Air France Paddle Festival: results, recap and live stream replay from Tahiti as Titou and Yuka salute

Warriors on the charge at the Air France Paddle Festival in Tahiti

Japan’s Yuka Sato and New Caledonia’s Titouan Puyo have claimed victory at the Air France Paddle Festival in Tahiti, surviving brutally-hot conditions and outlasting spirited attacks from the local warriors in a memorable day of racing.

Yuka, the runner-up in this event 12 months ago, reeled in a fast-starting Olivia Piana to win the first major of her career. The “Smiling Assassin” surged down the back-straight, powering through the light upwind conditions to gap Olivia and setup a commanding lead that would grow to 12 minutes by the finish.

Yuka was paddling her signature two-piece design from Sunova, however Olivia was paddling something completely unfamiliar: customs delays forced her to borrow a board last minute, which certainly wouldn’t have helped her chances in the race.

Under-rated Tahitian champ Hinarii Yiou was third in a small but elite field of women who braved the 24km challenge, while French darkhorse Sandrien Berthe and local wildcard Lauriane Bisch rounded out the top five.

In the battle of the future champions, 16-year-old Haniarii Brillant outlasted fellow 16-year-old Leeloo Desanti by just three minutes after more than three hours of paddling.

Japan’s Yuka Sato en route to her maiden “major” at the Air France Paddle Festival in Tahiti

The men’s race was always going to be a battle between Titou and the Tahitians, with no less than a dozen world-class locals eager to take down the 2018 world number three. This was the NSP/Quickblade team rider’s third attempt at the Air France crown, having finished 3rd in 2016 and 4th last year.

After a fast start from ultra dark horse local Ricky Aitamai (who paddled in the lead all on his own for much of the first kilometre), the field was quickly whittled down to a draft train of 11. Around 10 minutes into the race, a phantom bump from a distant ferry scuttled the front pack and allowed Titou to bolt — the only pursuants who were able to link back up were Enzo Bennett from the 425 team and Keoni Sulpice (Team Starboard), who at just 15 years of age is being hailed as a champion-in-waiting.

As the lead trio exited the protected lagoon and headed out through the first reef pass into the open ocean, Titou seemed to be in complete control as his silky smooth technique set a consistent pace that left Keoni and Enzo hanging on.

With the draining sun taking its toll (half a dozen competitors were “DNF”), Titou attempted a few attacks but couldn’t shake the plucky duo. Even a rare mistake by Keoni, where he fell and took Enzo down with him, wasn’t enough to alter the trio.

As the TNTV drone highlighted to live viewers, the leaders were often paddling just metres outside the break where rogue waves were crashing onto shallow coral. It looked spectacular on screen, but one wrong move would have seen the competitors end up on dry reef.

Enzo Bennett, Keoni Sulpice and Titouan Puyo made it a race of three on Saturday

When the course eventually headed back into the lagoon through the second reef pass, where extreme currents, waves, wind and boat wakes produced a washing machine effect, the pack began to splinter.

Enzo was the first to crack. After a brave, two-hour fight he began looking over his shoulder to see how close the pursuants – Niuhiti Buillard and Georges Cronsteadt – were getting. It was a sure sign that he was tiring, and eventually one of those glances also cost Enzo his balance, causing him to fall and lose contact with the other two leaders.

That made it a two-horse race for the final, extremely-tense ten minutes of the race.

With the flotilla of boats virtually unanimous in their vocal support for young Keoni, Titou had to remain composed and hold his nerve until the finish. He did just that, finally breaking free from his young rival in the final 300 metres to claim another major trophy and highlight his mastery of the ocean.

The champ clearly left nothing on the water, collapsing to his knees as he crossed the line. He was also full of praise and respect for his chief rival, saying that he viewed Keoni as just as much of a threat as the other top guys and never took his position in the race for granted.

It was a masterful performance from an athlete considered one of the smoothest paddlers on the planet.

It was also a third-straight victory for Team NSP at this event, following Marcus Hansen’s heroic triumph twelve months ago and Yoann Cronsteadt’s winning performance in 2017.

But while Titou was the victor, the biggest cheers in the crowd were clearly for Keoni, who started celebrating his epic performance and waving his QB paddle in the air with pride while he was still 50 metres from the beach.

The runner-up result would have been a big one for any paddler in the world, no matter what their age or experience, but the fact Keoni is just 15 years of age makes it that much more impressive. It wouldn’t be a stretch to call this kid the “Connor Baxter of Tahiti” and draw parallels with the incredible results Connor achieved before he was even old enough to drive.

