I have frequently seen the paddle boarders: in calm waters, steadily paddling themselves around, and appearing to enjoy an easy time on the water. It seems to be a very solidary pastime with oneself, the board and paddle, and time alone on the water. But my perception quickly changed when I attended the Abu Dhabi All Star Grand Slam and The Official Stand-up Paddle Boarding (SUP) World Championship Tour at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. This is a fierce and exciting sport with world-class athletes competing for coveted titles and prizes.
The venue for the event was Yas Marina and the host of part of the Abu Dhabi All Star Grand Slam. The Marina was festive scene as Red Bull DJs played great music as fans watched the world’s top and All Star paddle board riders come head to head for the final sprint race. There was an array of family-friendly activities, from SUP clinics and watersports to rock climbing.
Yas Marina is more than a marina. It is that plus and entertainment venue for events or spending time with friends and family. They have seven fantastic restaurants there so it’s a great destination for dinner as well. The setting in beautiful Yas island with views of the Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi are spectacular and with so much to do, it’s the perfect place to spend the day or evening. Our day watching the Stand Up Paddle Boarding championship was a wonderful time and we look forward to the next occasion to visit Yas Marina.
The Abu Dhabi All Star Grand Slam is a 10-day event held at Wadi Adventure, Yas Marina and Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club. Over the 10 days, 1000 of the world’s top riders battled it out to be the wave, long distance and sprint-racing finalist, winning the biggest prize purse to date in the sport, making the Abu Dhabi All Star Grand Slam the richest purse in the world. The worlds best were in attendance including the world’s number one paddle boarder, Kai Lenny.
Spectators came to watch all the water action unfold while 15 nations and 100 of the best riders battled it out for the sprint race title. There was a crowd of fans, family and friends there to enjoy and cheer their loved ones along. There were competitors from around the world as well as locals from the UAE competing for prizes, cash, and bragging rights.
The event was organized by the Waterman League from Oahu Hawaii which produces the World Championship platforms for the world's fastest growing watersport: Stand up Paddling. With events in 10 countries, participation by well over 20 and media distribution that reaches over 160 countries worldwide, the Waterman League is the global and officially recognized professional body for the sport of Stand up Paddling.
After watching the first few trial heats I picked up enough courage to give it a try myself. To help us along was Watercooled Watersports. The location manager Toby Robinson was quick with a joke and a lesson to get us afloat. Watercooled Watersports has locations through out the UAE and provide fun on the water from kitesurfing, sailing, hobie cats to water skiing. It was a fabulous experience and the Watercooled Watersports team was knowledgeable, helpful, and gave expert advice.
After my quick pointers and lessons I was off. It looked so easy but with the first turn I knew that it was not. I quickly realized that this sport takes a lot of balance, stamina, and technique.
I quickly mastered the straight aways but when it came to the turns, I found myself in the water instead of on top more than a few times. It was really pleasant and a great way to spend the afternoon.
Back to the real race, Kai Lenny is recognized as the world’s best paddle boarder. It was a battle for the ages, as Kai Lenny managed to take the lead on the first leg, maintaining it through the remainder of the course, as the battle continued behind him for 2 through 6, giving him the well deserved win in the Sprints. With an on form Zane Schweitzer (Starboard) finishing in 2nd and Connor Baxter (Starboard) in 3rd, this meant that Kai won not only the Sprint Racing, but also the Overall World Series event Title here at the Abu Dhabi All Stars Grand Slam
In the women’s final, Angie Jackson (Fanatic) made an impressive comeback at the Abu Dhabi All Stars Grand Slam, storming to victory in the World Series Sprint Racing amidst an elite women's fleet.
I acquired a new admiration and respect for this amazing sport. Add some water, no waves, and some equipment and you’ve got an amazing day on the water. Add some world-class athletes a great venue and you’ve got an amazing day of watching and experiencing and growing sport
I look forward to more personal experiences paddle boarding as well as the next championship races.
And that’s What SUP!
And that’s What SUP!
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