Canadian competitors again swept the Surf to Sound Challenge standup paddle board race on Saturday, Nov. 7 in Wrightsville Beach.
While this year’s edition of the race lacked the drama of last year’s photo finish, it had the same results. Tommy Buday repeated as winner, defeating last year’s runner up, Canadian Larry Cain, but instead of the margin of less than a second, this year Buday won by nearly one minute.
Buday finished the race with a time of 1 hour, 1 minute, 46 seconds, while Cain came in with a time of 1:02:40. A Canadian also won third place, as Gabriel Beauchesne-Sévigny finished with a time of 1:03:43. All three have competed in the Olympics in sprint canoeing events.
The 6.5 mile race, which started oceanside behind the Blockade Runner and finished in the resort’s sound, tested paddleboarders’ ability to navigate different course conditions.
After last season’s narrow margin, Buday, the experienced canoer, said he came in with SUP experience this year and used it to his advantage.
“I got a good start” he said. “I took a lead right from the beginning and held it.”
A familiar face also took the podium in the women’s division, as Wrightsville Beach paddler April Zilg finished first in the Surf to Sound Challenge, with a time of 1:11:48. Stephanie Shideler placed second at 1:13:31 and Tracey Finlay came in third at 1:16:58.
For Buday and his fellow Canadian paddlers, who are used to competing on flatwater or rivers, the ocean conditions of the Surf to Sound were a challenging change of pace.
“That’s why we love it so much,” Buday said. “It’s so different with the waves. It’s a nice crossover.”
This year’s weather and calm ocean conditions took a bit of the edge off the race, Cain said,
“It’s usually pretty grueling, but this year it was pretty tame,” Cain said.
And while this year’s edition of the race wasn’t as close, it still made Buday sweat. That’s because the competitors on Saturday had to contend with unseasonably warm conditions. Early-morning fog delayed the race by nearly one hour and temperatures reached nearly 80 degrees at the finish.
The heat for Saturday’s race was a pleasant surprise for the races, Cain said.
“I get to go home with a tan,” he said. “I didn’t expect to be racing without a shirt on.”
The Canadians weren’t done on Saturday. The following Sunday was the 9-mile flatwater challenge on Banks Channel. But instead of heat and fog, the temperature was 20 to 30 degrees lower, with blustery and windy conditions. This time, it was Beauchesne-Sévigny taking the race, with a time of 1:03:42, followed by Cain at 1:03:46 and then Buday at 1:03:52.
The women’s event saw the same finish, with Zilg taking first at 1:11:37, followed by Shideler at 1:16:20 and Finlay at 1:20:01.
Race organizer Mark Schmidt said that most who enter the Surf to Sound aren’t in it to win, but rather, to compete with themselves or with their friends and rivals. For these racers, the event is about the camaraderie.
“It’s a cool meetup spot where they can run into old friends and develop new friendships,” Schmidt said. “There are races within the race. They know they’re not going to win, but they want to beat Joe.”
And while for many entrants, the race isn’t about winning, Cain said he sees the growth in the race year over year.
“It’s a great race, it’s getting better attendance every year,’ he said. “This year was the most competitive field ever for this event.”