Photos: @koruptvision and @Sean.Beale

By Kent Gray/
From a DNF in Tasmania to a DNS in Taupo, the Heli rescue of his son off Coronet Peak to unwittingly swimming with sharks off California, Braden Currie’s prep for the opening race of the new Ironman Pro Series (IMPS) has been anything but dull. And yes, that littering penalty at last September’s Ironman World Championships in Nice still smarts folks, just in case you were wondering.  

The Wanaka 37-year-old will hope to leave all the drama behind at the start-line of the Athletic Brewing Co. Ironman 70.3 Oceanside from 2:40am NZT Sunday (6:40am Saturday, PST). You can watch live on Ironman’s new IMPS website

Currie has gone all-in with Ironman’s new 20 event series with its US$1.7 million bonus prize pool, plotting a five race schedule that will take him from California to Ironman Texas (April 27), to the Asia-Pacific Ironman Championships in Cairns (June 16), the Ironman World Championships in Kona (Oct. 26) and ultimately to the Ironman 70.3 Worlds in Taupo (Dec. 14-15).

The Kiwi is being talked up as a threat in Oceanside alongside defending champion Jackson Laundry, fellow Canadian Lionel Sanders, effervescent American Sam Long, former Ironman NZ champion Joe Skipper (GBR), two-time Ironman world champion Patrick Lange (GER) and WTCS star Jelle Geens (BEL).

Kyle Smith and Braden Currie spent a large chunk of the NZ summer training in tandem. Photo: Sean Beale

It’s doubtful any of them have had a lead-in quite like the Kiwi though. A slowly deflating tyre and two resulting crashes saw him abandon Ironman 70.3 Tasmania in early Feb., (“only prize I won was fastest split from T2 to the airport), before a virus put paid to Currie’s Ironman NZ plans on the morning of the Taupo full distance race in early March. Then, just as his training with T100 Singapore wildcard Kyle Smith seemed to be going along swimmingly in Wanaka, son Tarn broke his tibia at the South Island Mountain Bike Championships after a crash saw him tumble down a Coronet Peak cliff.

Suddenly the family’s plans for Oceanside were turned upside down.

“…Unfortunately my son had a bad mtb crash at a race on the weekend and broke his tibia. We were planning to travel as a family to the USA. Might just be a solo trip at this stage,” Currie shared on social media last week.

“But @tarncurrie is keen for me to go and get the job done. So I’ll be there next week and hoping to make it a good day out. Race day is my daughters b’day so plenty of motivation to make this race and Texas pay dividends.”

Par for his recent course, the drama has continued during Currie’s swim familiarisation in Oceanside on Thursday (Friday NZT) with a drone catching sharks swimming beneath the Kiwi.

That was revealed in Currie’s entertaining “Breakfast with Bob” Babbitt chat shared on YouTube Friday.

“I wasn’t aware myself but the drone hanging over my head could quite clearly see the sharks swimming around underneath me,” Currie said. “So a little bit of excitement, but hey, they’re out there. I’m sure there’s bigger and worse things further out there too to worry about than a few sand sharks .”

Under the new IMPS format, 70.3 races carry 2500 points for the winner with points gained by other finishers then diminishing at the rate of one point per second deficit to the winner’s finishing time. That gives real gravitas to the series’ new #everysecondmatters hashtag and will ensure the cameras don’t instantly lose focus after the tape is broken in California. You can find out more about the more about the IMPS here.

A storm is forecast to blow through Oceanside on Friday local time. Currie just hopes it won’t see the 1.9km swim course altered, taking away his swim advantage ahead of a rolling 90km through the active military base of Camp Pendleton which should also favour the Kiwi.

A rough swim would also work against the likes of Long and Sanders.

“I’m really impressed with the course so far and I guess we are hoping that the swell picks up, [that] they still keep it an ocean swim and we…there’s supposed to be a storm tomorrow, a surf warning …and yeah I think the call is made for the swim tomorrow so if they’re judging off that 4-5 foot [swell] they might put it in the harbour.

“But it would definitely make for some exciting racing …throw the pros out there. Why not. If you’re racing pros and you’re not comfortable in 5ft surf, you’re probably in the wrong place,” Currie continued with a grin and a laugh amplified by Babbitt’s own.

“It would split the course up wouldn’t it because we’ve got, how many guys, 65-70 on the start line, like you want to split the field up and make it a fair bike course, then put them out in the decent surf.”

Photo; Sean Beale

The Babbitt interview covered Currie’s Coast to Coast days and inevitably focused on last year’s worlds in Nice where the Kiwi was penalised for throwing a water bottle outside the confines of an aid station. Currie, who still believes he was the victim of French “bureaucracy”, was right in mix and had just filled the bladder on his bike. He paused throwing the now empty bottle to avoid hitting a volunteer, only to slapped with a littering penalty and a DQ that was overturned on appeal.

Currie, who eventually finished a flustered 16th in Nice, admits the incident had hurt his long course legacy.

“…It was the whim of that referee, and obviously he felt I was doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, that’s his call, but yeah, it was definitely challenging to shallow that one, still hurts to this day,” he told Babbit.

“You look at how much as a professional you put into racing, months and months of training, altitude, thousands and thousands of dollars, being away…so…definitely pretty tough.”

Thankfully, you are only as good as your last race in triathlon. Currie will be hoping for a drama-free Saturday in California to kick-start his big 2024.

Having the 70.3 worlds on home turf, that’s pretty sweet, Babbit asked.

“It is. It will be a really special way to finish off the year. Hopefully I can hold the enthusiasm for training right through because it makes for a long year, it’s normally my off-season but yeah, it will be great to have it there on a home course and it should be really good racing.”

Knibb favoured
Tamara Jewett is back to defend her title alongside fellow Canadian Paula Findlay but it’s hard to look past American Olympian and two-time Ironman 70.3 world champion Taylor Knibb, especially as her cycling prowess will match strongly with Oceanside’s rolling bike course course.

Watch for Brit Fenella Lanridge who won Ironman Western Australia in December and former Challenge Wanaka winner, Melbourne 32-year-old Grace Thek who has claimed silver in her past two 70.3 starts in Tasmania and Geelong.

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