We’ve been writing a lot lately about the state of SUP racing. It’s at a tipping point, in part because there are so.many.events. and people just can’t go to all of them. The Mullet posted a great article about that which you can read here. Bigger water events are absorbing SUP. Destination “life goal/personal best” eat up the travel budget for a lot of people. Things like Chattajack, or the Randazzo Paddle for A Cause are endurance events and bucket list types of things for which people will spend lots of money, pack up their entire cars and go.
Myself, I’ll do smaller races if they are 1) local, 2) a place within a 4-6 hour drive where lots of my friends are going (who I only see at SUP races), 3) a vacation destination and I can rent a decent board.
Let’s talk about 3
This is a slight tangent, but indulge me a bit.
I like to go to see new places. I primarily fly. I think a lot of people with standup paddleboards have the income to fly. I’m also on a “get out of debt before I’m 70” plan this summer, so I’m only flying if somebody else is paying (or driving, for that matter). Here’s the problem if I do want to go somewhere cool to paddle at a race in a new place: Say I am a regular paddler with no industry connections and I want to go to a race in Maryland. I live in Indiana and I have heard that the crab cakes are the best and I want to see an Orioles game. But I have no way to get a board.
This is the issue with smaller races that want to attract people from far away. You’ve gotta figure out a way to rent decent boards to people. If you have a race board demo fleet, this is a good way to use them. If you don’t but a different shop does, partner up. If you’re not a shop, partner up with a shop. If this is something you can do, ADVERTISE IT. Let people know they can rent boards!
Back to the Blog Title
Races that I will go to on the regular are the Thursday night Sunset SUP Series put on by the Blockade Runner in Wrightsville Beach. They start this week! They are free, fun, and a good chance to catch up with my friends.
It’s a perfect after work break. It also builds my loyalty to the Blockade Runner. When I have friends and family in town, I encourage them to stay there. I always check to see what other events they’re holding and I come out to support them, even if I’m not paddling. (For instance, the Biathlon.)
WND&WVS, a SUP/Surf shop in Vermont has started a Wednesday night fun race series this year. Owner Russ Scully says “We started them this summer to help build/grow the paddle community up here and get people thinking about Stand up for the Lake in August. We’re all very excited about the potential. I feel like Burlington could become a strong paddle community/destination.”
Russ is spot on with what he’s doing. He is building a community so that when it’s time to get everyone together on a bigger stage, they are there. He’s raising awareness and growing the sport in an area where SUP is still relatively new.
The people that come to these weekly gatherings will be your evangelists. They will tell people to visit your shop, and go to your bigger race. They will bring their friends along, opening the door to new paddlers and new customers.
Success in Hosting a Regular Event
I’ve helped with weekly social meetups and I’ve attended the weekly race series. Here’s what I think makes the things I’ve been to successful:
- Regular, consistent meeting time. Every week. Same time. Only canceled because of weather. And if canceled, a central way to let everyone know.
- Ground rules. It is clear where you can park, what time things start, what your skill level has to be to do it.
- Fun after the work. At the Blockade Runner, we all get free beer. After our Wednesday meetups we would all go eat dinner. Paddle and then fun.
- Emphasis on the social. Sure, we’re competitive, but even at the Thursday night races, we’re there as much to have fun and get to know each other as we are to race and win.
If you want to facilitate a gathering, decide what your goals are. That will help you figure out what makes the most sense for you. If you’re a shop, it might be a weekly social paddle. If you have a big race later in the season, doing a free fun race series makes more sense.
Then, be consistent. Try it for a season–8 weeks or 6 weeks. If two people show up, fine. Run it. Build on it.
You’ll become the unofficial/official headquarters for SUP in your area, and that will pay off in the long run.