Despite Stand Up Paddleboard Racing being a regular fixture down on the South Coast for the last couple of seasons, it had failed to really take off up in the North of England with paddlers largely preferring to paddle surf or simply paddle recreationally or for fitness.
Boss man Joe decided that something needed to be done about this so discussions were started with Central SUP and SUP North to see if an informal series of fun races could be set up over the colder months with a view to engage existing paddlers who’d not previously thought about racing and hopefully drum up some new interest in the sport.
The race series kicked off with a short race in Birmingham which received some strong interest considering it was January! With potential snow and gale force wind forecast for Race 2 we were amazed just how many paddlers turned up to Durham Amatuer Rowing Club yesterday. Many just came to check it out, assess the vibe or cheer on their loved ones others had their game faces on and were all about getting on the podium!
After a largely seamless registration, 22 racers changed and made any final tweaks to their racing set ups then it was over to Joe for a brief ‘skippers meeting’ before the field was broken up into fun, 12’6” and 14′ classes to create a bit of drama at the start of the race. A last minute check of the Webscorer App to see if everyone had been inputted properly then Joe signalled the start and they were off!
Stay tuned for Loco 14′ racer Phil May’s race footage here.
The start looked a like a proper SUP race with all kinds of unorthodox overtaking manoeuvres in play right from the off. Similar to watching a 1500m the serious men and ladies soon powered through the field and were battling for position at the front. The spectacle certainly attracted strong interest from the rowing club’s members as well as passersby. The course was a shade over 4.5km with paddlers expected to head downstream to the weir and then back up against the current and strengthening wind.
Unsurprisingly Starboard team rider Scott Warren (12’6”) was leading the mens race by quite a margin so the ‘real race’ was a for 2nd position which was fiercely contested between Kev Anderson (14′) Neil Craig (12’6”) and Simon Dunton (12’6”) once they’d rounded the mark and were heading back up stream to the finish. Watching from the river bank you could see the veins popping out on these guys’ necks, they certainly wanted it bad!
The rest of the field was no different with personal battles going on all over the place; girls wanting to beat their male counterparts, husbands wanting to beat wives and vice versa and friends grappling over bragging rights for in the bar later. The ladies 12’6” class was won by quite a margin by Lucy Pearce from SUP North with Tynemouth/Beadnell paddle surfer Georgie Sowman coming in 2nd and Stef Kerek 3rd shortly after that.
Considering the biting wind and chilly 3 degrees the organisers were amazed just how quickly the field completed the race with Scott clocking up a very respectable 31.57.4 ahead of Kev 33.11.8 and Neil at 33.12.5 with just 1 sec separating their dash for the line! This was Loco paddle surfer Neil’s first time on a proper 12’6” race board so keeping up with Kev on his 14′ certainly turned some heads!
Joe regularly uses this stretch of river for beginner lessons with the same course taking roughly 1.30-2hrs to paddle. Even the late finishers coming in at 45-55 minutes still put in a very respectable performance in light of the inclement weather!
After some post-race banter and snaps everyone was keen to get changed out of their wetsuits and hit the bar for some refreshments while Joe finalised the results and grabbed some Loco Swag for the prize giving.
Final results were as follows:
1 – Scott Warren / Starboard
2 – Neil Craig / Loco
3 – Simon Dunton / Red
Kev Anderson / Starboard
Phil May / Loco
Steve Boulmer / Starboard
Lucy Pearce / Starboard
Georgie Sowman / Starboard
Stef Kerek / Starboard
Kate Chandler / Loco
Raine Easter-Robinson / JP allrounder
We’d like to give special thanks to Nick Graham and Jonny Anderson for helping with marshalling and Stacey Smithson-Grey for taking some event snaps. Also a big thanks to Phil May for travelling up from West Wittering specifically for the event and helping with set up and a very wet clear up! Thanks to Kate Chandler and her sister for also mucking in with taking down flags in the freezing rain.
As organisers we’re stoked with how well attended our first race was and look forward to the other upcoming dates in the Northern Winter SUP League in Merseyside and Nottingham. I dare say we’ll have a bit more time to talk to people at the next event as time didn’t really allow for it yesterday
Local paddlers who now have a taste for the race scene but who may struggle to make the other two events in the series should stay tuned for more ‘fun races’ which Boardskillz / Loco will be organising with a number of local partners to be announced soon. Those interested in ‘race training’ check out Boardskillz for updates
To see more photos from the event please visit our facebook page over the next few days