The 26th annual  Highland Spring HIHO windsurfing event will start on Monday with competitors racing throughout territory over several courses that will cover more than 100 miles.

This year the event will include a new sport — stand-up paddling, which consists of a competitor  paddling a board, instead of using wind power.

“We are excited about it,” organiser Andy Morrell said. “It is going to include one of the best paddlers from the states, Ernie Johnson.”

Mr.  Johnson of California is a multi-race winner in the fledgling SUP circuit.

“I’m very excited to race for six days through the British Virgin Islands,” he said. “Living on a yacht and touring through the islands will be great. When I first started in this sport, I had no idea where it might lead me and to be invited to such a prestigious event was beyond my expectations.”

Mr. Johnson was in the Caribbean in November and won Puerto Rico’s first pro paddle event.

About 10 competitors have registered for the SUP division, while 25 are slated to compete in the windsurfing division.

“We don’t have a big SUP fleet,” Mr. Morrell said.

He added that it is hard to compare last year’s turnout to this year’s event, because the race was celebrating its 25th anniversary. However, he does expect a few more competitors to register before the start.

“It goes in cycles,” Mr. Morrell explained about the turnout. “[However,] it’s still going to be a week of great racing in the BVI.”

Next year the navy will be here and will help boost numbers, according to the organiser.

Mr. Morrell believes the addition of SUP will help the event grow and not hamper the turnout. In the past, he considered adding other sports, like kiting to the HIHO event — but never did.

“For many, many years we thought about how we could enlarge the event,” Mr. Morrell said. “We thought about kiting for a long time, but in the end we didn’t see a fit there. But with paddling we see a fit.”

He added that SUP is growing and “taking off.”

“I am optimistic that SUP will prove to be a winning formula,” Mr. Morrell said.

While the windsurfers will race from destination to destination, the SUP courses will be of equal length, but will mostly be  be down wind.

The event takes competitors around the territory with stops at Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Tortola and other islands.,

Competitors stay on Mooring yachts, while spectators, family and friends follow the racers throughout the event. At night, fleet comes a shore to party.

“We try to combine great racing with a great party,” Mr. Morrell said. “We try to go to great venues for a great party.”

Professional rider Wilhelm Shurman of Brazil will be competing this year in the windsurfing division. In 2008 he won the event.

“He is coming back to defend his title,” Mr. Morrell said.

Other top riders from the region will also be competing, but Mr. Morrell explained that hosting and courting professional participants is not what makes the event a success.

“The event reaches out to the average guy who wants a great week of windsurfing,” he said. “That’s the secret of our event.”

Mr. Morrell has been running the event for the past 18 years and used to compete in the 1980s. In 1986 he won it. “I liked it so much, I bought it,” Mr. Morrell said.

He markets the event to international magazines, which helps promote and attract new competitors.

He is not worried about not having enough wind this year, but is more concerned if the weather will be stormy.  He explained that July is traditionally the windiest month. Last year they cancelled only one race due to a lack of wind.

“You can’t take the weather personal,” Mr. Morrell said.

The 26th annual  Highland Spring HIHO windsurfing event will start on Monday with competitors racing throughout territory over several courses that will cover more than 100 miles.This year the event will include a new sport — stand-up paddling, which consists of a competitor  paddling a board, instead of using wind power. “We are excited about it,” organiser Andy Morrell said. “It is going to include one of the best paddlers from the states, Ernie Johnson.”Mr.  Johnson of California is a multi-race winner in the fledgling SUP circuit.“I’m very excited to race for six days through the British Virgin Islands,” he said. “Living on a yacht and touring through the islands will be great. When I first started in this sport, I had no idea where it might lead me and to be invited to such a prestigious event was beyond my expectations.”Mr. Johnson was in the Caribbean in November and won Puerto Rico’s first pro paddle event.About 10 competitors have registered for the SUP division, while 25 are slated to compete in the windsurfing division.“We don’t have a big SUP fleet,” Mr. Morrell said. He added that it is hard to compare last year’s turnout to this year’s event, because the race was celebrating its 25th anniversary. However, he does expect a few more competitors to register before the start. “It goes in cycles,” Mr. Morrell explained about the turnout. “[However,] it’s still going to be a week of great racing in the BVI.”Next year the navy will be here and will help boost numbers, according to the organiser.Mr. Morrell believes the addition of SUP will help the event grow and not hamper the turnout. In the past, he considered adding other sports, like kiting to the HIHO event — but never did.“For many, many years we thought about how we could enlarge the event,” Mr. Morrell said. “We thought about kiting for a long time, but in the end we didn’t see a fit there. But with paddling we see a fit.”He added that SUP is growing and “taking off.” “I am optimistic that SUP will prove to be a winning formula,” Mr. Morrell said. While the windsurfers will race from destination to destination, the SUP courses will be of equal length, but will mostly be  be down wind. The event takes competitors around the territory with stops at Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Tortola and other islands.,Competitors stay on Mooring yachts, while spectators, family and friends follow the racers throughout the event. At night, fleet comes a shore to party.“We try to combine great racing with a great party,” Mr. Morrell said. “We try to go to great venues for a great party.”Professional rider Wilhelm Shurman of Brazil will be competing this year in the windsurfing division. In 2008 he won the event. “He is coming back to defend his title,” Mr. Morrell said. Other top riders from the region will also be competing, but Mr. Morrell explained that hosting and courting professional participants is not what makes the event a success. “The event reaches out to the average guy who wants a great week of windsurfing,” he said. “That’s the secret of our event.”Mr. Morrell has been running the event for the past 18 years and used to compete in the 1980s. In 1986 he won it. “I liked it so much, I bought it,” Mr. Morrell said. He markets the event to international magazines, which helps promote and attract new competitors. He is not worried about not having enough wind this year, but is more concerned if the weather will be stormy.  He explained that July is traditionally the windiest month. Last year they cancelled only one race due to a lack of wind. “You can’t take the weather personal,” Mr. Morrell said.

 


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