Once you’ve mastered the basics of stand up paddle boarding, thoughts of entering a paddle board race may begin to whet your appetite.
SUP racing combines the exhilaration of sporting competition with a rigorous full-body workout. Perhaps more important though, is its propensity to pull the paddle community together, while enabling first-timers to dip their toes into the wonderful world of paddle board racing.
Once you’ve affiliated yourself with a dedicated club, it might just be time to don the wetsuit and get out on those waves!
Stand up paddle boards
Before wading into the water though, you’ll need to equip yourself with the right kit. We’ll jump right in at the deep end and start with the main component of SUP racing: the SUP racing board.
Both rigid and inflatable boards can be used for a range of diverse SUP pursuits, such as surfing, yoga and touring. However, in racing’s case, it’s important to select a board that meets your specific needs and aspirations.
SUP race boards are divided into two distinct types: planing PFDs and displacement PFDs.
Planing hull boards are generally avoided for races as they’re wide and feature a flat, rounded nose, which is better suited to SUP yoga or calm bodies of water due to their generous width and stability. For those looking to improve their skills prior to SUP racing, check out our Hydro Force Aqua Journey board, which combines lightweight materials and high manoeuvrability, making it the perfect all-rounder for beginners.
For race-ready SUPers, a SUP race board featuring a displacement hull – complete with its ship-like, pointed nose that cuts through waves – is an ideal choice. Check out the Hydro Force Fastblast Tech racing board to satisfy your need for speed.
While most board types are permissible in SUP races, you’ll find that most races have designated divisions, so be sure you enter the right class. That way, your time will be compared with other novice racers paddling on a similar kind of craft.
Stand up paddles
Now you’ve got your board, you don’t want to get caught without a paddle.
SUP paddles are an essential bit of kit for SUP racing. A good one will enhance your performance while minimising the risk of injury. And a bad one… Well, you’ll be making a splash for all the wrong reasons.
When it comes to selecting a paddle, careful consideration of the water conditions is crucial. Fiberglass blades, for instance, offer rugged durability ideal for river racing. In other conditions, however, full carbon blade paddles are ideal due to their light weight and enhanced efficiency, which combine to facilitate faster paddling.
It’s also vital to remember that poorly constructed paddles can lead to injury, so steer clear of the cheap, flimsy variety. Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you’ll have to part with a fortune for a paddle – just be mindful that heavy, clunky paddles will rapidly sap your energy, while flimsy varieties won’t cope in choppy, challenging waters.
Whichever paddle you choose, the good news is that most are available in both custom and adjustable lengths, so you can tailor it to your SUP racing needs.
Stand up paddle board accessories
What’s next, you ask?
Well, most race organisations require the use of a SUP leash and a Coast Guard-approved life jacket. Beyond the essentials, there are comfort items we recommend having on hand during your race. Regardless of how long the race is, it’s vital to stay hydrated. Therefore, pack a water bottle, pull on a hydration vest, or sip your H20 through a LifeStraw.
Paddle board sherpa
A race ‘sherpa’ – a golf caddy-like helper for your SUP endeavours – will ensure you have everything you need for the race. They’ll also provide practical assistance, such as carrying your board after a race, and providing you with protein packed snacks and hydration to keep you in optimum condition after your exertions.
A good sherpa not only keeps you going; they can become instrumental to your SUP race success. So, choose your sherpa sidekick wisely.
In terms of race apparel, it’s best to consider the water and weather prior to setting sail. Board shorts, tights, compression clothing – whatever works for you and keeps you comfortable when paddling.
And as SUP racing is an outdoor pursuit, expect to exceed your daily dose of vitamin D – so slather on the sunblock and don those wave-ready wayfarers.
One of the great things about SUP racing is that your custom-kit potential is as high as the ocean is deep.
For those who seek rapid paddleboard progression, a waterproof smartwatch may be your first port of call. These innovative devices track heart rate, pace and distances using GPS-enabled features, making them ideal for goal setting and performance monitoring.
More leisurely SUPers, on the other hand, may find a waterproof encased phone equipped with music better suited to their needs.
Stand up paddle board racing tips
From poker runs and night races to flatwater and open water race series’, it’s easy to get submerged in a sea of SUP confusion.
Simplify your race search by checking out your local SUP shop to find out about the upcoming races in your area or ask a qualified SUP coach to assess your ability and advise you on the appropriate races to enter.
If you’re a total newbie, you can find a host of British SUP clubs at the British Stand Up Paddle Board Association’s website. But in the rare case that you can’t locate any races locally, it’s worth considering organising your own in order to build a paddling community while refining your skills.
Once you find or organise your first race, it’s essential to leave your ego on the shore. Even if you’re in incredible shape, it’s best to start out with shorter distance races – 5k or 3-milers, for instance.
Just keep it simple and you won’t find yourself in hot water. Like most first-time endeavours, it’s natural to experience some pre-race jitters, but by taking some simple precautions, like racing at your skill level and paddling in waters you’re accustomed to, you’ll get the most out of your SUP journey.
Ready, set, paddle!
Races can commence in the water, on the shore, or at a designated starting point, so be sure to attend the pre-start racer’s meeting to familiarise yourself with the race details. Here you’ll also be informed of any extenuating circumstances like weather warnings and potential tide changes.
If the race is starting on the water, racers may proceed en masse or in waves according to variables such as race-class, age, or gender. In these cases, you’ll paddle out, take your place at the starting line, and go when the starting horn is blown.
When you begin, prepare for choppy water. Don’t panic, though, as the pack will eventually thin out and you can get down to some serious paddling.
For shore starts with the waves waiting, it’s helpful to get accustomed to the water first, so practice some light paddling so you’re fully prepared. And while it’s unlikely your first race requires a shore start, it’s best to ready yourself for the water’s potential volatility.
Now you know exactly what you need to succeed on the SUP race scene. Nevertheless, it’s worth remembering that the central component of paddle boarding is simply to have fun, and that most paddle folk love race days as it enables them to spend a day or two with people who are just as excited about SUP as they are.
Whatever your reasons and aspirations are to enter the SUP race circuit, be sure to savour the connection we all share via the water.