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Going Big Or Going Broke

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  • Going Big Or Going Broke

    Red Bull And the Waterman League have a planned event scheduled for sometime in April that would combine a stand up surf slalom event at SF' Ocean Beach
    and a long distance race from Ocean Beach to the StFYC. The event is still " underwraps" but was revealed by Chris Parker and his SUP Racer Ezine.

    After months of behind the scenes chatter and a string of delays, we’ve finally got some concrete details about one of the most mysterious stand up paddle races of the year: Red Bull Heavy Water, an invitation-only men’s event that’s set to go down in (very) big waves at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach next month.
    Combining a surf race and distance event into one single, hour-long race, Red Bull Heavy Water is promising a massive $50,000 prize purse. The paddler that survives the carnage best will receive $20,000 for the win, which is easily a record for the sport.

    The race, which has a unique, month-long holding period to ensure the “best possible conditions” – aka the biggest waves – will begin in the surf at Ocean Beach before finishing inside San Francisco Bay next to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge.

    As the name suggests, the event is being entirely funded by Red Bull, with the Waterman League providing some of the organisation & logistics. The race is the first stop (and one of the only confirmed events) on the Waterman League’s 2016 Stand Up World Series.

    Organisers are saying a forecast of “minimum 10ft faces” is required before they’ll give the green light.

    Yep. 10ft waves. On race boards. This should be interesting…

    (10ft “faces” only equals about 6ft on the traditional scale, but either way that’s still very big by SUP racing standards.)

    No word on what will happen if the surf doesn’t reach 10ft during the holding period, but given the timing and location, I doubt swell will be a problem.

    Oh and as if the macking surf wasn’t enough of a challenge, the water temp will be around 12°C/54°F. Chilly.

    When you look at the format and the desire for big waves, it becomes clear that Red Bull Heavy Water is aiming to evolve the original Battle of the Paddle Elite Race format into something even more challenging. It’s a little strange to have a 30 day holding period for a 1 hour SUP race, but I can see what the organisers are trying to achieve: They’re holding out for a solid swell that’ll make this race look like “Salt Creek on steroids,” which in turn should create some epic, viral images to give the sport (and Red Bull) a lot of exposure.

    While the holding period is 1st-30th of April, the weekends of the Carolina Cup and OluKai – the 23rd and the 30th of April – are blacked out, which means the race will probably happen in the first half of the month.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this race plays out though: 6-10ft is usually far too big for SUP race boards at the best of times, let alone at a break as notoriously heavy as San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. When it comes to SUP racing in the waves, there’s a fine line between entertaining carnage that’s still somewhat athletic and pure chaos that looks like a total destruction derby.

    A few of the guys I spoke with said they might need to wrap an extra layer of carbon around their race boards, or perhaps have a caddy on the beach in case they snap their 12’6 clean in half. They weren’t joking.

    However because this is an invite-only event, the caliber of athletes will be quite high — most of the guys should be able to handle it. And while not all of the world’s top male paddlers will be there, around half of them will be, which means we should be in for a great show.

    No matter what happens, having Red Bull as the title sponsor is a massive coup — this could be a very significant race on many levels. It’s also rumoured that the famed Red Bull Media House will be producing the final edit of the event, which should make for some very entertaining footage.

    The race will be a mish-mash of a traditional “M-shaped” surf race and a long distance affair. It’s 10-12km (about 7 miles), with the first kilometre or so going in and out through the waves. After that, competitors head out into the ocean for a long stretch, then turn into San Francisco Bay before finishing at St. Francis Yacht Club just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. Detailed course maps are below.

    Most paddlers I’ve spoken to have expressed a mix of excitement and trepidation at the proposed course. However the “10ft surf” component is only about 10% of the race — this is basically a long distance ocean event, which will give the ocean racing specialists a lot of confidence in chasing the $20k winner’s prize.

    Speaking of money, this event comes at a very interesting time for the Waterman League, with the fledgling company and its Stand Up World Series tour in both serious doubt and serious debt. Paddlers are still owed $70,000 in prize money from 2015 see “Waterman League’s Stand Up World Series on the Brink“), and apart from Red Bull Heavy Water, the only other confirmed event on the 2016 Stand Up World Series schedule is Japan’s “Victoria Pro” in May.

    Will the Heavy Water event be one last hoorah for the Waterman League before it finally goes bust? Or will this big race signal the start of the company’s revival?

