For my second ever SUP race, I entered in to the UK Naish Nisco Inland Championship on Sunday 12th June. The race was again down in Kingston and hosted by BlueChip although we would not paddle on as much of the river as we did during the Battle of the Thames (BOTT) race.
Paddlers who entered the race all had to be on Naish One inflatable boards which levels the playing field although paddlers could use any paddle of their choosing.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the race, I was vaguely aware of the format but didn’t have all of the details. Having learned from my rush to get ready at BOTT, I arrived half an hour before registration opened and carried over all my kit and gave myself plenty of time to inflate the board; using a hand pump to do so should definitely be considered a form of exercise.
I had plenty of time to register, get my mugshot taken and even fuel up with a yummy porridge from the Pure Recharge team. People started arriving and soon there was a buzz of activity, one of the things that I have noticed from both races is how friendly everyone is. Although everyone wants to do their best in the races, seasoned paddlers are still happy to share tips and there’s a great atmosphere.
Race briefing started a little late as there was a problem with some of the trains (go figure London). Alex helpfully drew some very detailed race maps and outlined the plan for the day: a fun mid distance race around the island, three sprint races and then a 2 mile long distance race.
I have to admit, the thought of so many races in one day had me feeling more than a little nervous. Especially since the sprints involved a 50m dash, quick bouy turn followed by a 50m dash back to the finish. I haven’t had a chance to practice race turns this year- ok I’ve had plenty of chances but woosed out as I didn’t want to fall in and get wet.
There wasn’t too much time to dwell on it as soon everyone was called to the water for the first race. It was a pretty quick start and I tried to get off a little quicker than I had done at BOTT which meant trying to hang on whilst the board was wobbled too and fro by the washing machine effect created by the faster paddlers.
I held on and was soon paddling up the river in pursuit of pretty much everyone else. I didn’t manage to catch them but had fun trying to keep up. It was raining pretty heavy during parts of the race and I found my hands slipping from the paddle a few times. The race was over before I knew it and there was another quick break before the sprints started.
The sprints were fast and furious and great fun both to watch and take part in. Everyone was split in to heats, men vs men and women vs women with two heats each and a wild card race for those who didn’t automatically qualify for the final. They were great fun although I really do need to practice turning!
The men’s wildcard race was probably my favourite of the day to watch, it was absolute carnage. Every man who hadn’t automatically qualified for the final lined up for a last chance to qualify. The pace was fast, the water was completely churned and there were multiple crashes- no one was hurt and everyone had fun.
Another highlight of the day was paddling in some of the races against Jo Hamilton-Vale who is one of, if not the best female paddler in the UK. It was great to watch Jo out on the water, she is phenomenal.
After a quick lunch break, again I got some fuel from the Recharge guys, the sun finally came out and everyone lined up for the last race of the day. I was feeling pretty tired by the time we started the 2 mile race but again really enjoyed it. The river traffic definitely add an extra challenge that I am not used to paddling with which meant extra concentration.
I found parts of the 2 mile race quite challenging and my lower back was starting to hurt- my technique was a little off and is something that I intend to work on to improve over the season.
Everyone stayed to cheer on the last paddlers over the finish and a short while later there was a prize giving. I had a brilliant day and think that pretty much everyone else would say the same. The Nisco races are a great way to meet more SUPers and also to try different paddling skills.
The races are also brilliant for introducing beginners to the sport as was proven by the group of paddlers who entered the race on Sunday having only tried SUP the evening before. They did amazingly well and hopefully it will be the start of many more SUP adventures for the them.
As for me, I have some more things to practice but I am looking forward to my next race. I have entered the BaySUP race in Bournemouth as part of the UK SUP Club race series. It will be my first race in the sea and first trip to Bournemouth so I can’t wait!