SAN DIEGO, California – Each year in any sport there are a number of athletes and performances that stand apart from the others. Whether it’s a comeback from behind, world record or dominating performance these achievements don’t go unnoticed. In 2018 there were incredible performances and feats that we didn’t know were possible. Here we list the top 10 most inspirational athletes and performances of 2018 (in no particular order).
1. Bobo Gallagher Becomes Youngest Olukai Finisher
Bobo Gallagher headed for the finish line. | Photo courtesy: Shawneen Schweitzer
The Olukai Ho’olaule’a is an annual event that takes place on the island of Maui in Hawaii. The event is a downwind race that is known to be fun, but also grueling at times. This year at its 10th annual event, the conditions on-hand were rough with massive swells and stormy weather, causing mostly all but the elite paddlers to drop out of the race. One of the paddlers who stuck to it was 8-year-old Bobo Gallagher.
Bobo not only completed the tough race but is the youngest competitor to ever do so. Bobo eagerly navigated through the big waves at the start without fear, and continued to catch waves and paddle the entire race on his board. Bobo has been training under the watchful eye of Zane Schweitzer through Zane’s InZane Super Groms program and is no doubt creating a bright future for himself in the sport.
2. Casper Steinfath Successfully Paddles From Denmark To Norway
Casper Steinfath. | Photo: Frederik Clement
After his failed first attempt in February 2017, completing the Viking Crossing would be considered the greatest accomplishment for the four time ISA World Champion. In early 2018 Casper would make the attempt once again, this time successfully. After paddling in freezing and harsh conditions, paddling for 18 hours and 30 minutes, Caper became the first in the world to paddle 147 kilometers (91.3 miles) across the Skagerrak Strait between Denmark and Norway.
3. Tarryn King Wins ISA Gold One Year After Giving Birth
Tarryn holding her son after winning Gold. | Photo: ISA / Pablo Jimenez
In November 2018 many of the world’s best stand up paddlers traveled to China to compete in the ISA SUP and Paddleboard World Championships. South Africa’s Tarryn King was one of the athletes who attended the event and she went home with a Gold Medal in the Sprints. What makes Tarryn’s result all the more impressive is that her performance is the first-ever SUP Gold Medal for South Africa and comes just over a year after giving birth and returning to an elite level for SUP Surfing and Racing. King’s husband Thomas celebrated on the beach with their 1-year son as she won her race.
4. Michael Booth Redeems Himself at Carolina Cup
The Carolina Cup is known as one of the hardest, most grueling races ever. There’s a reason the elite race course is referred to as “The Graveyard”. Even the best of the best have had struggles at this event and have been beaten, both mentally and physically. In 2017 Michael Booth, who was favored to win the event, was one of those casualties, so naturally this year, Michael was determined to redeem himself. And that he did. At the 2018 event once the men hit the open ocean leg Michael Booth made his move and held off the traditional ocean masters and previous Carolina Cup champs Travis Grant and Titouan Puyo in a three mile downwind leg home to record a well-deserved victory and prove he’s an all-round all-star athlete.
5. Shae Foudy Beats Mentor Candice Appleby for APP Title
Shae Foudy sprinting in Paris. | Photo: APP World Tour
Only 1,000 points separated teammates Candice Appleby and Shae Foudy in the overall rankings on the APP World Tour as the two athletes arrived in Paris for the final event of the season with Shae just ahead of Candice. In Shae’s semi-final for the sprints, she faced her mentor (Candice) across the pool. In a massive performance, Shae edged out in front and won the race to move on to the Finals, eventually placing second to Annie Reickert from Maui. The final race on the Seine the next day would be the determining factor for Shae’s first World Title. All Shae had to do was stay out in front. One placement ahead of Candice would be enough to secure her World Title. Through the 8-mile grind and chilly conditions Shae lunged through the finish to secure third place over Candice in fourth and claimed her first APP World Title.
6. Seychelle’s Incredible Comeback at SUP11 City Tour
Seychelle visibly thrilled on her comeback win. | Photo: SUP11 City.
One of the biggest comebacks of the 2018 season came from the ‘Queen of Endurance,’ SIC Maui’s Seychelle during the SUP 11 City Tour – a race that consists of 5 back-to-back days of grueling distance paddling. Despite taking an early win right out of the gate on Day 1, Seychelle suffered a few mental and physical setbacks on Day 2 and lost her overall time lead. With better performances on Day 3 and 4, she was able to chip down her gap to -2:30m – still a relatively big gap – heading into the final day. She knew that in order to win, she would have to dig deep, get an early lead, and build upon that lead to win by at least 2:30m. And that’s just what she did.