Incredibly, this is the third time Keoni has completed the infamous 24km Air France course, having started this torturous race as a 13-year-old back in 2016. As Titou joked after the race, “Keoni gets faster every year and he’s only 15… maybe I shouldn’t come back next year.”

The ocean master, Titouan Puyo, en route to victory in Tahiti; Titou was given the nickname “Silk” on the webcast due to his flawless, silky smooth technique

Despite falling into no-man’s-land with 2km to go, Enzo fought hard and held off the other challengers to secure third place. The result will be overshadowed by his young compatriot’s heroics, but Enzo clearly showed he’s a world-class talent.

Niuhiti Buillard crossed shortly after, while the Brothers Cronsteadt, Yoann, the 2017 Air France champion, and Georges, Tahiti’s best-known international SUP athlete, came home fifth and sixth.

But the tough conditions were highlighted by the names that finished just outside the top 10 or not at all.

The biggest shock was pre-race favourite Steeve Teihotaata who withdrew in the final kilometre after being unable to stay on his feet; Steeve’s water pack sprung a leak early and he paddled the entire second half of the race without hydration.

2019 GlaGla Race champion, Ludovic Teulade, was relegated to 11th place, while early podium contender and one of the world’s leading young guns, Clement Colmas, hit the wall mid-race and limped home in 13th. Ludo told us post-race that he went through all 2.5 litres of his water pack in the first 1.5 hours of the race, paddling the final 60 minutes on empty. Clement simply described the 24km slog as “The hardest race I’ve ever done in my life.”

150 amateur paddlers line up for the classic “Lagoon Race”

While the 24km elite race is the showcase, the heart of the Air France event is the traditional “Lagoon Race” (open race) that saw 150 paddlers slog it out over 8km in the windless, early morning sun.

Ranihei Bonet blitzed the women’s open race, finishing three minutes clear of her nearest rival, while 21-year-old Henere Harrys claimed a hard-fought men’s race ahead of 20-year-old Moehau Swapp. Both of these guys would have fit right in at any elite race around the world, which highlights just how deep the Tahitian talent pool runs.

In a coincidence of rare names and a possible sign of things to come, 14-year-old Titouan Olite hit the podium in the 8km junior race.

The day also featured a “Super Groms” kids race – well done to Manoa Goyat for claiming the grom crown – as well as a fancy-dress fun race (The Woodys were victorious). All up there were 265 participants for the 6th annual edition.

Tahiti is home to the richest paddling culture on the planet. Outrigger canoe (known as “va’a” in Polynesia) is quite literally the national sport, while dozens of the nation’s finest athletes have crossed over into SUP in recent years.

The combination of paddling talent and postcard-perfect views sets the stage for a classic event.

We’d also like to clarify that we didn’t make the prize money requirements clear to the organisers earlier in the year, which unfortunately meant some of the lower-placed women were paid less than the men. The men’s and women’s elite winners were paid equally, but not all the way down the podium. The League takes full responsibility for this and in the future will make complete gender-equal prize money a clear requirement.

The League also aims to give the women’s race more coverage in our broadcasts, though the crew from TNTV definitely did an extraordinary job producing what is probably the best live stream in the sport.

Overall it was a fantastic event.

The Air France Paddle Festival has established itself as one of the “New Majors” in our sport by ticking almost every box possible: it’s an extremely well organised day of racing, held in an incredible destination, features races for all levels and attracts strong amateur participation, anti-doping measures are enforced, and to top it off there’s world-class live coverage. Pretty solid.

Big thanks to the event team and our broadcast partner for elevating the coverage of the sport, and well done to everyone that survived the blazing Tahitian sun — that was a hot day on the water…


LIVE STREAM REPLAY

Big shout out to everyone who tuned in to watch and comment on Facebook Live — so cool to see the interaction from paddling fans around the world. We had just over 10,000+ views by the end of the broadcast, and thanks to our television partner (TNTV) you can now watch a full replay in full HD on YouTube (there’s also a French-language replay).

 


 

RESULTS

Skip to: 24KM WOMEN | 24KM MEN | 24KM MASTERS | 24KM GIRLS | 24KM BOYS | LAGOON RACE WOMEN | LAGOON RACE MEN | LAGOON RACE GIRLS | LAGOON RACE BOYS | PRONE WOMEN | PRONE MEN | KIDS

 


 

 


 


 


 

