As we head further through spring the SUP calendar begins to fill up. In recent years, due to COVID, events and gatherings – such as SUP races – have been few and far between. 2022, however, looks to be a different story with plenty of planned SUP socials, grass roots level SUP races and bigger national events. This year could be the year you decide to take part in a few SUP races and test your mettle. If this is the case read on for some SUP race first timer tips.
Don’t take it too seriously.
Unless you’re a SUP pro (of which there aren’t many in the UK) you’ll probably be entering your first SUP race to enjoy the atmosphere and improve your overall paddling. Comps are a great environment to glean skills and push over the next plateau, in terms of skills. As such entering a SUP race event should be seen as a chance to learn as much as anything.
But don’t take things too seriously. Having fun is the name of the game with SUP racing for most. Getting all worked up and hot under the corner isn’t necessary. Approach the whole affair as it’s meant to be and you’ll find plenty of fulfillment.
Do consider what SUP race class to enter.
Most SUP race events have classes to cater to as broader a range of paddlers as possible. There’s often a cruiser class which can be the best category to enter for the first time. You may be a 10’6 inflatable rider, in which case we’d suggest avoiding the open class (or equivalent) as this where you’ll be up against more experienced racers on longer craft.
Taking things easy and making it as fun as possible (as we’ve already said) is key to entering and enjoying your first successful SUP race.
Do train (a bit).
If you’re entering a SUP race you’ll most likely be looking at racing over distance. That’s pretty much what a SUP race event will feature. Some do have the option of SUP sprints but these are few and further between. There may be different distances as well as different classes of race. You’ll need to assess your stand up paddle boarding ability and decide what distance to enter if this is the case.
Whatever your choice we’d suggest a bit of training will be a good idea. Even short distance SUP racing can take it out of you physically if you’re not a little bit prepared. Getting afloat and doing a few miles each session – building your way up to longer routes – is a good idea. If you don’t then you may not even finish on the day!
Do consider your SUP racing attire.
When discussing SUP clothing we talk about layering as it’s easy to remove garments and replace as needed. When you’re stand up paddle board racing it’s exactly the same. Hopefully you’ll be experienced enough to not be falling in the drink often. So lightweight, wicking amphibious top threads are a good shout.
For your bottom half thin fleece lined leggings or compression pants work well. Carry a waterproof dry bag on board your SUP to stow kit not being used. This does add a little weight to your board, and may hinder top speed if you’re really going for it. But better this than getting caught out with the wrong SUP racing clobber.
You can find a selection of McConks dry bags via the link here – https://mcconks.com/product-tag/dry-bag/
Don’t forget your hydration pack!
Keeping well hydrated through the race is important. A hydration pack you carry on your back, with a mouth tube looping over your shoulder for easy access, will see you lubricated plenty. Underestimating the amount of fluid you need whilst paddling continuously for a few hours may see you end up dehydrating, or worse.
It’s also worth having some additional fluids and electrolytes ready for the end of the race to give yourself a boost post-paddle.
Do battle it out with your mates.
Getting your SUP buddies involved is a great idea. It means you’ll have someone to battle it out with, in a light hearted manner, whilst on the racecourse. Having a familiar face to help egg you on, and vice versa is also a way to improve motivation to cross the finish line.
At the end of the event, there’ll be plenty to talk story about with your stand up paddle boarding mates all chipping with laughs and good time memories. This is one of the key reasons SUP racing is so popular. The ‘after show’ is always full of great banter!
Don’t stop at just one!
If you’ve entered your first SUP race then why not look forwards to another. There’s no reason to stop! Entering multiple SUP racing events throughout the year is a way to keep the paddling motivation going. It gives reason to get afloat and ‘train’ thereby giving purpose to your paddles.
At the end of the season, you’ll be able to take stock, reflect and judge how things went. You never know. It might at that point be time to step up and take things to the next level. Especially if you’ve had good SUP racing results.
For more SUP hacks, tips, tricks and advice head over to McConks’ SUP Knowledge hub here.