3 reasons You should care about SUP racing
March 15, 2016 | By Paige Bakhaus | In Paddle Board (SUP)
As stand up paddle boarding (SUP) popularity continues to explode every year people are getting more accustomed to seeing boards and people on the water. When I first started paddling with my dog on my board it was so new that people would literally stop their cars and pull over when I was going under a bridge on Siesta Key to ask me what I was doing and if they could take my picture. So when I started my business just a few months later I knew my biggest challenge, but also my largest reward, was going to be convincing the everyday person that SUP was something they could do, and that this sport wasn’t just a fad, it was here to stay. Fast forward almost 4 years and it’s obvious by the number of people on the water, and their diverse ages, fitness levels, and backgrounds, that that message is getting out loud and clear.
One of the things I love so much about stand up paddle boarding is that it truly is a sport that virtually anyone can do. I’ve found that about 90% of the people that paddle board with us do so initially because they want to get on the water and get close to nature. That’s perfect! That’s exactly the reason I started paddle boarding. And it’s still the single most enjoyable thing I do on the paddle board. But there’s also a whole other aspect of stand up paddle boarding that many people don’t even realize exists. And that is stand up paddle board racing. Almost every weekend from mid January-October there are people gathering at beaches, lakes, and rivers here in Florida (and throughout the world) to compete in paddle board races. Right here some of you may be thinking this is where you might as well just stop reading because you don’t have any interest in paddle board racing, there’s no way you’re ever going to paddle board race, and you don’t know anyone who is ever going to be in a paddle board race. Well, that’s all ok with me and I’m certainly not here to try to convince you to start showing up at my weekly paddle trainings just to improve your paddling technique or to turn into a hard core paddling machine…if that is your interest you know where to find me. And there’s a lot of technical information I could give you about the different types and sizes of boards used for races and how they differ from recreational boards. I could talk about the types of races courses, the lengths of races, and the race divisions and age groups. But my point today isn’t to bog you down with details about a sport you will probably never participate in. What I really want to do is give you three reasons why this is a sport that you should care about, be interested in, want to promote and encourage in our local community and how it can positively affect most of us personally in some way or another.
- Paddle board races are great for the local economy of the towns they are held in. Races can be completely different sizes, from just a handful of entries to close to 1000 people. For example, Battle Of The Paddle, held every year in California and probably the most famous paddle board race in the world, attracted well over 800 entries in 2013 and the numbers keep increasing every year. Of course, not all races are that large, but locally we have the SUP Sarasota Race Series (sarasotasupseries.com ) which is a series of 3 races kicking off June 21st and highlighting three of Sarasota County’s beautiful public waterways. The first is Siesta Key Beach on June 21st, the 2nd race will be held at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota on August 23rd, and the last race is at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron on October 11th. A good number of the registered racers will be from Sarasota County, but more than half of them will be from other areas. So that is hundreds of people that will be coming to the area and bringing friends and family with them. They will be spending money for the weekend on hotel rooms, food, gas, entertainment, and souvenirs, all things that infuse dollars into our local economy. They will also go back home and spread the word about our beautiful area, increasing our future tourism growth.
- Paddle boarders love to give back. – Almost every race I’ve ever been involved with is put together with the goal of raising money for a charity or organization. Many of you may be surprised to know that this October will be the 3rd year in a row that there is a paddle board race right here in Englewood called the Race Around Palm Island. It’s organized by the non-profit group Paddle Addict (paddleaddict.org) whose goal is to provide drug and alcohol free outdoor recreational opportunities to people in recovery, students and the community. The Palm Island race started out small in 2012 with about 35 registered racers and grew to over 50 in 2013, and we are hoping for close to 100 this year. Almost 100% of those racers are from out of town and treating it as a vacation weekend, spending tourism dollars in our community. Most race entry fees are somewhere in the neighborhood of $55-90 per person and typically organizers donate 100% of the entry fee (after expenses) to the charity or cause they are supporting. You will easily find races every year supporting breast cancer, Wounded Warriors, Special Olympics, autism, diabetes, local animal shelters, homeless families, or sick children. The most well known National series of philanthropic events is the Paddle For Humanity race series which has donated close to $200,000 to national and local charities since it started 5 years ago. (www.paddleforhumanity.org ) The point is, stand up paddle boarders have huge hearts and love to share and be connected with their communities. Give them any excuse to help out by getting in the water and doing what they love and they are IN.
- Paddle boarding is a great sport for our youth. Let’s face it, according to the latest census; Charlotte County has the largest percentage of people over 65 years old in the entire United States, and Sarasota County statistics aren’t much better. That often leaves our youth feeling outnumbered and overlooked when it comes to community activities geared towards their interests. Don’t get me wrong, like I said earlier my business is regularly flooded with card carrying members of AARP and even their parents sometimes and I’m thrilled about that. But we live in an area surrounded by some of the most gorgeous water on earth and too many of our youth don’t have any appreciation for that because they’re spending too much time with their faces stuck in computers or televisions instead of getting outside. Thanks to the fact that stand up paddling is very similar to surfing and surfing is deemed as “totally awesome” by most of our youth, I’ve yet to find a young person who wasn’t excited to try SUP. And once you get them out on the water their whole world opens up to new things like caring about the environment, the plants and animals, and their own fitness levels. Summer kids paddle camp is a great way to start them out and see if stand up paddling is something that will make a difference in your child’s life. Hooked On SUP is holding weekly camps all summer for kids ages 7-14. Go to hookedonsup.com for more info.
And next time you hear about a stand up paddle board race at a local water way, make an effort to stop by and see what it’s about. You are likely to meet some really amazing people that you have more in common with than you expected.