#AthleteTimeBrandNationAge
1Titouan Puyo2:19:52NSP/QBNew Cal27
2Keoni Sulpice2:20:03Starboard/QBTahiti15
3Enzo Bennett2:20:44425Tahiti22
4Niuhiti Buillard2:21:33SICTahiti27
5Georges Cronsteadt2:27:00425Tahiti38
6Yoann Consteadt2:27:03425Tahiti31
7Ricky Aitamai2:28:10425Tahiti27
8Mathieu Ayard2:33:57StarboardTahiti26
9Tiavairau Chang2:34:05StarboardTahiti18
10Vincent Goyat2:35:19StarboardTahiti44
11Ludovic Teulade2:35:37OxbowFrance24
12Olivier Darrieumerlou2:37:34425France39
13Clement Colmas2:39:08StarboardNew Cal18
14Eric Leou-On2:39:45-Tahiti32
15Daniel Tavanae2:39:59-Tahiti38
16Rauhiri Varuahi2:41:00-Tahiti45
17Damien Troquenet2:42:39-Tahiti35
18Tevai Maroaunui2:44:09-Tahiti26
19Fernando Stalla2:51:12RogueMexico32
20Atamu Conti2:51:38-Tahiti33
21Paitu Raoulx2:56:45-Tahiti48
22Belar Diaz3:02:16F-OneSpain41
23Arii Brillant3:03:24-Tahiti45
24Leandro Cruz3:06:59-Brazil41
DNFSteeve Teihotaata-SunovaTahiti26
DNFTeiki Conti--Tahiti51
DNFTuhiti Tirao--Tahiti19
DNFVetea Amo--Tahiti34

 


 

Elite 24km: Masters

1st: Vincent Goyat (Tahiti) 2:35:19
2nd: Olivier Darrieumerlou (France) 2:37:34
3rd: Rauhiri Varuahi (Tahiti) 2:41:00
4th: Paitu Raoulx (PYF) 2:56:45
5th: Belar Diaz (ESP) 3:02:16
6th: Arii Brillant (PYF) 3:03:24
7th: Leandro Cruz (BRA) 3:06:59

 


 

Elite 24km: Junior girls

1st: Haniarii Brillant (PYF) 3:13:11 (16 years)
2nd: Leeloo Desanti (PYF) 3:16:55 (16 years)
3rd: Mahia Poroi PYF) 3:30:55 (18 years)

 


 

Elite 24km: Junior boys

1st: Keoni Sulpice (PYF) 2:20:03 (15 years)
2nd: Tiavairau Chang (PYF) 2:35:05 (18 years)
3rd: Clement Colmas (FRA) 2:39:08 (18 years)

 


 

Lagoon Race: Women

 


 

