Qualification for tomorrow's stand-up paddle (SUP) technical race finals was held today as action continued at the International Surfing Association (ISA) World SUP and Paddleboard Championship in Wanning in China.
In both the men’s and women’s events, the top-five finishers from each of the three semi-finals progressed with the rest of the field competing in a repechage heat that qualified an additional five athletes.
Two qualification slots for the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru’s capital Lima are up for grabs for the winning man and woman from the Americas in the finals.
Three ISA SUP gold medallists took the top qualification spots in the men’s semi-finals on Riyue Bay.
They were the United States’ Connor Baxter in 32min 26.31sec, Denmark’s Casper Steinfath in 32:19.62, the fastest time of the day, and France’s Titouan Puyo in 33:05.11.
"The course was really fun," Baxter said.
"We got downwinds, upwinds, a surf break and a beach run.
"It’s really technical.
"The competition has gone up and up every year.
"All the nations are getting more serious about SUP and training their teams, so the finals tomorrow will be packed with talent.
"A win tomorrow will not only be a gold for the team, but also a spot in the Pan Americans.
"It’s not just a personal gold medal - there is much more at stake."
American Candice Appleby, the 2015 ISA technical race gold medallist, finished the day with the fastest women’s heat time with 36:51.32.
Australia’s Shakira Westdorp, winner of an unprecedented third consecutive SUP surfing gold medal yesterday, won the second semi-final in 38:17.66 and Japan’s Yuka Sato won the third in 37:17.98.
Great Britain’s Marie Buchanan put on a gutsy performance after stepping on an urchin during the SUP surfing rounds.
Despite her injury, she managed to finish fifth in her SUP technical race semi-final to qualify directly to the final.
"I’ve been hobbling around after stepping on an urchin," Buchanan said.
"The adrenaline definitely got me through.
"I was determined to qualify and not have to compete twice in the repechage round.
"This is my sixth time competing at the ISA Worlds.
"I’ve made the top six, but I have never won a medal.
"I would be totally stoked to place on the podium."
China and Iran made their first SUP racing appearances in the history of the event today.
None of the Chinese or Iranian athletes qualified for the finals, but the ISA claims their participation marks a watershed moment for the growth and development of SUP in Asia.
"After crowning SUP surfing world champions yesterday, we went straight into the exciting SUP technical races here in China," ISA President Fernando Aguerre said.
"The technical races have attracted the top talent from all continents of the globe, looking to put a gold medal around their neck.
"Tomorrow we will make history as we will not only crown the first SUP [racing] world champions in China, but also the first under-18 SUP world champions.
"Everything indicates that this will be a must-see day of SUP racing."