After taking up Paddleboarding last year and after seeing a few articles about Nisco racing online, I decided to give racing a go this year. I have been lucky enough to be picked as one of the UK Naish riders for 2016, something that Alex Tobutt has set up to help promote the brand, sport and races.
With the Battle of the Thames and Naish Inland Championships under my belt, the next race on the calendar was BaySUP as part of the UK SUP Club race series. The race was in Bournemouth which called for a 5.30am start from London (with my friend Rachel who brought bagels for the journey) in order to get there on time.
I have a habit of signing myself up to things without fully thinking them through- this race (and all the others races this season) definitely fall in to that category. I figure that over thinking things won’t help and if you want to try something then you should just give it a go. Shortly after arriving in Bournemouth, we were greeted by a few fellow Naish racers which helped to calm my nerves. Everyone that I have met at races so far have been really friendly and it has been great to meet new people.
After grabbing a much needed coffee and registering, I headed to the car to inflate the board. I have invested in an air compressor pump to inflate the board in an attempt to save as much energy as possible for the actual races! The pump was worth every penny as it inflated my board and James, another Naish riders board without any problem.
We headed over to the beach and to the start area. I was starting to feel a little nervous and wasn’t really sure what to expect from the race. I have never raced in the sea before and actually had never taken the Naish board out in the sea. My only experience of sea SUPping was in Lanzarote on a large hard surf style board- much more stable (and slow) than the Naish One.
The race briefing was really informative and helped to ease some of my worries. There was plenty of time to ask questions about the course and no such thing as a silly question. I stayed behind after the briefing to have a longer look at the race course- my sense of direction is terrible and I wanted to memorise the different turns as much as possible. The race consisted of 5 laps (overall about 7.5km) around numerous buoys of different shapes and sizes-the fact that some were red, yellow, triangle and ‘minion’ shaped made it a bit easier for me to remember the route.
The junior race took place before our race and it was great to watch the kids racing. I would have loved to have done SUP racing as a kid so it’s nice to see others having the opportunity.
Soon it was the start of the main event, the Nisco riders were the first to set off with the other categories having staggered starts a few minutes afterwards. The race had a beach start which involves everyone lining up, board and paddle in hand, and running from the beach to launch in to the water. I’ve never done a beach start before and had been hoping to watch the other categories set off first but that wasn’t to be. I positioned myself at the back of the pack so I could at least learn from some of the other Nisco racers.
I needn’t have worried, the beach start was quite fun and although I didn’t make a very graceful entry on to the water, I didn’t fall in either. After my last two races, I have been working hard to improve my paddling technique as I found I was getting a sore lower back. I had finally found a technique which felt comfortable for me in training however the next challenge was sticking to this whilst racing.
The race itself was a lot of fun, the course had multiple turns, which although I need more practice on (I added extra distance on my turns), the turns were actually a lot of fun and helped to break up the race. I did try to be mindful of the serious racers when near the buoys and tried to move out of their way so as not to hold them up.
Paddling on the sea is a lot of fun but very different from the flat water of SUP Docklands where I normally paddle. My technique was tested as were my powers of balance and concentration. I had such a great time taking in the views and enjoying how clear the water was- I saw a few fish during the race. The sea feels totally different from flat waters and at times it felt like the whole earth moving and bobbing up and down.
I made it round four and a half laps of the five, and despite being dead last was having a great time and determined to finish. I was approaching the second last buoy turn and shouted thanks to the safety boat for their patience in waiting on me to finish, when I totally lost balance and went for a refreshing dip in the sea- I was in need of a cool off by this point anyway! The hardest part of the race for me was trying to get back on the board- again something that I probably should practice. I eventually rolled back on with help from the rescue boat (someone had to give him some work to do) and after a quick rest was on my way again.
My legs had now turned to jelly and all of the other racers had finished and were waiting patiently on the beach. As I approached the finish straight, I could hear my Mum and Dad cheering me on (thanks!) and also the other racers. I undid my leash and started to prepare to get off of the board for the beach run finish. In my usual calamity style, I misjudged my exit from the board and again found myself splashing to the bottom of the sea. Channeling my best Baywatch run, I picked myself up and headed towards the finish line where I pleased to hear people cheering instead of laughing at my very undignified finish. I was handed a much needed drink of water, which came in a souvenir BaySUP bottle (love a race memento!) and headed over to thank Alex for rescuing my board from the sea.
The race was absolutely brilliant and despite coming last I would absolutely enter again. Entering SUP races this year has given me an extra challenge but also the chance to visit new places and meet lots of new people. For anyone that is thinking of entering a race but is worried about the challenge, don’t be. All of the races have been really fun and although they are competitive they are also great for beginners as you can learn from all the experienced paddlers. The BaySUP race has been my favourite so far, I loved being on the sea and also the challenge that the course offered.
If I could offer any tips to beginners or first time SUP racers then they would be:
- Have fun- there’s no pressure to come out and win races when you first start. If you want to try and win then that’s awesome but there’s also a lot to be said for showing up, trying your best and taking part.
- Learn from the other experienced paddlers. Watch the different techniques and ask questions- everyone is really friendly.
- Make sure you hydrate well for the races, I was really glad that I took a drink out on the course with me as I got surprisingly hot and thirsty.
- Give it a go! Racing is suitable for experienced paddlers but also beginners. Everyone has to start somewhere. It doesn’t matter if you fall off as pretty much everyone will have taken a tumble at some point or other.
The next race I’ve entered is the Naish One UK National Championships which will be held in Weymouth on the 9th July 2016. The race is for Naish one boards only and will involve several different race types throughout the day. There’s still time to enter and the chance to hire all the equipment that you would need if you don’t have your own, you can enter here.
Thanks again to everyone at BaySUP and UK SUP Clubs for a great race, it was really well organised and an enjoyable course. Thanks to Georgia Wharton for taking lots of great race photos of everyone and also to Alex and Naish for the opportunity to race on the Naish one this season.