Last week I came in dead last in a local standup paddle race – and I won. I won two ways. The first was not so cool – In the 50+ age group (for this 64 year-old) I was the only entrant so I won.
The other way I won was by having an awesome summer day at the lake, meeting new friends and learning lots of new skills.
I often ponder the dynamic between a vibrant SUP paddling community and the SUP racing scene. On the one hand, everyone from a newbie paddler, to families, to elite racers has a better time on the water with friends. On the other, racing – competition – can be intimidating. In paddling, like sailing, tennis, cycling and running, committing to a race event can be the best route to meeting more friends at your level while honing your skills to the next level. Winning – or losing – can easily become a less important side note.
In town (Bend, OR) with 50 or more paddleboards negotiating stretches of our Deschutes River almost any time all summer long, there were just 18 participants in one of the best long course, WPA sanctioned races you’ll find on a fun-family lake. Elk Lake Resort, along with KIALOA Paddles, Standup Paddle Bend sponsored the event followed by a barbecue, included in the race fee. Donations went to the Deschutes Paddle Alliance. Aside from enjoying some of the finest hamburgers, local beer and all the fixings, we had the chance to hang out at the lake all day long. BY 5 PM the Pitchtones were on the point playing for us all as the sun went down and the moon came up.
Casually, the day turned into endless impromptu technical “clinics” as various participants shared expertise with us all we all learned something new about paddle technique, board attributes, cross-training, the wind and more. This “free clinic” format mirrored a similar community-building event hosted by KIALOA Paddles at the Bend Paddle Challenge just a month ago. The roaring success seemed to have inspired us all.
The only negative to the entire day was that 25-30 new paddlers, kids and parents were not enjoying the 2.5-mile short course. Instead there were just 3 entrants.
How cool if new paddlers and kids took the chance and got in the short course event. They would paddle hard and come in somewhere. I sewed up “caboose” in the long course, who would have been my short course twin? After fun and new friends at the BBQ we could all take a tour of the bay, check out the pirate ship, swim in the lee side calms and share paddling tips. The excellent fun of the first of the Elk Lake series will be repeated on August 24th and September 14 (followed by a luau and music by Bill Keale.
You know it – no matter what place you come in you are going to score a WIN if you simply show up – board ready and paddle in hand. The informal “free” clinic fun of everyone sharing what they know will be icing on the cake. Please contact me if you have questions, comments or pictures to share.
Some more photos of beautiful Elk Lake (click on the thumbnail for larger image) See YOU August 24th.