Before I get into my first race experience I want to cover TWO things I had to google the night before my first SUP race. Ya know, sometimes you throw yourself into certain situations, and not till the moment right before (of night prior) do you stop and think “What the hell am I supposed to do tomorrow and what am I supposed to wear?!”. I shall take on duties of clearly this up for you.
What to expect at your FIRST SUP (stand up paddle board) race:
- You aren’t the only newbie– Hell I was cool enough for 2 ladies to come up to me and say “You look like what you are doing, what do we do next?”, I only laughed, thanked them on the compliment and explained I was glad I even made it on time. SUP is a new sport, kicking off really in 2005, though its been around for a LONG while. According to WIKIPEDIA, a recent report stated the SUP as an outdoor activity had the most first time participants in 2013. So smile put on a hat, and roll with it, you aren’t the only one.
- Make sure you have a PFD and LEASH– My dumb ass couldn’t find my PFD in the morning, and didn’t realize you HAD to have a leash. We are paddling on a river, is there some wave coming to wipe me out and I have to be attached to my board? Egh, probably not, but rules are rules. Don’t be THAT guy. Though I was totally that person. Great thing though, I WASNT the only one (thank you other newbies), and SUP organizers are surfer laid back/friendly. “No problem, we got you! Just pull that leash off that guys board”.
- Surfer Friendly– I actually just looked up the definition of Surfer Friendly (SF), apparently it means things are idiot proof. But in this post it means IDIOT friendly. The most chill, happy people out on the water today. You know the dude with the bleach sunned hair that comes up with a dopey smile and just thinks its totally rad you made it? Yes, these are the people at SUP races. You can see the appreciation of people just happy to be out on the water. Its like an adult skate park. The funny teasing back and forth. The “Hell yeah!”s. Its a happy place.
- The Surfer & The Newbie– There are only 2 kinds of people out there ; The Surfer & The Newbie. One thing I learned the other night at my first SUP meet up was “Either they have been doing it forever or they JUST started“. Completely true. There are NO in-betweens. You can usually tell between the 2, and again the surfer is glad you’re there and the newbie is as nervous as you are.
- They are serious about there sunscreen– Everyone reaks of it, and if you don’t, well you might as well have a cigarette hanging from your mouth as you are walking down the aisles of Whole Foods. Just wear it. Please.
- You will fall off your board– Yep, it will happen, and if not you, someone else will, and if YOU do, someone is glad that they aren’t the only core challenged person. When you do, pretend it was hot as hell and you needed to cool off. Because it probably is hot as hell.
- This is a RACE– Though it is all fun and games, and people can state that they are just out there for the experience, its STILL a race. Even the sweetest of old ladies will cut you off. Also who knows, according to a SUP pro (ok, maybe not pro, but pro of information, Dan the Man of WUT SUP), winning a race can start from the START. You get the right lead, you better keep it, you might be going home with some bling.
- Doesn’t matter what kind of board you are on– Yep, you don’t have to have the fastest thing. Trust me, there are things out there that look like they should be illegal, cause how can you compete with that? Most races actually have different classes/heats for different kinds of boards. The majority of people might actually be on rentals. So don’t be scared to rent, borrow a friends (kinda a big deal for someone to loan out their board), and or roll up on your foam board.
What to WEAR to a SUP race: (yes, this was actually a minor freak out for me)
- Your bathing suit– Your on the water. You WILL get wet. What are bathing suits made for? TO GET WET <— again something so simplistic and I still have a panic attack about it.
- Sunglasses– I want to say don’t wear the nicest sunglasses you own, but I saw some classy ones today, just have a sunglass leash on them, so it they DO fall off, they only fall off onto your neck.
- Sun block– Don’t be stupid. Put it on. You are out on the water, and for who knows how long! Protect yourself from a burn and from skin cancer.
- Hat– Im a total classy lady and am ALWAYS rockin’ a hat. Well truthfully I don’t believe in washing my hair everyday and hide behind hats. But the purpose of a hat is to provide shade from the sun. AGAIN, you are out on the water, protect your face and give yourself some shade. Plus you can jazz up a boring outfit with a hat, get crazy, there are so many selections of hats out there.
- Rash Guards– I actually saw quite a few people with rash guards on. Not only to protect your chest from a RASH made by the boards, but to provide you with protection from the sun. See the trend with sun protection?
- Camel Packs– I did not wear one, but there were some of the guys doing the longer distance that had one. Makes sense, I was sweating like a whore in church, and was desperate for water and only paddled for 20 minutes! Its hot out there, and you don’t want to drink the lake/ocean water. There are NO water stops in a SUP race. So bring your own nutrition, and don’t be a douchebag and litter.
