A glorious Easter Weekend saw Sligo the real winner in the Connacht Battle for the Paddle, Ireland’s premier all discipline Stand Up Paddling (SUP) event run by Harbour SUP and Sail. Despite inconsistent winds which resulted in one change of venue in search of wind, and cancellation of another event because of too much wind, the event was a huge success and enjoyed by competitors and spectators alike.
Early on Easter Saturday morning SUP distance race competitors congregated on the River Moy in Ballina for the race briefing from contest director, Mikee Hamilton. The strong field included Irish number one Ross McGarry and European competitors Fred O’Nillon and Helen Trehoret.
Ross got off to blistering start hotly pursued by the field with Lucy Hamilton leading the Ladies. The race opened up as competitors rounded the bend into Nemo’s Cut and passed Connaught Whiskey. Keith Gorman, Paul Byrne and Fred all dug deep to try and match McGarry’s pace; unfortunately for Ross he had missed the cut into Nemo’s so was left to bring it home for the fun of it. Lucy Hamilton fought hard throughout the race fending off numerous solid pushes from experienced French-based racer Helen Trehoret and bought home the win by several board lengths. Mia Hamilton stayed with the pace despite being a little under gunned on a twelve six managing a third overall. Keith Gorman paddled a solid race for the win showing his strength and experience from years of distance endurance racing. Fred O’Nillon paddled to an incredible 2nd on a twelve six inflatable board hired for the race and Paul Byrne came home in third. Crossover Category winners were Orna Woods and Hans Fredricks. Special thanks to Hezza Wills for Course Safety.
Next venue was Enniscrone for the Surf SUP event, however small, inconsistent waves led to a delay for the 22 competitors. Mikee Hamilton felt that a promising forecast should see the surf increase to contestable size later in the day. However this didn’t materialise but sunny weather saw everyone hit the water to cool off and enjoy the fun. Event hosts Harbour SUP and Sail made sure everyone was fed with a gourmet BBQ on the cliff top above the beach and as the sun set on day one, everyone was feeling the magic of Connacht.
Mikee Hamilton was up at the crack of dawn Sunday but with Enniscrone still not really getting the best of the swell the venue was switched to Tra Bui Aughris. Competitors were greeted by clean overhead surf under sunny skies.
The standouts in Men’s Heat One were father and son Ollie and Steve Laddiman. Ollie showed outstanding form throughout the event with polished manoeuvres and a desire to charge the biggest waves of the day. Mike He from Strandhill was on form, after a pre-competition sunrise session, and battled through the heats to meet Ollie Laddiman in a superb final. Neither wind, tide nor the fatigue of three rounds slowed either competitor and both dug deep to put on an amazing display of Sup Surfing for the packed gallery. Ollie showed class and form to take the win with some truly world class surfing.
The Ladies Surf SUP kicked off with two heats in solid surf sets were well over head height. Local ladies Nicola McCutcheon, sisters Lucy and Mia Hamilton and Helen Trehoret pushed through the early rounds to make the final. With the tide dropping towards low and waves detonating on the sandbank the four women hit the water for a twenty minute final battle. All fought hard with some epic thrills and spills. Eventually Enniscrone’s Mia Hamilton edged out Nicola McCutcheon with a couple of polished walls to take the win. Massive thanks to head judge Paul O’Kane and beach marshal Aaron Melvin.
The competitors returned to Enniscrone on Sunday afternoon for the Technical Sprint Race but unfortunately strong winds prevented the event taking place.
Prize giving ceremony was held at Enniscrone Pier with some great prizes from event sponsor Typhoon International everyone vowing to be back for more next year.
SUP Distance Men’s
1st Keith Gorman
2nd Fred O’Neill
3rd Paul Byrne
SUP Distance Ladies
1s Lucy Hamilton
2nd Helen Trehoret
3rd Mia Hamilton
Surf SUP Men’s
1st Ollie Laddiman
2nd Mike He
3rd Steve Laddiman
Surf SUP Ladies
1st Mia Hamilton
2nd Nicola McCutcheon
3rd Lucy Hamilton