A few weeks ago the Deschutes River Conservancy’s second annual Race for the River took place at Riverbend Park in Bend, Oregon. It was awesome to see so many stand up paddlers and their dogs come out in support of the DRC’s mission to restore and preserve local rivers and streams. I paddled my 11’3″ Amundson to the start line along with quite a few race boards ready to paddle hard for the 5 miles of the long course. The course was two loops – my favorite. That way, even though I am usually pretty close to the back of the pack I get to see the front action and cheer on the leaders.
Chip Booth (Standup Paddle Bend) was tucked in the reeds just before the Healy Bridge snapping action shots as we paddled by. I was so glad he captured this one. The arch of clear water poised in the air by my bare feet is beautiful. The bow wave reminds me of the gentle slapping sound of the bow along the current. Yeah, my heart rate was in the 140-150 range for most of the paddle – I was working hard! But not for the race results (that would have been counter to my equipment and skills) but for the pure joy of being out on the river with so many of the paddling community.
I was thrilled that one of the more well-attended “races” was the paddle-with-your-dog event. Happy pooches and their owners cruised the 2.5 mile loop with waggy tails and determined grins. Al Paterson and Rocky (picture below) led the way while Pam Stevenson and Sprocket hands-down won the aloha title, grass skirt and all (picture at the bottom). It would have been even more cool if the 30-40 SUPers who pepper the river doing casual paddling would have joined us for the event. Sometimes the name “race” conjures up the image of burly racers in their prime zooming through a course. Yes, “racing” includes that and it’s an incredibly exciting and powerful driver for the SUP community. (See the post: Heroes and Hats).
Here’s a thought. What if the “race” course was a 1 mile loop in which a paddler chose to go any distance from 1-6 miles. The leaders would still race and each of us could paddle to the pace that our skills and inclination determines. A culture of collaboration and connection between casual paddling and racing could emerge from the repetitive passing along the course and the need to figure out how to pass without interfering.
Best of all, a one hour time limit on the “race” would ensure that all the racers would be on shore to enjoy the after-party. Does your club or SUP community have this sort of race series? We’d love to hear how you get the largest SUP community gathering regularly for shared fun on the water.