP racing.

Distance 

Where the technical races test paddlers’ turning and board handling abilities, the distance race is all about endurance and paddling strength. Just like in years past, both the pro and open distance race consists of two laps on a three-mile course.

During windy conditions last year, Michael Booth and Annabel Anderson were able to break free of draft trains and stroke to dominant victories during the Pro Men’s and Women’s Distance races. While they’ll certainly be favorites once again, gusts are forecasted to be much more mild this year which could help other paddlers close the gap.

Long draft trains will be the norm and whoever is able to best conserve their energy will have an edge during the final sprint to the finish.

Youth Technical

Just like the pros, #PPG2017 gives groms their biggest spotlight of the year. The youth technical race will take place on the same course as the Open Technical race, but will be one lap instead of two.

Watching the kiddos compete in front of hundreds of fans on the beach is always one of the feel good moments of the season and with a new course, SUP’s future stars will have their grandest stage yet.

New Races

In the spirit of progress, this year we have added two brand new races for the everyday paddler. These include the Beginner Youth Super Grom race and the Team Relay. The Super Grom race is a very short race to give young paddlers a chance to compete without having to race on a large course or through the surf.

On Sunday afternoon, the Team Relay will pair up four paddlers–two open racers, one pro and one junior–for a fun-filled race. What’s on the line? Bragging rights and a chance to be featured in SUP magazine!

It’s going to be an unforgettable weekend of action down here at Doheny State Beach. Whether you want to race, sample new boards at our expanded demo and fitness zone, or simply watch the world’s best paddlers compete on the biggest stage, #PPG2017 is the place to be this weekend.

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