Stand up paddle racing seems to represent the core of our young sport. The SUP races held every weekend all over the world have helped to promote the sport to the masses. Not only is a stand up paddle race an athletic event, but it is a meeting of the stand up paddle tribe. Stand up paddle racing is just as much about the actual race as it is about the experience of being around great people.
When I started Water Monkey 3 years ago, I had never seen or competed in a stand up paddle race. The first race I paddled in was one that I helped to organize. As far as I know, there had never been a stand up paddle race in the Tampa Bay area before 2009. With the help of another paddle enthusiast, we gathered some ideas and announced the ‘Power to the Paddle’ in September of 2009. With grass roots marketing and word-of-mouth advertising, we worked to let the local paddlers know about Tampa Bay’s first race. Realize that there were zero race boards being sold in the local shops. We did not worry about having fast paddlers, we just hoped more than 2 people would show up.
Race day came and we were greeted with early morning wind, lightning and rain. In the pre-dawn hours I was paddling out the buoys to mark the course. The race start time began to approach and much to our relief paddlers started to pull up. The morning thunderstorms were not cooperating so we delayed the start until the lightning cleared. Meanwhile, a small wave started to show up on the beach as a result of the passing storms. Soon there were paddlers rooting each other on as everyone caught waves in front of the race site. Paddlers know how to make the best out of a bad situation. Not long after the impromptu surf session the skies began to offer a window to start the race.
I insisted to my partner that I wanted to participate in the race. Armed with an 11′ stand up paddle board, I embarked on my first of many stand up paddle races. I think I finished in 3rd place that day. I accomplished my goal of not losing to any girls, so I was happy. My competitive fire for stand up paddle boarding had ignited and I was ready to race again. However, the main thing I took away from that first event was how fun and welcoming the community of water enthusiasts is. On a cold, wet and windy morning 30 paddlers gathered on a beach and had a great time. Here’s to the limitless possibilities for the worlds fastest growing water sport.
Water Monkey is hosting the Water Monkey Challenge on May 19th in downtown St. Pete. Visit the official event page HERE for full details and to register today!