A Sense of SUP Play

I had an amazing time at the Elk Lake Resort -Gerry Lopez Race Series kick-off race on July 14. With both KIALOA paddles and StandUp Paddle Bend as sponsors it was a true “hometown” event. Armed with my cool Pipes KIALOA paddle and a sweet Hobie 12’6″ raceboard borrowed from Chip Booth at Standup Paddle Bend, I was eager to get to the water. I’m still quite a novice at turning the bigger board around the race buoys. Luckily, Gerry Lopez was on the shore and quickly tossed a few stance and balance tips my way just before the start (Note to self: Need a LOT of practice!)

The weather was stellar. Sadly, I was the only woman competing in the race. “Competing” is a loose term – because I was simply out on the water on my board paddling hard to get my technique and endurance a little bit better.  I came in last place after all the men – but “won” first place for women. It would have been a lot more fun with some other women to laugh, paddle and race with. I have a laid back outlook on competition as a community building glue for the fast growing legions of standup paddling families and friends. I have a notion that the format of competitive racing may have limited the number of people participating. It was not a WPA sanctioned event, it was meant as a fun race – but still, the format was “race.”

We often point to competition as a tool to bring out the best in people. You will run faster or work harder or fight more ferociously if there’s someone breathing down your neck or a record to be broken.

The problem with competition for a great percentage of most people “playing at a sport” is that it holds them back from leaping into the “game.”  For many, competition takes away the plain old playful fun, the invitation to invent your own method, to find a new way. Competition is great for gathering energy, audience and refining our skills to new levels. But if a huge momentum of new participants in events is a goal, there might be a complementary opportunity for race directors and organizers.

When you have competition, it’s the pack that decides what’s going to happen next, participants merely try to get (or stay) in front. Elder SUP will be designing a new addition to the standup race menu of choices.  We will design 15-30 minute SUP-Ventures, game-like short quests on the land and water for all levels and abilities of standup paddlers.  Generating lots more “race” and event participants, providing an entertaining extra show for spectators, involving more people while building a strong standup paddle community is our goal. We’d love to hear your ideas and comments on this topic.

Meanwhile, as we design and plan new ways to flatwater SUP play, enjoy this smile-generating video – the joy of SUP play!

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