If you love SUPing, chances are good that you’ve met up with fellow SUPers in your area. It’s inevitable that, at some point, there will be a race you want to enter. Most of these are friendly, like running your local 5K.
Still, there are some things you need to know before you take on a race. These tips will help you have a great time and live to race another day!
Choose the Right Race
Make sure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew. Just like you probably should race a few times before running the New York Marathon, you’ll want to find some local events before you choose something bigger. Calling your local paddleboarding shop can be a great way to find some of these smaller races or to get in contact with people who can help you find them.
Make sure that the distance is fairly short and that the body of water you’ll be racing on is one you’re comfortable with, too. For instance, if you’ve never been on a board in choppy or fast water, don’t start out racing on the ocean or in a river. If you don’t know how far you’ve paddled in the past, consider starting out with the shortest possible race and moving up from there.
Consider Renting a Racing Board
While your everyday board can certainly get you through a race, it won’t be as fast or as easy to maneuver as will a board specifically designed for racing. Since these require a significant investment, see if you can rent one from a local shop. This also gives you a chance to try out different racing boards before you commit to one in particular.
You can always take your regular board if that makes you feel more comfortable. However, some races have specific requirements for boards, so check into that and make sure yours qualifies.
Bring Extra Water
You will likely work harder during a race than you think you will, so you’ll need more water. If your race is going to take more than an hour, you might want to consider bringing along runners gels or other easy-to-consume carbohydrate sources so you don’t run out of fuel. Consider adding powdered electrolytes to your water, too, so your body can continue running well throughout the race.
Work on Paddling in a Group
One of the most intimidating parts of a SUP race is starting with a whole group of people. Most of us paddle regularly with a friend or several, but it doesn’t really matter if we accidentally tap each other and we’re careful to stay out of each other’s way.
Racing is completely different. Even small races often have a group start so everyone will be frantically paddling for that first buoy all at the same time. This can lead to confusion, injury, and anxiety unless you are ready for it. Take some time to practice this sort of start, even if you’re only doing it with a few friends. Make sure to jostle each other, tap paddles, etc. All of this will help you feel more prepared for the race.
You may want to start at the back of the pack for your first race. This gives you a chance to see what it’s like to start with everyone and experience a little of that without having to be right in the middle of it all. It can also tell you what you need to be prepared for if you decide to do this again.
Make Sure Your Body is Ready
If SUPing is usually a leisure activity for you, consider taking on some physical training before you race. Even if you don’t care about your time and you’re not trying to win, you’re likely to paddle harder for longer when racing than you are when you’re out for your Sunday paddle around the lake.
You can – and should – do some longer, faster paddles on the lake. You can also get ready by walking, running, and doing strength training for both your upper and lower body. If you’re physically ready for your race, you’ll feel a lot more confident on race day.
Understand the Race
If you can, get a map of your race before race day. If you can’t, make sure you have someone explain the course to you before you get out there. Sure, you can watch the people ahead of you and do what they do, but it’s easier when you know what you’re going to be doing ahead of time.
This is especially true for longer races or races with complex courses, as going off course can disqualify you and getting lost is never fun!
If you love your first SUP race, chances are good that you’ll want to do more of them. Set yourself up for success when you follow these tips. Have a great race!