Lagoon Race: Men

#PaddlerTimeDivisionDOB
1Henere Harrys0:51:27Open25/02/1998
2Moehau Swapp0:51:52Open10/03/1999
3Paul Lenfant0:52:50Open16/07/1995
4Haamatai Leon0:53:24Open16/01/1992
5Honui Parau0:53:33Open09/01/1996
6Manarii Flores0:53:43Open06/02/1995
7Julien Sudrat0:54:08Masters31/12/1977
8Audibert Tama0:54:43Masters09/10/1977
9Charles, Teiki Mai0:54:53Open02/04/1983
10Raitua Lanteires0:54:57Open11/12/1990
11Jean-Luc Saucet0:55:02Masters08/09/1964
12Mickael, Kaley Teriitahi0:55:21Masters08/04/1977
13Kenji Villierme0:55:25Open13/03/1982
14Moanatea Apuarii0:55:39Open02/07/1988
15Chris Miley0:55:50Open18/08/1980
16Emanuera, Vetea Mama0:56:15Open17/05/1981
17Tehei Pugibet0:56:43Masters10/08/1971
18David Tepava0:56:56Open31/01/1982
19Christophe Chand0:56:57Masters16/10/1971
20Vincent Tarati0:56:57Masters07/12/1977
21Mike Teakura0:57:01Open24/06/1981
22Alain Sun0:57:11Masters29/11/1975
23Kevin Aussu0:57:15Open10/06/1987
24Tunui Shiro-Abe-Peu0:57:27Masters15/08/1979
25Rooma Apuarii0:57:33Open10/06/1997
26Steeve Lyou0:57:41Open23/06/1990
27Djenny Tanata0:57:46Open13/04/1989
28Pascal Tchen Ping Lei0:57:53Masters21/05/1974
29Roger Kong Yek Fhan0:58:07Masters18/01/1977
30Jean Wong0:58:27Masters11/05/1968
31Maui Temauri0:58:30Open17/07/1996
32Vaitea Sulpice0:58:32Open09/09/1994
33Sylvain Prodel0:58:33Open02/06/1982
34Raiarii Buillard0:58:36Masters14/08/1974
35Brice Lanoe0:58:45Open30/10/1984
36Xavier Dogo0:58:52Masters25/03/1966
37Parea, Jacques Van Sam0:58:57Open19/04/1980
38Christophe Perier0:59:02Open30/11/1980
39Vehiatua Tereua0:59:09Open26/10/1988
40Angelo Paro0:59:17Open13/08/1980
41Terupe Reichart0:59:28Open01/03/1981
42Alexis Toiroro0:59:41Open14/11/1980
43Heifara Tematafaarere0:59:44Masters26/06/1977
44Fabrice Luciano0:59:53Masters03/05/1969
45Francois Tirao1h 00:03Masters27/05/1971
46Mike Teahui1h 00:04Open07/02/1981
47Jonathan Maurin1h 00:05Open03/03/1985
48Manea Pugibet1h 00:41Masters05/01/1972
49Tanavae Haretahi1h 01:02Open23/05/1990
50Yannick Giau1h 01:10Masters16/09/1974
51Andy Arapa1h 01:55Masters23/08/1973
52Marius Utia1h 02:17Masters12/12/1976
53Viktor Milev1h 02:54Open27/12/1980
54Ioane Haoa1h 03:17Open05/12/1990
55Heremoana, Frantz Mahuta1h 03:23Masters01/07/1975
56Hitiarii Chaussoy1h 03:46Open23/04/1995
57Dave Riaria1h 03:47Open14/04/1990
58Thomas Lefevre1h 04:08Open09/05/1983
59Adrien Heurtaux1h 04:31Open02/06/1990
60Moana Chinison1h 04:41Open14/04/1988
61Jean-Claude Debord1h 04:45Masters18/11/1969
62Mathieu Astier1h 04:58Masters02/05/1978
63Kevin Salis1h 05:04Open02/08/1986
64Eric Tehaeura1h 05:29Open02/12/1984
65Yann Manea1h 05:31Open17/12/1985
66Heinui Faatauira1h 06:34Masters24/07/1979
67Nanua Taerea1h 06:48Masters04/07/1979
68Tevaiarii, Hubert Tapeta-Moanarua1h 07:06Open04/03/1989
69Chris Tauvavau1h 07:44Masters09/07/1972
70Tooreva1h 07:48Open21/09/1993
71Christopher Parker1h 07:52Open23/08/1983
72Xavier Gaudermen1h 07:58Masters15/06/1972
73Herald, Manuarii Haumani1h 08:21Open08/11/1980
74Marc Sansine1h 09:00Open17/01/1985
75Tevainui Hamblin1h 10:17Juniors19/07/2002
76Hinckley Hatitio1h 10:38Juniors16/10/2002
77Nelson Richmond1h 10:59Masters28/02/1971
78Marama Copie1h 11:42Masters26/01/1972
79Jerome Tuira1h 11:50Masters18/10/1970
80Nils Soreda1h 12:06Open04/06/1982
81Alexis Cadousteau1h 12:17Masters18/05/1965
82Alvin Pasquini1h 12:32Masters17/12/1975
83Pascal Luciani1h 12:51Masters31/10/1964
84Titouan Olite1h 13:01Juniors14/01/2005
85Carmelo Ebb1h 15:10Masters25/05/1971
86Ernest Walker1h 15:51Masters16/06/1974
87Gilles Tetoka1h 16:07Open09/05/1982
88Julien Villa1h 17:28Masters11/12/1970
89Lucas Passera1h 20:07Juniors09/06/2004
90Robert Conroy1h 20:55Masters14/09/1970
91Leon Tamahaere1h 21:25Masters20/08/1970
92Anthony Hong Kiou1h 23:20Masters05/07/1968
93Hugo Doens-Debus1h 24:29Juniors26/08/2002
94Thierry Malarde1h 29:46Masters27/01/1978
DNFKatchy YauABANDONMasters26/01/1968
DNFErrol MaoniABANDONOpen17/03/1981
DNFRene, Jean CronsteadtABANDONMasters25/10/1953
DNFJeremie CollinABANDONOpen25/09/1985
DSQTyrone Hart0:53:14Open11/01/1983
DSQDarren Harbulot0:54:58Open07/08/1996

 


 

Lagoon Race: Junior girls

1st: Manuhere Mollon 1:14:10 // 16 years
2nd: Chloe Aldon (PYF) 1:21:28 // 13 years

 


 

Lagoon Race: Junior boys

1st: Tevainui Hamblin (PYF) 1:10:17 // 16 years
2nd: Hinckley Hatitio (PYF) 1:10:38 // 16 years
3rd: Titouan Olite (PYF) 1:13:01 // 14 years
4th: Lucas Passera (PYF) 1:20:07 // 14 years
5th: Hugo Doens (PYF) 1:24:29 // 16 years

 


 

Lagoon Race: Prone women

 


 

Lagoon Race: Prone men

 


 

2km Kids’ Race