Living up to her ‘Queen of Endurance’ title, Seychelle paddled with a rarely seen electricity to win Day 5 by over 11 minutes and earn her third SUP11 City Tour crown by +9:30m. Seychelle’s performance was a true display of heart and determination. Her inspirational victory is a reminder that we are capable of enduring far more than is imaginable when we are willing to push our bodies and minds to the limit.
7. Lincoln Dews Passes Michael Booth to Win Paddle League World Title
Lincoln Dews at the Pacific Paddle Games. | Photo: Onit.Pro
For the majority of 2018 Michael Booth led the rankings on the Paddle League World Tour. It all came down to the final event, the Pacific Paddle Games to decide the winner. The title was Michael Booth’s to loose and Lincoln Dews had to win in order to win the title. Booth had the upper hand coming into the event but Dews was ready to fight and it showed during this first race of the event. In the distance race, Booth and Dews went back and forth leading the draft train for the first lap but when lap two came around, Dews made his move. Slowly but surely he pulled ahead and never looked back. Dews claimed the hard-fought win for this race and picked up some confidence along the way heading into the technical race portion of the event where he claimed the fourth spot.
With Lincoln Dews winning on day one and his fourth place finish on day two, Lincoln was able to earn himself the overall title at the event. With this win and his closest competitor, Michael Booth, coming in just shy (4th) of where he needed to be on the podium to claim a Paddle League World Title, Lincoln Dews managed to walk away on Sunday as the first-ever Paddle League Mens World Champion.
8. Sonni Honscheid Dominates Inaugural Paddle League Season
Sonni Honscheid at the Carolina Cup. | Photo: Paddle League / Georgia Schofield
Germany’s Sonni Honscheid is no stranger to the paddling elite and has made a name for herself over the years with her many victories at various events. But 2018 was Sonni’s year. At just about every event she competed in on the inaugural Paddle League World Tour, Sonni dominated and won. From the Air France Paddle Festival to the Carolina Cup to the Kerama Blue Cup, Sonni was unstoppable and ended up taking the Paddle League World Title before the season had even wrapped. What an incredible year!
9. Marcus Hansen’s Insane Come-From-Behind Victory in Tahiti
Marcus Hansen coming in for the win. | Photo: Paddle League / Georgia Schofield
The elite race at the 2018 Air France Paddle Festival was a friendly yet fierce competition between the Tahitians and the Internationals. At the sound of the siren, the men were off with Michael Booth, Lincoln Dews, and Titouan Puyo making their way to the front in the first leg. The majority of the race saw Booth as the leader, with Dews and Puyo, along with Marcus Hansen, Steeve Tehotaata, and Manatea Bopp Du Pont battling it out for the second place spot. Booth was nothing short of a paddling machine on the water, creating a huge lead mid-way through the race and leading everyone to believe that the race was now a fight for second. But in the final stretch, Hansen took off, breaking away from the trailing pack, and closing the gap between him and Booth.
“I was saving my energy during the race,” says Hansen. Throughout the race, he says he tried to hold back on trying to catch every wave he wanted which would kill his energy in the long run. His strategy worked. In the last turn, Hansen, hammering away in an incredible showing of ultra endurance, passed Booth and slid into first place. What was looking to be a sure win for Booth, turned into an incredible performance and well deserved victory from the New Zealander.
10. Jade Howson Beats Top Women at Santa Cruz Paddlefest
Jade Howson crossing the finish line at the Santa Cruz Paddlefest. | Photo: Bryon Dorr
At the 2018 Santa Cruz Paddlefest, the women’s elite field was stacked. Candice Appleby, Fiona Wylde, Shae Foudy and April Zilg were all present hoping to take home the pre-season win, but 15-year-old up and comer Jade Howson had other plans. In calm conditions that made drafting relatively easy, the prodigious talent broke free from the main pack early and paddled most of the race solo, while the next four women in line – April Zilg, Candice Appleby, Shae Foudy and Fiona Wylde – could only watch as the wunderkind extended her lead around the 10km (6.2 mile) course.
Ms. Howson, who joined SIC Maui’s Global team roster in early 2018, paddled strong and steady throughout the race and proved her powerhouse capabilities coming in 40 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor.
As noted above, there were so many incredible performances in 2018, there’s just too many to list. Whether in competition or for personal accomplishments, these performances were the top 10 that stood out above the rest. Which performance did you think was the most inspirational of 2018? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
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