Hawaii’s Zane Schweitzer was crowned Abu Dhabi’s youngest and first-ever Stand Up Paddle All Stars Invitational champion on Saturday after blowing all paddleboarding competition out of the water in the weekend’s three-day thriller.
The visiting elite were put to the test in both surfing and sprint competitions at two venues in the capital. Although he only muscled his way to third in the sandstorm-threatened sprint races – won by Connor Baxter, third overall – Schweitzer, 19, managed to rack up enough points from his skill in the iconic wave pool at Wadi Adventure on Thursday and Friday to star on all three days.
Day one at Wadi Adventure saw the trio of Brazilians – brothers Ian and Caio Vaz and current World Champion Leco Salazar – dominate the first three rounds with their dynamic manoeuvring. That was until Schweitzer scored a perfect 10 in the Closeouts to bump his way into the quarter-finals alongside them, and France’s Remi Quique and Kody Kerbox.
From there, 2011 Rookie of the Year Kerbox crept up on the frontrunners after outriding Salazar in a commanding quarter-final performance, but could not come up with enough to challenge Ian in their semi-final meeting and had to settle for third ahead of Quique, who he fought off in the Loser Final. He tallied at second overall.
Schweitzer met Ian in a closer than usual man-on-man final – provided by the wave pool’s mechanical consistency – and pulled out all the stops to once again upset the Brazilian’s great run of form, though by just 1.7 points.
On his successful Middle Eastern debut, Schweitzer said: “Very stoked to have made history with the best in the Stand Up Surfing world for the first-ever professional world-class competition in an artificial wave pool.
"This was truly one of the most fair and consistent competitions we have ever experienced, thanks to Wadi Adventure’s controlled surfing environment… and with all of the world’s best truly performing at their best!”
Locally-based American competitor Jen Scully came third overall in the women’s events, behind Olivia Piana and Caroline Angibaud (1st), even after being called in last minute to fill the slot of a no-show.
Scully said: “It’s so amazing that the Stand Up World Tour came here, it’s a really great step forward for SUP in the UAE.”
A Facebook announcement from organisers, the UAE SUP & Surf Association, said feedback from the event was very positive and that a bigger, better event awaits in 2014.