10 Ways to Win a SUP Race

  1. Warm up before the race. Practice steadily whenever you can and get used to how “enough” feels.  Use a heart rate monitor now and then – so you learn what “enough” for you REALLY feels like.. The day before the race, work out a little and then rest up well. Stretch after you paddle for practice and get used to what “nicely warmed up” feels like. Honor your current ability and fitness. In the recent “fun paddle” part of the Olukai Ho’olaule’a, Suzie Cooney lead a group stretch and warmup before our 3 mile paddle. It got us ready physically and relaxed mentally.
  2. Be chilled out and friendly. Smile, joke and chat with others before the start, noticing who really needs to simply be left alone. There is bound to be a jittery someone you can calm a bit with a few words and a smile.
  3. Keep a steady start. If you get a shaky one you won’t get a good position. Wait a minute here!  If you are reading this article, chances are you will not be gracing the podium and accepting an award (unless you win the raffle prize). Yes, keep a steady start but keep a stead attitude too. Watch confident paddlers at or about your skill level and stay a bit behind them. They will help you learn to judge the local current, winds and start situation.  Do you see the paddler to the far (far far far) left of the photo, the one in the cool blue KIALOA hat? That is me getting confidence and timing from some of the best. YES, that is as close as I got to Karen Wrenn at the 2011 Bend Paddleboard Challenge – except when she lapped me!
  4. Don’t sprint at the beginning of a distance race. This is a waste of energy and it tires you out. Just sprint a bit for a couple of seconds to help you keep in a good position, then just turn your paddle strokes into a rhythm more like a “jog.”  If you have completed the distance that you’ll be
  5. Stay humble. Each person you pass delivers a chance to share a smile and “Go for it!” – if you have the breath (LOL). But keep your self confidence saying ” I can do it”.
  6. In a long distance race keep your hands loose around the paddle shaft. Wiggle your fingers now and then and use a loose grip and focused, strong paddle stroke. Remind yourself of your technique when you feel fatigued, it will bring you back into your best rhythm.
  7. Use your sense of touch. If you get tired during a long distance race or even a sprint, take a moment to breathe and feel. Feel the water on your feet (are you barefoot?) Feel the wind on your face – even if it is blowing stink and making it hard to paddle. Savor the opportunity to be moving yourself through the natural and sometimes wild outdoors.
  8. Use your hearing. Hear the steady lap-lap-lap of the water on and under your paddleboard. Hear your own breathing and monitor it. Hear your own voice humming or singing a tune to keep you in your aerobic zone – that matters in the longer races.
  9. elder sup and eldersup in Clayquot sound vancouver islandUse your sense of sight. After all, our “race courses are usually staged in oceans, bays, lakes and rivers in places most people would love to be. Got polarized sunglasses? See the bottom, see the colors, the rocks and the vegetation along the shore.
  10. Smile!  Your body will love you for the expenditure of energy you allot to a great big grin. Fun and relaxation will join the smile – after all, how many people get to experience the amazing sport of SUP racing. By the way, if you follow these 10 easy steps you WILL be a winner in any SUP race you choose to enter.


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