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Connor Baxter talks about his Gold at the 2019 Pan American Games

The 2019 Pan American Games is an event that made history for Stand Up Paddling and Surfing and is forever engraved in my mind. For the people that aren’t familiar with this event – it’s a mini Olympics that happens every 4 years that’s always one year before the Olympic Games, but it’s only for the America’s, so from Canada to the bottom of South America. This year it was hosted in Peru and it was the first year Surfing and Stand Up Paddling have ever been included.
This incredible event kicked off with the nations parade, where thousands of athletes marched into a huge stadium that was filled with spectators. Just on Team USA, there were over 600 athletes all representing Red, White and Blue. Looking back at this moment, I still get chicken skin, because the energy was through the roof. Chanting and singing, while thousands of spectators were cheering us on, is like no other feeling. I literally felt like I was at the Olympics.
“After an amazing opening ceremony, it was time to put the game face back on and do what I came down here for..... A Gold Medal!!! The first few days kicked off with all the surfing events including short board, longboard and SUP surf. It was amazing to watch and even more amazing to see all the support and amount of people that came down to cheer us all on. ”
Friday was the day the race was going down and the swell was good size with light winds. I woke up the morning of the event and was ready for battle, so I fuelled up and went to the beach to get ready. It was a water start with three laps in and out of the surf, with a run up the beach to finish through the infamous shore break. I got warmed up and got to the start line with one thing on my mind, Go for Gold!
I lined up with local favourite Itzel Delgado on my right and Vinnicius Martins on my left. The horn blew and we were off B-lining it to the first buoy turn, which was a left turn. The top four made a little break at that first turn heading into the second turn inside the surf. Unfortunately no waves came in and we all had to paddle all the way inside. I whipped my 14ft Starboard Allstar around the turn to head back out with Vinnicius hot on my tail. I knew if I wanted to win this I had to catch a wave that no one else would be on to give me that extra advantage. So I stepped to the tail of my board and swung my body and board around the outside turn. There were little bumps pushing in and I put the gas on that gave me an opportunity to sneak on to a wave that Vinnicius and Itzel missed.
This was the breaking moment for me with one lap to go. I kept my head down and held the gap I created for the rest of the lap. My last run in through the surf I managed to get another wave, turn the second to last turn with a comfortable lead, but Itzel was on the wave right behind me, so I knew I could not make a mistake on the last turn and through the gnarly shore break. I made the left turn and sprinted hard to the beach and luckily a small wave popped up and I was able to have a smooth ride to the beach as the First Ever SUP racer to win a Gold Medal at the Pan American Games. I was greeted by my team and fans to soak up this Once in a Lifetime experience!!! Feeling incredibly grateful and I couldn’t have done it without the love and support from my family, friends and sponsors!
I want to thank my major sponsors for all their support – Starboard, Salt Life, Salt Life Sunglasses, Harmless Harvest Coconut Water, Haleakala Solar. And my product sponsors Dakine, GoPro, OnIt Pro, Hi-Tech Sports.
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