Paddle Board Racing

Did you know that SUP is an official sport that is about to become an Olympic sport? We tell you what a sporty SUP looks like in this article.

SUP is rapidly gaining popularity around the world due to its outward simplicity. Anyone, regardless of fitness level, can get up on a SUP and intuitively understand how to paddle. For some people, SUP paddling will always be about communing with nature and relaxation.

But not for professional SUP riders. SUP as a sport is a quite complex and multi-faceted discipline. Here you need a lot of preparation, constant training, and special equipment. Learn how to ride a sup board

SUP – a young sport, the first World Rowing Championship was held in 2012 in Peru, the participants represented 17 countries (in 2017 – already 42 countries). 

The SUP sporting season begins in early spring and ends in late autumn. During this time all over the world hundreds of competitions of different levels, from local championships to world ranking rounds. Starting from May, every weekend almost every European country hosts the stages of the prestigious Eurotour – the competition, in which every athlete can try himself. 

sup race paddle
sup race paddle

There is a list of competitions that are included in the world rating system, and athletes are awarded points for each race, depending on personal results. A professional SUP athlete attends 10 or more major events per season. Considering that some of them last several days, involve different disciplines, and require adaptation to climate or time zone, it’s clear that staying on top of the best SUP athletes is not easy.

In competitive SUP (also called SUP racing) there are 4 main disciplines: the short distance race or Sprint, the long-distance race or Longdistanse race, the slalom or Technical race, and SUP surfing.

Sprint is the fastest and shortest race. Distance is determined by the water area, but usually, it is from 200 to 500 meters. Athletes start in lines of 5-7 people, the last is eliminated, the first go to the next stage. And so on until the winners are determined.

A long-distance SUP race

A long-distance race, aka marathon, is a test of speed and endurance. The distance of a marathon is at least 15 km, and usually 20 km. It’s 1.5-2 hours of paddling at the limit, and during that time the conditions on the water can change. Often the races start on flat water and end with a downwind (a high-speed descent through stormy waves). The long-distance race is tacitly considered the most important race in the championships. There are several special races for ultra-long distances, 100 km, 220 km, and even 1000 miles.

Technical race

racing sup
racing sup

Technical race – a mid-distance race of 2-5km with bypassing of turning buoys. Usually, technical races are held in a few laps on the beach or ocean and include a board overtake on the shore and passing the surf. This discipline is convenient and interesting to watch from the shore – bypassing buoys and paddling against the waves is always tense and on the verge of falling, which makes the technical race the most spectacular SUP race.

SUP surfing

SUP-surfing – here the rules are the same as in classic surfing. There are four riders on the water at the same time, which for a specified time (usually 20 minutes) have to catch as many waves and pass them qualitatively. Paddle SUPport allows riders to make radical maneuvers and perform complex elements.

It’s no secret that competitive SUP is a race not only for athletes but also for equipment manufacturers. Professional voyage boards are nothing like recreational SUP boards that are bought by thousands all over the world.

A racing SUP is a narrow and long carbon fiberboard. Depending on the rules of the race, boards that are 12’6″ or 14′ long are raced.  The width of these SUPs gets smaller every year. Engineers struggle with the challenge of how to make a racing board as narrow as possible, but still stable and maneuverable. Today, the narrowest board Starboard has is the 2018 Sprint model, which is only 21.5 inches wide.

sup race
sup race

What’s the difference between professional and amateur SUP boards? Race SUPs are light and fragile, the nose is always sharp, and the shape of the day and teeter-totter is tailored to the competition conditions. For a downwind race you need a board with sharpened teil, for sprint you need a board that cuts water like a knife, for technical races you need a more universal model. There are a lot of shape options, as well as manufacturers. At the top of the world ranking of SUP racing manufacturers Battle of the Brands boards from Starboard, NSP, and Naish.

SUP race paddle

SUP race paddles are selected for each discipline separately, but they are all SUPer lightweight because every gram of weight is important at speed distances. The most common paddles for sports SUP are drop-shaped and made of carbon.

Read More: What is SUP yoga and How to fish on SUP board

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