12 Towers 2020: Five Talking Points

A big weekend of racing all summed up in five sub headings. The Up and Comers, a Changing of the Guard, Tight Racing, Choked/Biggest Blunders and Best on Ground.

Up and Comers
Shrimpy and Johnny Hagan. These two didn’t win either day but they sure did make their presence know. Johnny Hagan had a break out performance in the short and sharp tech race, not only finishing runner up but being in the mix the entire race and leading for a bit of it. He has been racing for a few years now and I had the pleasure of down winding a fair bit with him in WA in the lead up to King Of The Cut at the end of last year. With a background in swimming and surf life saving he seems to be enjoy the short sharp technical racing the most so keep an eye on Johnny when things are short and sharp with surf skills.

Shrimpy in the downwinder went about his business linking bumps the entire way. He worked his way through the field from 5th around half way and coming home strong, almost mowing down Ty Judson for a runner up position. Shrimpy at 13 years old has announced himself as the new wunderkid of downwind paddling, although it isn’t his first big race. He’s done Molokai 2 Oahu as a team on a SUP with his dad, Taku, and solo on a foil last year. He’s definitely being groomed as an ocean paddler and it all clicked this weekend for him. I’m looking forward to seeing him progress over the years.

Changing of the Guard?
Following on from Johhny Hagan and Shrimpy’s results, there was definitely a feeling of a changing of the guard this weekend. The average age for the Mens top 3 on Sunday was just 17 years old and 19 years old for Saturday’s Surf Race. A few years ago Nottage, Boothy, Lincoln and myself were the new brigade battling with Beau Obrian, Ben Tardrew, Paul Jackson and Kelly Margetts. There are now a plethora of younger paddlers moving their way through the ranks with Noic Garioud, Ty Judson, Shrimpy, Johnny Hagan, Tim Cyprien, Ollie Houghton and Sam Mcculough sticking it to the more established crew. There were rumours of Nottage making a come back from his new found love of fishing but he never showed, Beau was around and competed in the foil muster but he seems too busy pumping around on his 2’11 foilboard and being father to his new baby girl to race on SUPs, Kelly took up commentary this weekend, while Jacko was still out there racing it sounds like he’s more excited about flatwater SUP racing at the moment. The younger women are on the rise too with Abbie and Chloe Walkerdene ad Briana Alms all getting close but the more established womens crew still seem to have the upper hand.  

Tight Racing 
The womens racing was a battle the entire way, while I didn’t see it, I heard Karla, Kate and Angie exchanged the lead a couple times between Snapper and Burleigh. Karla came out on top, claiming her 7th 12 Towers win, Kate finishing a few seconds behind, while Angie faded a bit in the end and possibly took a bit longer up the beach with her achilles injury still not 100% healed.

Lincoln and I also had a good tussle in the middle of the downwinder, literally surfing the same bumps and trading places back and forth for a good 5 minutes. Sam Mccullough mustn’t have been far behind as he pipped Lincoln in a sprint finish to the line where literally 0.3 of a second separated them.

Biggest Blunders
I think I take the chocolates for choking/biggest blunders this weekend. Maybe it was karma for heaping it on Noic last year? First of all in the Surf  Race, heading into the last lap of the tech Race I was leading only for a wave to clean me up on the outside cans, which were interestingly placed just inside the outside surf break. I was gassed as it was, so probably a bit of fitness being an issue as well, but I couldn’t make the right decision when it mattered and fell off three times in the last half lap. Then 45 minutes before the distance race even started my paddle became unglued, the blade falling out of the bottom of the shaft. I ran around asking if anyone had a spare paddle my size or any glue or epoxy for about 5 minutes before making the call to go to a hardware store. Mark Kane drove me there and we glued paddle back in the shaft while driving back to the start line. I arrived at the beach 5 minutes before the start and got about 200m from the start line before the hooter went off. While I don’t think it mad atto much difference in the end, as I lost by more than 200 m to Shrimpy, it definitely didn’t help my cause.

Another notable mention must go to Olivier Garioud (Noics Dad) who was well within the Top 10 turning the outside turning mark in 7th before taking off on one of the sets of the day only for him to be exploded and a previously creased Sunova Unlimited being snapped clean in two either side of the repair. He lost about 5 or 6 places but held onto the unlimited win. Maybe Olivier will fly home to New Caledonia with his two piece as check in?


Best on Ground
Ty Judson had an unreal weekend winning the surf race, placing second in the downwinder with just a gear malfunction blotching his record with an 11th in the Foil Muster. He is really maturing into an all round paddler and it’s cool to see him get better and better each race. There’s no doubt his change to NSP has helped his results and I’m stoked to see him do so well at home but also all around the world, watch for Ty at Carolina and Euro Tour later in the year.

Noic Garioud absolutely blew everyone away in the downwinder this weekend having a huge lead by the half way and only extended on it from there. I’m not surprised as I’ve seen him dance around on his 14’ race board for a while now. He said he’s had good conditions at home lately too so he’s obviously tuned in to his gear in the bumps.

Karla Gilbert continues to dominate this race when there are bumps and with her 7th crown it shows how lucky 12 Towers has been for conditions in the past 9 years. Well done on holding off the younger generation, as I struggled to stay near the under 20s crew this weekend.

Finally Marcus Tardrew, while he wasn’t at the race his presence was felt with three of the top four men being on the Sunova Ocean Faast. We may have lost Marcus to the foil for the moment but I know he still gets very excited about race board designs.


Thanks to Troy Pease and his team for putting 12 Towers on, Georgia Schofield for all the photos and SUP Racer/Paddle League for the great coverage.


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  • Nice work James. I see your future here too! Great summary and coverage mate. Well done!


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