There are many different faces of paddleboarding- recreational, touring, surfing, yoga, whitewater, and racing. While recreational paddling accounts for the vast majority of paddling happening out there, paddleboard racing is really coming into its own.
If you have a good local sup shop or a paddle group that you go out with, you know about the camaraderie of the paddling community. It is something that I have not experienced in any other activity. There must be something in the water, but paddle people are the most awesome people I know, and the connections we make are deep. And racing is an excuse for these awesome people to get together on the water.
As standup paddleboarding continues to grow, the community provides more opportunities and excuses to paddle together. This is often in the form of races. Some of these races that happen year after year are taking on an almost cult-like persona where people set their alarms for 12:01 am when registration opens at 12:00 am so they can assure their spot in the race, because it WILL sell out in 17 hours.
respectfully borrowed from Chattajack.com
Paddleboarding is one of few sports where you can enter a race and paddle along side the top professionals (you probably won’t be along side of them for long, but you can be doing the same race course at the same time, with a distant view of their backs…they are fast!). You can also find yourself paddling with Outrigger Canoes (OC), kayaks, and prone paddleboarders. We are all in it together.
There is an eagerness to share and develop everyone’s paddle game. At many races top pros offer clinics. You can take a footwork clinic from Candice Appleby, or a stroke technique clinic with Larry Cain, you can listen to a presentation on downwinding from Dave Kalama, and you don’t have to be anyone other than John or Jane paddler, there to learn from the experts. And demoing new equipment is often part of the fun too. Sponsors will set up tents and bring gear for you to try so you can scope your next board, paddle, hydration pack, PFD, etc.
respectfully borrowed from Distressedmullet.com
There are all sorts of races out there…flatwater races, beach start races where you have to get through a surf break, downwinders, whitewater obstacle course type races, etc. And at most of these races there is something for everyone. There are usually elite and recreational courses. Elite races tend to be longer and more challenging, and recreational courses are a gateway drug to get people hooked on racing. These races are much more about the company than the competition.
In the future, paddleboard racing will almost definitely become considerably more competitive, especially given all of the programs to develop paddling youth, but for now, it’s still an everyman’s sport. And even as the bar is raised, I don’t see the “aloha” of the sport changing, because it’s kind of a zen experience standing on water and gliding across it, especially with friends.
Even if you are not a racer, it is a great way to meet other people with a shared interest. And it’s a great excuse to travel if you need an excuse. Make a trip out of a destination race. There are many out there worth the trip. The bigger ones attract paddlers from all around the country and beyond. It’s an excuse to meet up with your people, push your paddling, get a dose of water and camaraderie, be part of a community, try out new gear, take a clinic, learn a lot, and have a blast! Check your local area for upcoming events if this sounds like fun to you. You can find events almost everywhere now- Distressed Mullet’s calendar is a great place to start, and there are more and more being added all the time.
Tags: stand up paddle board race, touring sup, local sup shop, first time sup race, first time paddleboard race, recreational paddleboarding, paddleboard racing, paddleboarding community,sup racing, paddle board race