Is there a thirst for SUP racing, and will competing be possible (should anyone want to) in 2021?

It’s safe to say that COVID’s really put the kybosh on many things, not least large scale stand up paddle boarding events, and travelling to actually attend. In years past there’ve been a few headline comps that aimed to showcase the sport at elite level. The original Battle of the Paddle – held in California – was seen as the pinnacle of SUP racing calling on riders to bring their strategic, athletic and open ocean paddling A games to stand any chance of podium finishes. There were alternative classes, of course, away from top tier pros, but the fact remains everyone was there to do prove something. And from a spectators point of view BOP was a thing to behold. The shore break carnage making for some entertaining viewing alone.

A taste of what Battle of the Paddle was.

Unfortunately Battle of the Paddle fell by the wayside, although was replaced by the Pacific Paddle Games that ultimately had a similar format in the same venue. But this too disappeared for various reasons.

There are other events that seem to be weathering the storm, in that they’re planned to go ahead in 2021. But that ultimately depends on how things pan out. As it stands currently COVID cased are rising within continental Europe and the UK’s government has already made noises about overseas travel not being an option this year.

So what of the domestic SUP race scene?

GBSUP have a number of events listed on their website for later dates in 2021. As long as things carry on according to plan – COVID cases continuing to fall in the UK, vaccine roll out staying on schedule and so on – then there’s no reason these won’t take place. The fact is, however, that for most average paddlers any kind of competition is so far removed from what he/she actually does on the water that it’s not even on the radar. Of course, there will be some attendees, but by and large this’ll be a small % of the overall SUP paddling fraternity that we’ve seen influx of during 2020.

Typical UK SUP racing.

We stand to be proved wrong here. A whole load of SUP enthusiasts may decide they want to test their mettle in competition, following their first forays with stand up last year. In which case, great! Competition does improve your overall paddling performance and allow riders to push on skills wise. But it’s not for everyone.

The UK SUP comp scene vs the international one has always been different with emphasis on camaraderie and meeting up with friends rather than grinding it out to podium place. A handful have taken things seriously historically (respect there), even stepping up on the world stage, and we salute these paddlers emphatically. SUP remains a largely recreational activity though and this is unlikely to change. As we say, being proved wrong would be a nice surprise and something we’d embrace.

If you’re thinking about doing a few SUP race events this year then we’d love to hear about it: how you’re preparing and what your goals are. And for anyone who’s not thought about getting involved in SUP racing before but would like more info then give us a shout.

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