    Only time will tell.

    Either way, this particular event is being entirely funded and propped up by Red Bull, not the Waterman League, which means prize money payments won’t be an issue.

    But still, it could be a little awkward for the Waterman League to start boasting about a $50,000 event when it still owes athletes so much money from 2015; Hopefully the company will do the right thing and use the commission it receives from Red Bull to start repaying at least some of its debts from last year.

    Apart from the money dramas, the Red Bull Heavy Water race has been a bit of a mystery in general. The Waterman League has been making big promises about this event since October, and they initially said a public announcement would be made no later than mid-January. But as with all things Waterman League, there were inevitable delays.

    That mid-January announcement was pushed back to late January, which became early February, which became late February, which became early March. We’re now just two weeks out from the start of the supposed holding period (even the actual event dates have been pushed back twice) and there’s still no media release from either the Waterman League or Red Bull.

    Red Bull Heavy Water really is the most mysterious stand up paddle race of the year…

    You’ve gotta give credit where it’s due though: The Waterman League has latched onto a golden partner in Red Bull, there’s a massive record $20,000 for the winner alone, while the course and conditions have the potential to be truly epic. But still, it’d be nice if there was an actual event announcement to confirm the whole thing…

    Indeed, several athletes that planned on competing have expressed growing frustration at the string of delays and lack of confirmation, especially those from outside the States that need to have boards shipped to San Fran ahead of time.

    So to help the athletes figure out what’s really going on with this mystery event, I agreed to do some digging and see what I could find.

    Well it didn’t take long before I discovered this hidden event page that contains almost all the details.

    I’ve since been told that the official announcement *should* come out by Tuesday March 15th at the latest, but just in case there’s yet another delay (or if that page gets removed), here’s the lowdown on the 2016 Red Bull Heavy Water race as copied straight from the official site.

    Red Bull Heavy Water – Overview
    – Specialty Long Distance Race (Men) from Ocean Beach to St. Francis Yacht Club

    – Stop #1 of the 2016 Stand Up World Series (one of 6 Long distance races in 2016) [Note: There’s only one other stop that’s actually confirmed, and that’s the Victoria Pro in Japan]

    – Holding period: 1st – 30th April [Note: Organisers have said the weekends of Carolina Cup on April 23rd and OluKai on April 30th are blacked out, which means it’ll probably run in the first two weeks of April]

    – Amber light to alert 10 days out / Green light 7 days out

    – Distance: 10 – 12km (exact distance may vary according to conditions on the day)

    – Surf Minimum for competition to run: 10ft faces [Note: That’s big…]

    – Prize-money: $50,000

    – 1st place award: $20,000 [Note that’s a record for the sport]

    Red Bull Heavy Water – Summary
    Requiring the perfect mix of paddling skills, ocean knowledge, supreme fitness and the courage to take on one of the most intimidating stretches of coastline in the world, Red Bull Heavy Water will test the best of the best in the sport’s most dramatic challenge

    Set to a backdrop of one of the world’s most iconic cities, an intense 12km course will see athletes leave from the notorious Ocean Beach to battle their way in & out of the surf towards the Golden Gate Bridge for the most challenging race the sport has ever seen

    Once the laps through the surf have been completed the athletes will be out in the open ocean, passing spots where giant ships have gone down trying to make their way through treacherous waters into the safety of San Francisco Bay

    On reaching the Golden Gate Bridge, they will finally be on the home straight for a sprint into the protected beaches of the City and a triumphant finish at the St Francis Yacht Club.

    The obstacles to even completing the course will be impressive, as the athletes will have to draw on everything in them to come out on top:

    1. Completing the section through the 10ft + surf will require timing, fortitude and surfing skill to be able to navigate through one of the world’s most impenetrable surf line-ups

    2. From there, the ocean swells and extreme currents will provide the next challenge for the World’s best and most intrepid athletes

    3. While passing under the Golden Gate Bridge will be a relief, athletes will be hoping for the victory wave at Fort Point to carry them through to the Bay, as the pressure will be on to dig deep and find energy reserves for the sprint to finish after the grueling 12km of punishment

    4. There can be only one Champion, as the best of the best from the Stand Up World Series will step up for a chance to be crowned supreme Champion of Red Bull Heavy Water

    SUP Racer Ezine
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    $70 k in arrears?

    Those watermen must be slow learners