Racers challenge grueling ‘Graveyard’ in this weekend’s Carolina Cup


The 8th annual Quiksilver Waterman Carolina Cup returns to Wrightsville Beach this weekend and will draw thousands of spectators and more than 1,000 event participants.

Organized by the Wrightsville Beach Paddle Club, affiliated with the newly formed Paddle League, and sanctioned by the World Paddle Association (WPA), the Cup will attract paddlers from over 20 countries and virtually every state in the nation. Competitors include Olympians, world-record holders, champions, professionals, amateurs, and first-time paddlers. The Carolina Cup is the first race of 2018 on the WPA World SUP Tour, and the second major race of the season on the Paddle League World Tour.

Last year’s women’s champion Annabel Anderson of New Zealand is on hiatus due to injury, but she provided insight into this year’s field.

“The 13-mile Graveyard is SUP’s equivalent of a marathon where you are operating at threshold and above for over two hours. The training and preparation that is required to allow you to do this is immense and highly involved,” Anderson said.

One key to winning the graveyard is understanding, and utilizing, the weather and conditions.

“Like the reading of the weather, the swell and tidal conditions, understanding each athlete’s strengths, weaknesses, equipment selection and preparations are all critical going into the Graveyard Race to truly be prepared for what may be thrown at you,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the outrigger experience of Danny Ching, Travis Grant and Titouan Puyo, last year’s repeat men’s champion, should provide an advantage. However, Ryland Hart, Tahitian Steeve Teihotaa, the Hasulyo brothers, Connor Baxter, Lincoln Dews, Georges Crondsteadt, Michael Booth, Mo Freitas and recent Air France Paddle Festival champion Marcus Hansen of New Zealand will also be in contention, she said.

“Over the past three years we have seen the elite men’s race become a tactical game of cat and mouse where the real race has started at the breakwater or Mason’s Inlet. From there it’s a case of who has enough gas left in the tank to launch an attack and who can gain as much advantage in the ocean from what the water is giving them,” Anderson said.

For the women’s race, Anderson said Sonni Honsheid, Oregon’s Fiona Wylde and Yuka Sato from Japan are strong contenders, as is former Wrightsville Beach-based paddler April Zilg, who moved last year to California.

“April has likely had her best ever off season preparation notching up a number of results both on the SUP and the OC1,” Anderson said. “All have a well-rounded skill set, are well-prepared and would love nothing more than to add a Carolina Cup victory to their 2018 resume.”

Returning races on the 2018 Quiksilver Waterman Carolina Cup schedule:

  • The Graveyard, a grueling 13.2-mile ocean and flatwater race for the elite and professional paddleboard racers; Saturday, April 21, 10 a.m.
  • The Money Island Open, a 6.5-mile flatwater race designed for the intermediate to advanced paddler; Saturday, April 21, 9:30 a.m.
  • The Harbor Island Recreational, a 3.5-mile flatwater race for first-time to intermediate paddleboarders;Saturday, April 21, 9 a.m.
  • The popular Kids Race for children 7 to 14, Sunday, April 22.

New to the race schedule in 2018:

  • The Longboat Graveyard, a 13.2-mile race exclusively for Elite OC-1, OC-2, Surfski and Double-Ski; Sunday, April 22, 9 a.m.


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