It was one of those summer days that dawns with bluebird sky and warms with sunshine, community and good friends on the water – it was the Bend Paddle Challenge. I hadn’t participated in many races in the past 5 years, but with an eye on the 2018 Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge and my Starboard Freeride 12’2″ X 30 paddleboard I felt trained enough to race the 5 miles. Even though most of the racers had 12’6″ or 14′ boards, I was fine with my board choice – this was a chance to do a hard training paddle with an event wrapped around it.
The event kicked off on Friday night with a clinic by KIALOA paddles ‘Elele, Brett Saguid, on the lawn by the river behind Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe. The two things I learned at that clinic that were so valuable during (the grueling) five mile race were:
- When going into the wind keep your body lower and feather your paddle on the return. I knew this, but in the last mile when the wind funneled strong into my face going into the final buoy turn area it was a great reminder.
- Take your paddle out at your toes for best lift and efficiency. Again, I knew this but when fatigue suggests leaving the paddle in the water “just a little longer” between strokes it was a great reminder. I made that my mantra, and used it to keep a solid paddle rhythm. My little “I am TIRED” brain had a different script – and the result was a lot more fun throughout the entire race.
The buoys were placed for maximum spectator engagement so we had 10 buoy turns in 5 miles. This was great for me too. Since I was the old lady at the back of the pack, as I was coming in to turns I got to watch the trains of faster paddlers zoom by, sharing shouts of encouragement – or just a smile if we were too breathless to shout. I even got to the share a buoy turn with the 1st place winner, Brett, as he lapped me on my mile 3 and his mile 4.
So, I came in third (and I came in a few paddlers from last). It wasn’t because of my age category, there were no age categories. I got third because there were only 5 women entered in the event. It’s always fun to podium and the bonus was the cool pint-glass as trophy from Sunriver Brewing. But it would also have been great to have more women participating. I can totally understand some anxiety before doing “A RACE.”
But a switch in mindset could make participation much more inviting to first timers. For one, the Bend Paddleboard Challenge had a 1 mile sprint race with great energy, lots of novice participants (and some speedy experienced racers). Then there was the 5 person relay with a beach start.
Every participant was on the same KIALOA 12’6″ inflatable board. Spills and thrills and laughs were the name of the game. There were almost as many people in the relay event as the main 5 mile event. And that’s the biggest bonus at a community SUP race – getting to know new people and having an amazing good time.
Taking advantage of pre-race clinics and meeting novice and experienced paddlers on land (over a beer – thanks, Sunriver Brewing) all add up to the best of our sport.