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Connor Baxter and Terrene Black Claim the Japan Pro-Am Titles

Things are heating up on the 2017 APP World Tour after another weekend of rail-to-rail racing and thrilling finishes. Once the final stroke was taken, points tallied and tiebreakers confirmed, it was Maui’s Connor Baxter and Australia’s Terrene Black who came away with overall victories.

The third stop of the tour brought the world’s best paddlers to Japan’s Enoshima Beach for the–officially named–Trump Wetsuits Japan Pro-Am presented by Hawaiian Airlines. With stacked fields of paddlers going head-to-head in both distance and sprint races, we expected nothing short of a hard-fought battle.

The biggest moment of the weekend occurred at the conclusion of the men’s distance race. Picking up where they left off during round two in Maui, Mo Freitas and Connor Baxter spent the entire 10km course swapping the lead back and forth. After catching the same wave in towards the finish line, Freitas stumbled while sprinting up the beach and left the door open for Baxter to snatch victory by a single second.

The women’s distance race was dominated by German Sonni Hönscheid who crossed the line nearly three minutes ahead of her nearest competitor. That would be Maui’s Fiona Wylde, who was able to outlast Candice Appleby for the runner-up finish. Behind that trio, overall series leader Terrene Black charged home in fourth place.

Following a electrifying act one was the unpredictable sprint-elimination event on day two.

These short races can often lead to upsets and nearly did during the semi-final round for the men. After a set wave knocked Freitas off his board and into James Casey, Freitas would have to play catch up on a damaged board to make the final. It took until the final buoy turn for him to pull off the comeback, which secured his spot in the final.

The men’s final began with sprint specialist and last year’s Japan Pro-Am champ Casper Steinfath jumping out to an early lead. Despite the fast start, Freitas–using a borrowed board–was able to reel him back in and make the pass for the lead and eventually the win. Baxter was able to follow suit and nabbed second place, with Steinfath slipping back to third.

In déjà vu of the Maui round, their respective victories left Baxter and Freitas tied for the overall victory. While the winning the sprint race gave Freitas the overall in Maui, this time around it was the distance race which was the tiebreaker, handing the overall victory to Baxter.

Despite the tiebreaker scenario for the men, the women were able to one-up them with a three-way knot for the overall. This was the result of Terrene Black storming to victory in the sprint race, with Appleby coming home second and Wylde in third. After Hönscheid’s fifth-place result knocked her out of contention for the overall victory by a single point, it was Black’s victory in the sprint that would lift her past rivals Wylde and Appleby for the overall victory.

After the action-packed weekend, competitors will now turn their attention to the Mercedes-Benz SUP World Cup in Scharbeutz, Germany. That race takes place June 30 to July 2 and will certainly be one to watch.