Although only 17 years old, Connor Baxter of Maui has established himself as a force in Stand-Up Paddling with his second straight win on Saturday in the 2012 Triple Crown of SUP.
Baxter crossed the finish line in Kaunakakai for the third leg of the race series in 2 hours, 55 minutes, 46 seconds. In the identical finishing order as last year, Baxter was followed by David Kalama (2:58:12) in second and Livio Menelau (2:59:51) in third place.
Also repeating last year’s performance was female winner Andrea Moller (3:21:40). The Brazilian, who now claims Maui as home, not only beat out second-place women finisher Terrence Black, but also placed ahead of three-quarters of the men.
The final race in the Maui race series is a 27-mile crossing of the Pailolo Channel from Honolua Bay on Maui to the harbor in Kaunakakai. The race attracted 45 paddlers, compared to 44 last year. As usual the trade winds made the downwind run fast, but this year the favorable winds were even stronger than usual.
In his retelling of the victory, Baxter wrote, “As I got closer to Molokai the wind got stronger — around 30-35 mph and it just got amazing. I didn’t even have to paddle just put my paddle up to catch a few bumps. Some overhead swells came through and were breaking. But for the last 12 miles it was just pure surfing. I just kept paddling my hardest all the way to the finish.”
According to Baxter, he and Kalama stayed close for the first half of the race, “talking and catching bumps.” Then Kalama lost his balance and fell in. Baxter took advantage and shot in front. “I thought to myself, this is my chance and put the hammer down and took off.”
Baxter also won the second leg of the series on July 8 — a 10-mile race from Kihei to Makena.
Baxter needed to win the final two races to repeat as champion of the series because he missed the first race from Maliko Gulch to Kahalui Harbor on July 1. Baxter was competing in Chicago at the Stand Up World Series event that day.
With the successful win in the final two legs, Baxter was able to hold on to the overall title.
Baxter thanked his sponsors Starboard, Maui Jim, Rainbow Sandals, Rista Fins, Dakine, GoPro, On It Pro, Waterman’s Sunscreen, Sunrite Maui, Hammer Nutrition, EFX and Hi-Tech Sports. A big mahalo is sent out to his escort boat captain Mike Holmes.
“I’ll be back next year for sure!” wrote Baxter.