APP World Title Race Intensifies At Japan ProAm


2017 japan proam mens raceStart of the men’s long distance race. | Photo: APP World Tour / Georgia Schofield

Day 1

ENOSHIMA BEACH, Japan – Enoshima Beach provided the perfect backdrop for day 1 of racing, with a course that tested every aspect of the athletes’ skill base to master, only intensified by 25, gusting 30+ knot winds whipping across the Bay. The 5 lap course consisted of 3 regular laps, a super lap and a shortened finish lap, with strategy, endurance and ocean knowledge all playing into equation for the Contenders, and the World’s best stepped up to the challenge.

Connor and Mo battled the entire 10km of the race as they went back and forth with the lead throughout, providing an exciting spectacle for audiences on site and online. As the two Hawaiian athletes rounded the last buoy, it seemed as though Mo Freitas might just have it in the bag, as he powered towards the finish line.

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Connor Baxter (Starboard) from Maui and Mo Freitas from Oahu have a battle for the ages on Day 1 of the Trump Wetsuits Japan Pro-Am presented by Hawaiian Airlines, stop #3 of the 2017 APP World Tour. | Photo: APP World Tour / Georgia Schofield

However, a set wave hit right as they were coming into the beach that allowed Connor to catch up to be neck and neck, as the two hit the sand together for a dramatic run up the beach to finish. In a moment that will likely replay in his mind for some time to come, Mo stumbled as the two entered the finish chute, allowing Connor through to victory.

This victory will be sweet for the 2016 World Champion Connor Baxter, having lost out to Mo in Maui, as he came to Japan focused on regaining the yellow jersey before stop #4 in Germany. This first day of action was another impressive performance from the two-time World Champion, as the field of talent only deepens, and Connor continues to rise to the challenge.

2017 japan proam sonni honschiedSonni Honscheid proves she is anything by one dimensional posting her 2nd long distance win of the season here in Japan. | Photo: APP World Tour / Georgia Schofield

Sonni Honscheid (Starboard) from Germany remained composed and focused on Day 1 despite the challenging conditions that the gusting winds provided. Sonni put her head down, played her own strategy and stole victory amidst a star-studded cast in the distance race of the Trump Wetsuits Japan Pro-Am, presented by Hawaiian Airlines.

With the likes of yellow jersey holder Terrene Black from Australia, 2015 World Champion Candice Appleby and the current World Champion Fiona Wylde to battle against, not to mention the 2016 event winner Angie Jackson from Australia, Sonni had her work cut out, and used the Super Lap to her advantage, coupled with a determined performance to take victory. A victory in the long distance race here in Japan makes it two for two by Sonni, having taken the long distance win back in Maui and clearly demonstrating that she is one of the most dangerous distance paddlers in the world.

While sprinting is not her strong suit comparatively, Sonni has what it takes to continue her momentum, as she will be looking for a strong finish in the sprints to consolidate her position on the APP World Tour leaderboard coming into stop #4 of the Tour that will be hosted at home for Sonni in the beautiful seaside town of Scharbeutz in Germany.

2017 japan proam mo freitasMo Freitas challenges the best of the best, narrowly missing out on victory on Day 1 of the Trump Wetsuits Japan Pro presented by Hawaiian Airlines. | Photo: APP World Tour / Georgia Schofield

Mo Freitas continues to go from strength to strength in 2017, blazing his way through the opening leg of the APP World Tour with a finals finish at Sunset, a win at the first racing stop in Maui, and now an impressive performance against the 2x World Champion Connor Baxter (Starboard). While Mo wasn’t able to take the win in Saturday’s racing, he clearly demonstrated to the world, and perhaps even more importantly, himself, that he does have what it takes to take down the world’s best on any given day.

Wearing the yellow jersey coming into stop #3, Mo blasted off the start, clearly keeping the target on his back, battling with Connor from start to finish, having to settle for 2nd in one of the most dramatic finishes yet. Mo will be looking to consolidate on this performance into day 2 of the Trump Wetsuits Japan Pro-Am presented by Hawaiian Airlines, in order to maintain the ratings lead and yellow jersey coming into the next stop of the Tour in Germany, the Mercedes-Benz SUP World Cup in Scharbeutz.

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Fiona Wylde battles her way round a challenging long distance course to post an impressive 2nd place on Day 1 in Japan. | Photo: APP World Tour / Georgia Schofield

Fiona Wylde (Starboard) never fails to impress on the APP World Tour putting on yet another stellar performance at the Trump Wetsuits Japan Pro-Am presented by Hawaiian Airlines.

Fiona hammered off the start, clearly making her intentions known in Japan as she strives to regain the yellow jersey before the Tour heads to Germany. She was able to maintain her rhythm in what was a fiercely contested race, going stroke for stroke with Candice Appleby for much of the race, as the two paced each other, battling for position.

While Sonni was able to build a 2.5 minute lead by the time the race was done, over the 10km course and in the conditions that tested the World’s best paddlers every step of the way, Fiona was right there, and once again demonstrated that she is one of the World’s most well rounded Stand Up Paddle athletes.

After a second place in Sunset at Stop #1 and a second place in Maui, Fiona will be looking for redemption on day 2 with her sights set on her maiden victory of the year. Her consistency is impressive and her composure perhaps even more so.

2017 japan proam james caseyJames Casey puts on a powerful performance at Stop @3 of the 2017 APP World Tour finishing in 3rd place in the long distance. | Photo: APP World Tour / Georgia Schofield

James Casey is a powerhouse. As one of the stockier guys on Tour, James’ power was put to good use in the distance race as he battled with fellow Aussie Lincoln Dews for the entire 10km, in the end just getting the edge over Lincoln to finish in 3rd place on Day 1. Both James and Lincoln kept pace with Connor Baxter and Mo Freitas, slipping back a little through the mid point of the course, as they opted to take their super lap to see if they couldn’t catch the leading two. While they were unable to bridge the gap, as the times clearly showed, they were close, coming in just a minute thirty behind the winner.

As another exceptional all-rounder across all aspects of the sport, James is looking increasingly dangerous on Tour, possessing the full package and as his results are clearly showing, the ability to take down the World’s best on any given day, whether it be surfing, sprints or distance.

2017 japan proam candice applebyCandice Appleby perseveres to post a solid 3rd place finish amidst the intense international competition in Japan. | Photo: APP World Tour / Georgia Schofield

Candice Appleby had a slow start to the year in Maui, but looks to be stepping up in a big way at the second racing stop of the 2017 APP World Tour in Japan. Having won in Japan in 2015, the year where she blitzed her way to her maiden World Title, Candice has fond memories of Japan and was looking strong in the distance race, battling for position in what was a grueling undertaking with the radical winds at play.

While 3rd place is not a first, it is a podium and a real step forward for this incredible athlete who at every stop of the Tour is a Title Contender, as she has clearly shown time and time again. Like Fiona Wylde, she is also a real double threat, and will clearly be a front runner to look out for as we progress through the 2017 season. Check out the highlights from day 1 below.