- Something Comfortable– There were plenty of people in just shorts and a tank. Wear something you don’t mind getting wet in. Something that breathes (it gets HOT out there). Wear something you would wear to the gym, again this is a SPORT and you do get a workout in.
All those tips my be common sense to some, but others it may help. Again, last night I was googling for help. In the end DONT freak out. People are happy you are there. This sport is ruled by beginners, and in the end race organizers want you there, so TALK to them.
My race experience at the St Johns Sup Rush was great. Again with the sport & community just building up here in JAX it was a pretty low key grass roots feel of a race. Everyone said hi, truthfully everyone had more to say than hi. It was nice to have small random conversations, and make new friends.
As with most races you start with walking up and checking in. There I picked up my race t-shirt (which is a sweet ladies fitted North Face tech-tee, VERY NICE), got my number marked on my arm, and was redirected to the map, start times and informed that there would be a captains meeting at 8:15. This is also where I quietly asked if I could rent a PFD because I couldn’t find mine, then asked if I HAD to a have a leash on my board. Though I was embarrassed to ask both, they replied quickly and sweetly and hooked me up with BOTH to borrow.
After mingling for awhile, and listening to when & how we would start, we all slowly started entering the water. I have to say that I had the best little crew with me (Mark, Chloe and Little Mark), they were my handy helpers, cameraman and cheer squad. They wished good luck as I entered the water. Now normally I am nervous, but I told myself “its only for the experience”. I kept calm, talked to the guy paddling out next to me, and then we waited.
Once the race went off, it was the fastest 20 minutes of my life. I knew within the first 30 seconds, that this was a RACE and not an experience, plus the Smith Optics rep told me that they were giving away a pair of sunglasses to the winners of both groups (beginners & intermediate). So my ass took off. I took Dan the Man’s advice and went out strong. Since we all went out together I had NO clue who was in which group. I based it off of athleticism, yep I was totally checking everyone out.
The only people in front were surfer dudes that were hauling ass and an asian guy that had just slipped by me. I only had to get to the first bouy, and pay attention to who was hitting that bouy as well, and the only people that were headed that way was me, asian dude, and a 17 Liard Hamilton. I was positive that the Liard look alike had to be a race organizer, and was only showing the beginners where to go, because that kid was HAULING ass. He as so far in front….yeah, he was so far in front.
3/4 of a mile to the bouy. Pssh, I SWIM farther than that, so I can sure as hell slip a paddle with some strength for that distance. Paddle, paddle, paddle, and WHY THE HELL IS IT SO HOT!??! Thats all I thought for 20 minutes, oh and “That kid better not be a beginner”. I was on a mission, those sunglasses were mine. I was feeling strong, I had passed the asian dude at the turn, and no one was getting by. Hell I felt as though I didn’t even have time to look over my shoulder.
I came across the finish line happy as a clam, and asking the mini-Liard if he was a beginner, and apparently he was. DAMN! Oh well, at least I was first female, and second only to Billy Bad Ass over there. So happy. Felt strong. Just having the feeling of strength made the race amazing. I thank my strength/Tri coach Audra for all the work I’ve had in the gym, because without that I know it would haven’t taken me longer, and that would have NOT been fun.
After I set up my board, we stayed with everyone else on the dock and watched the rest of the paddlers come in. I was in a happy place sitting there watching everyone glide in. It helped that the kids were somewhat enjoying themselves on the dock. Once the last of the paddlers were out of the water, the award ceremony was held in the Rudder club. First drinks were on Blackcreek Outfitters (main sponsor of event), and awards were given out swift & sweet.
Check out that swag for placing!! Crazy amazing! What neat is that all paddlers went home with a goodie bag full of amazing things! Coming from running/triathlon racing, you have almost given up on anything great coming in swag bags anymore, so to get this, WOWZA! Registration was only $25! Big thank you to the race organizers and volunteers. Everyone was super helpful and sweet. Best first time experience, and the other paddlers made it amazing as well. I think I am hooked!
So yeah, sitting on the dock watching the paddlers come in, Mark starts shaking his head, I turn and ask whats wrong, he tells me “Your going to have to get a full time job….. because your going to need a faster board”
“I was pretty bad ass huh?”
“Yes, but not as bad ass as that board there” (points to guy in a sleek fast looking board)
I then start shaking my head…
“Your right Mark, I do need a faster board, and a surfboard”
Right then and there I thought he was going to pass out and fall off the dock…. This is my life.