ISA:n SUP & Paddleboard World Championships were held this year in Denmark 31.AUG-10.SEP. This was the first year the championships were held in Europe. This made it easier for more countries to participate. There was competitioners from 42 different countries. Many countries were represented for the first time Finland being one of them. Finnish team consisted of five athletes and three officials.
SUP Team Finland Competitioners:
Elle Laakso, Sprints & Technical race
Paul Mikkonen, Sprints & Technical race.
Joel Mikkonen, Technical race
Thomas Fagerström, Long distance
Jari Laine, Long distance
Long distance and 200m sprints were held in Copenhagen in front of the Opera house. Technical Race and SUP Surf competitions were held in Cold Hawaii (Varupor).
For me it was possible to compete in long distance and sprints because they were scheduled for the first weekend and i had to be back in finland on monday. The Finnish team was selected so late in the season that i did not have time to arrange the whole week off from my other duties. Bummer as it would have been nice to compete in Technical Race also or at least be there as a spectator and cheer on our other athletes.
We arrived in Denmark on thursday 31.Aug for the registration and had few days time to settle and check the race venue.
It was clear that conditions on distance and sprint races would be quite challenging for me because of the heavy boat traffic in the harbor area. Behind the opera house it would be flat. I have paddled the 12’6×24″ 2016 Allstar only few times this season and felt kind of wobbly in the boat wash that was bouncing back from the docks and harbor walls. Also the sprint races would be in quite choppy conditions.
Friday 1.Sep we had the Parade of the Nations and the opening ceremony. There was real sense of comradery between the athletes from all different nations. It was an honor to wave the Finnish flag in the parade.
After the parade every Nation poured a class of sand from a beach from their home country to a small glass container. Sand from Finland was from Plagen beach Hanko.
Distance race day morning i was still feeling the flu that has been bothering my preparations for the competition. I knew that the conditions would be tough for me for most part of the race. It would be very important to get a good start as there was around 70-80 competitioners on the start line. The distance from the start line to the first left hand buoy turn was not that long so there would lot’s of boards squeezed together.
Competitioners were called to the start line country at a time according to seeding order from past championships and registration. When it was Finland’s and the rest of the country’s time there were no room at the line so competitioners had to form a second line.
Me and Thomas had the worst possible start as we did not hear the start signal. I was really confused as all of the sudden everybody just started paddling in front of me. Due to a bad start i was already about two board lengths behind the front row guys and in really bad water. The water quickly turned grey and super choppy. There was so much air in the water that i couldn’t even get good connection with my blade. Approaching the first buoy i saw some people going down in the turn due to heavy traffic Michael Booth being one of them. I got a clean buoy turn but fell in little bit after the turn. Thomas was doing better and already was some 15m in front of me after this.
In the first upwind leg i tried to push hard to better my position due to my bad start and find faster paddlers to draft. I had big problems with balance with lots of boat wash and wind chop mixing together. I could not get a good paddling rhythm and was feeling quite exhausted on the first upwind buoy. I was hoping to relax a little on the “downwind” leg but i really couldn’t utilize the small messy chop.
Going into to the flat’s behind the opera house i just tried to relax and take moderately easy to be able to handle the choppy waters on the other side. At this point i was passing some slower competitioners but at the same time i was not feeling that good. I don’t know if it was the flu or something but just could not maintain good speed. I was feeling like i was dragging something behind me and checked few times if there was something on my fin. Nothing. On the second lap i found a draft where i stayed for a little while but had to abandon it as it was too slow for me. I was feeling a little bit better and confined that i could push a little bit harder.
On the third lap i managed pass couple of competitioners. Even had hard battle on the finnish stretch but did not quite manage to pass before the finish line. Crossing the finish line i was feeling quite down knowing that i was not able to perform on my normal level. That feeling went away quite quickly because of the great atmosphere of the event and was happy that my team mate Thomas was quite satisfied with his performance.
Highlights video Day 1, long distance:
After the race i was feeling really fatigued and little bit sick. Not good knowing i had the 200m sprints in the schedule the next morning. I talked with Joel and Paul after the race i found out that Paul was interested about the sprints. I was more than happy to give my place in the sprints to fresh and younger paddler Paul. So we checked from the officials if the switch would still be possible and in the evening we got green light. Paul had to use my equipment thought as Paul’s board was not registered yet. The night after the race i was feeling little bit feverish and really happy i did not have to race in the morning.
Paul is a fast sprinter but unfortunately had a fumble when switching paddling side and lost a lot of time.
Highlights video da 2, Sprints:
I was really bummed that i had to leave back to Finland after the Long distance and Sprint prize giving ceremony. After the ceremony the competitions changed venue to the west coast beaches in Varupor and i would have loved to be there to watch the action live. Paul, Joel and Elle did really good job in the technical races. Mikkonen brothers had flying starts and had a strong performance both heats. Good job guys! Elle was looking strong on her heat also.
Overall really well organized event and great atmosphere!
Video filmed and edited by Lasse Luoto: