Connor Baxter ICF Report

Text: Connor Baxter / Photos: Georgia Schofield / Starboard SUP

The 2023 ICF World Championships in Thailand was another amazing and spectacular event. With over 900 paddlers from around the World, the energy of both the competitors and spectators on the beach was electric and exciting.

The first event up was the 200 meter Sprints and was held at a Thai Rowing Center, which set up for some very intense racing. Each elimination race was with 9 paddlers wide and it definitely was a stacked field right from the beginning.

On day one I had three intense heats, but was able to save energy through each heat making sure to save a bit of gas in the tank for the second day of action. The times were fast by all riders, but my eyes were set on Noic Garioud and Andrii Kraitor, as they were looking in top form.

The second day of action I was able to get through all the heats and found myself in the finals, which was where all the marbles were. I lined up and my heart was pumping, nerves were flowing, but I was ready for a battle.

I knew defending my title was going to be hard, but was ready to push my limits. I got lined up after wishing all my competitors good luck and starred down my lane ready to pounce. I got nice and low and slowed down my breathing, waiting for the horn to blow. The horn blew and I blasted off the start as fast as possible, keeping a high stroke rate.

It was neck and neck with none other than Noic and Andrii battling stroke for stroke. I gave it everything I had, but found myself sitting in third place with the final meters in front of me. I decided to shoot my board out in front and somehow squeezed into 2nd place in the final seconds. It wasn’t the place I was looking for, but I always have to pinch myself and remember that as a kid I dreamt of being where I am today, so I turned the hard feeling into gratitude.

After a great awards ceremony and a big meal I was ready for a rest day as the third day was the distance race. I haven’t been training or focusing on the distance, so this allowed me to have some much needed rest and to cheer my friends on. I had a nice day of recovery and watched the live feed, but was ready for some more action in the 1000 meter Technical Race the next day, which is by far my favorite division.

The first day of technical racing there were 9 heats of 12 racers with the top 5 competitors advancing to day 2. I only had one heat to do to advance, so just had to make it through and save energy for the semi finals and of course the finals the next day. I had a few good paddlers in my heat, so I made sure to have a good start. I had a nice clean start and was able to easily make my way into the semi finals. I loaded up on food and rest for the final day of competition.

The semi final heats were stacked with 12 racers again and at least five great paddlers that could make the finals, but only three went through. I lined up and took some deep breaths. The horn blew and I played it safe – not giving it 100%, but enough to hold the lead to make sure I had a spot in the finals. I was able to secure a first place finish and a spot in the finals with some of the best of the best in the world lined up as well.

I stayed hydrated and well rested in anticipation for one of the biggest races of my life. As they called me onto the start line my blood was pumping and I was definitely feeling the nerves. Board in hand, eyes locked in on the first turn and adrenaline rushing, it was time. I heard the horn blew and I had one of the best starts of my career when it mattered most. This gave me a clean line to the first turn, rounding first and basically setting me up for success for the rest of the race. Every turn I went around I could hear the commotion behind of the other racers battling for second, third, fourth, and pushed a little harder trying to make a gap.

I finished the first lap in a nice comfortable lead and ran around the beach flag. This was when I got an eye on my competitors to gauge where I was. I noticed Shuri was right behind hitting the beach in second. All of a sudden I heard everyone scream and someone definitely fell in. I took off trying to maintain my lead but had no clue that Shuri fell in, which caused a pile-up with another rider. This gave me a comfortable lead and all I had to do was not mess up. I easily turned the last four buoys and ran up the beach – The 2023 Technical World Champion.

This was an incredible way to finish the year and continue showing the SUP World who I am.

Big thanks to Starboard for all the support and amazing equipment. The 2024 boards were amazing and a big part of my success year after year.

I want to thank my sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Salt Life, Salt Life Sunglasses, Black Project, Haleakala Solar, Hi-Tech Sports.

Connor Baxter