For the past five years, the Colonial SUP race in New Bern, NC has been one of the truly family-first regional races in the mid-atlantic. Organizers, Kate and Charley Lewis, owners of Standup Outfitters, have made a huge effort to include and celebrate all paddlers—especially the kids.
We woke to a spectacular sunrise, glassy water and a field filled with paddlers unloading their boards and paddles, layering sunscreen and filling hydration packs. It was hot, with barely a breath of wind and only a handful of merciful clouds. The warm morning, would heat up to an over 90-degree, sunny day where the humidity was so high, it actually registered in quadruple digits (I wouldn’t have believed it either). But the heat and humidity didn’t stop anyone from having a good time paddling on the Trent and Neuse Rivers—especially after they jumped off their boards and cooled off in the water.
The new race this year was the 11-mile Battle of the Bern race. It was a huge success and a perfect distance for this time of year. Charlestown powerhouse and SIC Team Rider Jeremy Whitted won the men’s elite with Anna Blackburn winning the women’s elite.
This was a special year for me as I paddled with my daughter Stella on an outrigger canoe.Except for one moment when we were about 2 miles to the finish and Stella said, “Daddy? It feels like we’re going REEEAAALLLLY slow. Does it seem like we’re going slow to you?” To have my 5-year old see the race from the back of our boat, to sing songs from her kindergarten class, and to add constant commentary on how fast I was paddling was a real treat. This might have been my favorite race ever.
I know many of the parents felt the same way watching their kids tear it up on the Junior Course, a sprint-distance, single-elimination heat sprints on boards provided by the race committee. They not only created a safe and competitive venue, but they went the extra mile to make sure the kids had the gear they needed to race.
That’s why of all the stats on this day, the most impressive was the 19 kids that showed up to race. As Kate announced during awards, “This is a great indication of the healthy future of our sport.” One group in particular, driving up from Wilmington, NC was the team from Wrightsville SUP and their Junior Elite SUP Team. Modeled after the program started by Candice Appleby and Anthony Vela’s Performance Paddling program, this crew of young paddlers has been training hard all year and they killed it.
Paddlers traveled from as far as New York and Florida made this race more of a reunion at times. The importance of event reciprocity, supporting each other, can’t be overstated. We are not event competitors. We are one water tribe. Way to show up, paddle and support.
Special thanks to Kate and Charley Lewis and their wonderful daughters, Betsy and Georgie and all the volunteers and sponsors. It was a ton of fun and we can’t wait for next year.