Re-living the pre-lockdown chat we had with Connor on the APP tour in London.
Interview: SUP Mag UK
Pics: Starboard International, Anae Anderson and John Carter (APP)
Connor has been the face of SUP racing from the tender age of 15, when as a wide-eyed teenager lining up against legends of the sport such as Dave Kalama, Livio Menelau and Mark Raaphorst, he beat them all on a 26-mile paddle in the first-ever standup Maui 2 Molokai race. Since then he has won that title eight times in a row, alongside a raft of other renowned SUP titles. Baxter’s downwind paddling skills are second to none and he practices his skills on his home waters of the North Shore, Maui.
Connor and an ensemble of SUP stars such as Kai Lenny, Michael Booth, Casper Steinfath, Candice Appleby and Shae Foudy came to London to take part in the first leg of the APP World Tour. Before the event, we had a chance to catch up with Connor to discuss his career, highlights and maybe what the future holds.
No intros needed but if you’re remembered for one thing in SUP – what would it be?
Winning Maui to Molokai at 15 years old!
Do you have any favourite conditions for racing or are you happy with whatever comes your way on the day?
I’m an easy going guy, so all conditions are fine with me, however, downwind is my favourite.
Besides the obvious board and paddle – what will be the first piece of equipment you pack for any competition?
I would pack my board repair kit with extra leash strings, vent plugs, handles, screws, tools and board repair items like solarez and ding stick.
You manage to head overseas fairly frequently – where do you usually aim for and what appeals about this location?
Every year I go to Europe for a month or two for the summer race season over here. I definitely love hanging out in Hossegor, a small French surf town in the Basque region.
Where’s your fave place to compete?
I love Hood River because it has the perfect standing waves downwind run and is also a cool small town with a strong water sport community.
Describe to us why competing in the APP World Tour is important to you?
It was the first world tour for the sport and I’ve been following it for almost a decade now, which has been filled with some epic battles and some great victories.
What does it mean to be a Starboard rider?
It means everything to me because I have been with the company since the age of five. Starboard is so much more than just a board company and gives back to both the community and the world with their environmental endeavours and policies.
What advice would you give to aspiring paddlers looking for sponsorship opportunities?
Never give up and keep working for the things you love. It isn’t always easy getting sponsors at first but if you are persistent and keep trying, you will eventually find companies that fit your values.
If you had to choose one last thing you wanted to achieve within SUP before giving it up, what would that be and why?
My goal has always been to win M2M for a decade of dominance, so I am hoping next year to make that dream come true.
How do you keep the SUP stoke going as well as motivating others to get involved?
I try to always take in each moment and appreciate all the places I am travelling. I always look around at all the stoked faces at races and remember how I felt when I first started. There is always going to be highs and lows, but it’s a crazy ride that I wouldn’t change for anything!
Would SUP in the Olympics motivate you?
Yes, that has always been my dream. I would love to compete at that level and represent my country in the Olympics.
Can you tell us about one stand out moment throughout your career?
Last year, when I won both the distance and course race at the Pacific Paddle Games, that was definitely a stand out moment for me in my career thus far.
Downwind or surf?
Don’t really have any at the moment.
Have any dietary requirements to help with your riding?
I eat almost all organic and try to eat a low inflammation diet but travelling means it’s hard sometimes.
What do you do to wind down and relax?
Spend time at home with my wife and relaxing is always the best. I also love doing other water sports when I have time off from training.
How do you manage the physicality of the sport and the inevitable wear and tear on the body?
I do recovery on my down time such as going in the sauna or rolling out. I also get massages and stretch very often to keep my body loose and pliable.
How’s married life?
It’s been awesome and definitely the most amazing thing I have ever done in my life. She is my best friend, so being able to travel around the world with her and create so many memories is incredible.
If we came round to your place for dinner, what’s on the menu?
We’ve been making sweet potato gnocchi lately and it’s the bomb!
Any final shout outs?
All my sponsors, Salt Life, Maui Jim, Starboard, Black Project and Harmless Harvest.
Thank you so much Connor for your time and all the very best from us all here at SUP Mag UK.