Can the APP World Tour Pull Off Red Bull Heavy Water Safely?

Kai Lenny Connor Baxter Red Bull Heavy Water
Global Partner

The Green Light is announced for the APP World Tour’s showcase event in San Francisco, the extreme SUP racing event known as Red Bull Heavy Water,. Anticipation mounts as to whether the event will have any collateral damage due to the large surf anticipated from an approaching typhoon-generated swell moving across the Pacific.

Green Light for Red Bull Heavy Water:  Friday, October 18th

The APP World Tour announced today they are giving a Green Light for a 5-day holding period surrounding the 2019 Red Bull Heavy Water SUP racing competition with optimal conditions pointing towards the event being held on Friday, October 18th, 2019 in Ocean Beach, San Francisco. The requirements to ‘pull the trigger’ and hold this record breaking event is the surf at Ocean Beach – where athletes must enter and exit through the shore break – must be consistently 10′ or larger.  That’s athletes racing 14′ stand up paddle race boards, not surfboards, through the raging swell.

This year, for the first time, the APP includes 10 female athletes to what has been an all-male racing event with the largest prize purse ($75,000) in the history of the sport. Two years ago, when the event was held in 2017, an effort led by Annabel Anderson and Fiona Wylde to include females in the event (see article: #IPaddleForEquality movement) was successful in breaking down the barriers to allow female participation and a chance to earn the top prize dollars.

Capser Steinfath Kai Lenny Naish team Red Bull HeavyWater 2016
Naish riders Casper Steinfath and Kai Lenny take on the Red Bull Heavy Water Classic in San Francisco, CA. Photo by: Zak Noyle/Red Bull

Top Athletes for this year’s Red Bull Heavy Water include:

Top 24 Men:

Michael Booth (Australia), Arthur Arutkin (France), Casper Steinfath (Denmark), Connor Baxter (Hawaii), Mo Freitas (Hawaii), Lincoln Dews (Australia), Zane Schweitzer (Hawaii), Travis Grant (Australia), Danny Ching (USA), Itzel Delgado (Peru), Slater Trout (USA), Tyler Bashor (USA), Christian Anderson (Denmark), Kai Lenny (Hawaii) Martin Vitry (France), James Casey (Australia), Bernd Roediger (Hawaii), Ryan Funk (USA), Kody Kerbox (Hawaii), Fernando Stalla (Mexico), Kenny Kaneko (Japan), Riggs Napoleon (Hawaii), Chuck Glynn (USA), Mark Alfaro (San Francisco, USA).

Top 12 Women: 

Yuka Sato (Japan), Annie Reickert (Hawaii), April Zilg (USA), Terrene Black (Australia), Fiona Wylde (USA), Izzi Gomez (USA),  Annabel Anderson (New Zealand), Jordan Mercer (New Zealand), Andrea Moeller (Brazil), Shakira Westdorp (Australia)

These athletes, who are counted among the best watermen and water women alive on the planet today, will traverse a grueling 12KM (7.5 mile) distance course from Aquatic Park in San Francisco, passing through the raging currents beneath the Golden Gate Bridge to finish at Ocean Beach where the shore break is sure to be heart-stopping.

A three-day last minute invite to women, is not notice, it is unprofessional...We deemed this unfair and very disrespectful to the deep field of women in our sport around the world. It is not hard to notice the lack of transparency in these actions, and the disregard for the female athletes as a whole. NEWS FLASH: We are not to be an after thought. We have been here all along, and we want an equal opportunity to participate
Pushing out through the raging surf, the Red Bull Heavy Water had hair-raising moments and a lot of disastrous spills. Photo by:  APP World Tour

Prize Money & Safety

The Red Bull Heavy Water is significant, not only due to its extreme conditions needed in order to hold the event, but also because it gives athletes a chance to earn some serious prize money.  The APP promises to pay out the Top 3 finishers equally for both Men & Women.  Here is the breakdown for what that payout looks like:

Men’s & Women’s Prize Offerings:

1st place Men’s:  $15,000        1st place Women’s:  $15,000
2nd place Men’s: $  7,500        2nd place Women’s:     7,500
3rd place Men’s:  $  5,000        3rd place Women’s:     5,000
4th place Men’s:  $  4,000        4th place Women’s:     4,000
5th place Men’s:  $  3,000        5th place Women’s:     3,000
6th place Men’s:  $  2,000
7th place Men’s   $  1,500
8th place Men’s   $  1,000
9th place Men’s   $     800
10th place Men’s $     700

Travis Grant Red Bull Heavy Water 2018
Travis Grant works his way to the inside followed by a heaving swell to snatch his 2nd place finish at the 2017 Red Bull Heavy Water event. Photo by: Red Bull Media Pool

Does the Prize Money Put Athletes in Dangerous Conditions?

The ongoing discussion surrounding the APP Red Bull Heavy water includes such questions as: Does the offering of significant prize money put athletes in a dangerous environment where they would not go otherwise?  The answer:  YES.  That’s an athlete’s choice.  And, we know that SUP athletes don’t make a ton of coin so the opportunity to win a substantial amount of cash will certainly motivate many individuals to develop the gonads to put themselves out there.

The other questions being asked are:  Does the APP have the capacity to keep athletes safe in the event of upset or injury? Judging from the event two years ago where world class athlete Kai Lenny was swept nearly a full mile down the beach before he managed to get out past the 4-foot high white water and heaving swells, we wonder.

Kai Lenny APP World Tour Red Bull Heavy Water
Red Bull & APP World Tour athlete Kai Lenny struggles in the frenzy of the white water where he has to battle his way out past the 20 foot swells in 2017. Photo by: Red Bull Media Pool

Adding 12 courageous women into the mix makes the safety question even more relevant.  Indeed, water women like Fiona Wylde, Izzi Gomez, Andrea Moller and Terene Black have proved themselves capable in huge surf.  But they were riding surfboards. This challenge of adding a 12’6 narrow carbon raceboard shaped like a spear adds some depth to the questions surrounding prize money and safety.

Casper Steinfath Red Bull Heavy Water Naish
Casper Steinfath’s moment of glory as he captures the title at the 2017 APP World Tour’s Red Bull Heavy Water event. Photo by: APP World Tour

“I feel really honored to have been asked to this year’s Red Bull Heavy Water Event.  It’s going to be a dangerous and risky ride.” – Terrene Black

Incoming 10’+ surf, raging currents, prize money on the line, bragging rights and a whole lot of grit: that is the Red Bull Heavy Water event.  Stay tuned here at Standup Journal as we explore the conditions in the days ahead and interview the athletes on their mindset and strategies for this one-of-a-kind racing event that puts competitors on notice that their mettle is on the line.

Who will win this year’s Red Bull Heavy Water?  Stay tuned.


Previous articleTofino: Women’s Surf Culture & Queen of the Peak
Next articleSUP Training Technology: What’s Out There & How To Use It
Evelyn O'Doherty, editor & publisher of the new Standup Journal 2.0 is a former school teacher gone rogue. She left her career as a teacher in order to spend more time near or on the water after learning to surf turned her life around (upsidedown?). She is a year-round surfer and paddler living on the eastern tip of Long Island in NY who is a certified SUP instructor, seasoned SUP racer and avid longboard surfer. Evelyn was hired as Online Editor to Standup Journal in 2016. Her passion for the project quickly led to her success and eventually taking over the mag herself in Oct. 2018. Today, as editor, publisher and chief bottle washer at Standup Journal, Evelyn keeps her toes wet writing, traveling, paddling, surfing, and learning to foil. You can find her most days paddling out on Gardiner's Bay or surfing Ditch Plains in Montauk, NY.