2019 Red Bull Heavy Water: competitors had to face 15-foot waves | Photo: Bielmann/Red Bull

Red Bull Heavy Water, a highlight on the pro standup paddleboard circuit, returned to San Francisco after a cancellation in 2018 due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Ideal conditions of over 10-foot waves were called early in the weather window of October 15 - November 7, and athletes from all over the world descended on the Bay Area in anticipation of an event for the history books.

The men's title was claimed for the second straight time by pro paddler Casper Steinfath, 26, of Klitmøller, Denmark, an area he likes to call "Cold Hawaii."

Trailing race leaders Mo Freitas and Connor Baxter for most of the race, Steinfath was nearly 400 meters behind when the paddlers reached the pounding surf at Ocean Beach, where 10-to-15-foot waves were obscured by a dense fog.

"I wanted to conserve energy, for sure. I'm a sprinter, not a long-distance racer," said Steinfath.

"This race is all about keeping your head calm because we literally couldn't see the set waves. I'm still in shock. This is by far the wildest and craziest race in the world, and I wish there were more of them."

This year marked the first time women paddled in the competition, and from the starting gun, North Carolina native April Zilg, current world number 2, comfortably led the five-women field, arriving at the beach first.

2019 Red Bull Heavy Water: the SUP event stood up to its name | Photo: Bielmann/Red Bull

Rough Waters

While the competition was called off due to deteriorating conditions before they could finish, it was Australian Terrene Black who had made the most headway to break through the seemingly impenetrable surf at Ocean Beach to be awarded first place by race officials.

Given the commitment and fortitude of the remaining women taking part, it was deemed appropriate to share the remaining purse equally.

The 13.5-kilometer (eight miles) course, paddling through rough waters and strong eddies from Aquatic Park, under the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, and finishing at Ocean Beach, saw 25 of the world's best male and female athletes assembled to test their skills against the best of the best in the rapidly growing sport of standup paddleboarding.

Split evenly between the male and female categories, $75,000 was designated for the prize purse, along with important points toward the overall APP World Tour rankings.

Tristan Boxford, CEO of the Waterman League and event director, expressed his enthusiasm for the caliber of athletes in the 2019 race.

"It was an incredible show of bravado and skill out in the challenging waters of San Francisco today," said Boxford.

"Ocean Beach has been regarded as the real equalizer since the inception of Red Bull Heavy Water back in 2016."

"But this year, the whole course provided what was without a doubt the most challenging and ''heavy'' race to date. A big congratulations to all our competitors this year - what a spectacular show."

Red Bull Heavy Water also partnered with San Francisco-based nonprofit Sustainable Surf, advocating for an #oceanpositive event and committing to a carbon-neutral event experience by empowering all involved athletes to offset their carbon footprint for travel through the innovative SeaTrees initiative.

2019 Red Bull Heavy Water | Results

1. Casper Steinfath (DEN)
2. Arthur Arutkin (FRA)
3. Mo Freitas (HAW)

1. Terrene Black (NZL)
2. April Zilg (USA) / Annie Reickert (HI) / Fiona Wylde (USA) / Shakira Westdorp (AUS)

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