At the time of typing this, I’m currently into my third year of Standup Paddleboarding, and my third year of racing, which is not very coincidental given that my first SUP outing was a race down Lake Bala in North Wales!
So, I’ve done a few races, usually on my Naish Air One Design board, or N1SCO as they’re called.
When you see SUP racing, it’s usually exactly how you imagine it would look like – lots of speed, skill and fitness. And to be fair, there is an element of that. There are some exceptionally skilled and fit competitors who turn up and race.
With the N1SCO races, everyone is on the same board, so it’s very much up to the paddler as to how well they do rather than if they have the latest 21″ wide piece of carbon fibre trickery. To make onto the podium is mainly down to how well you paddle, and sometimes a bit of luck!
And here’s a little secret…
I don’t actually enjoy racing that much!
It involves travelling for hours.
There’s training to be done beforehand to try and beat your last race position.
There’s the pre-race anxiety.
And it’s really really hard work!
So, why do it?
Well, that’s a question I’ve often wondered, and I saw some photos posted today that reminded me why I do it.
A few weeks back, we were down in Chichester Harbour for the N1SCO Championships. This sees around 100 N1SCO paddlers descend upon the sleepy town of Emsworth for Technical, Distance and Sprint racing. This year I was privileged to be one of the N1SCO angels, and given a orange race bib. The idea is to be visible to anyone who might need a bit of advice about what happens at the races if they haven’t been to one before.
So, we’d finished the Technical Race earlier in the day and had just finished distance race. There’s a drone taking photos, as well as several rescue boats with photographers onboard. With most of the N1SCO events, there’s a fantastic atmosphere, with the front runners going out along the course to encourage the slower competitors, and some general messing around going on.
And this set of photos surfaced today (photo credit to Supjunkie)
And thinking back to other races and events…
And this is the common theme to my racing career – whilst the racing is hard, the entire event is an absolute blast!
The majority of the SUP community is ace and very supportive, but there is a special something with the N1SCO fleet!
Roll on the next race 😀
Photos are shamelessly stolen from Facebook.
Credit to SUPJunkie, GBSUP, Hydrophilous (me!), Casper Steinfath, and N1SCO UK.
Hello, good evening and welcome to yet another SUP blog article!
As some of you may recall, back in the mist of time (last year, 2017), I was persuaded to take up Standup Paddleboarding with the wonderful Saltwalk club based in Derby.
Being in a race based club, my experience of SUP is probably slightly different than a lot of peoples as racing is what we do. We do lots of other things, but N1SCO racing is at the heart of the Club…
So then, 2017… I started paddling, did lots of paddling, did a number of races, and generally got sunburned, overheated, frozen, excited, nervous, mosquito bitten, dehydrated, exhausted, wet, very wet and a whole lot fitter.
Looking at 2018, I started the year with the best intentions of blogs and newsletters for the Club, but as a lot of good intentions, things didn’t quite happen!
So as we now approach Autumn, and with the 2018 race series behind us, it seemed a good time for a quick (or possibly quite long) recap of a mad year.
Back at the end of 2017, we were still paddling in the evenings pretty much until the end of October. One of the joys of an urban river is that it’s never fully dark, and with high viz tops and a few bike torches, we could train safely in the dark evenings. Unfortunately, as the weather turns colder, it also turned wetter and windier, which meant the river conditions were not safe. Fortunately, we had a plan B, which was Jenni’s House of Pain…
Jenni put together a High Intensity Interval Training routine together, using rowing erg machines, along with core strength training. This was all done in the Rowing Club. Saltwalk sessions became extremely sweaty, followed by two days of DOMS!
There may also have been a few social sessions – Sitting in a Santa Train full of excited kids after a night out with the gang was not fun!
So then, onto 2018…
The indoor training carried on into 2018 (as did the DOMS…). We had a few more socials including Neil’s Karaoke moment (and the birth of Saltwalk Glitter).
Spring saw a mixture of Snow, warm weather, wind and rain. White Water SUP paddling proved to be insanely good fun, even if ever so painful, and we started to prep for the upcoming race series as well as the WSA Instructors Course.
The Instructors course is definitely worth a mention. The course itself is excellent, but very intensive, both on and off the water. The rescue parts of the course involved much swimming in the murky swollen Derwent as we practised rescue technique, towing and throwlines. You also get to practice every single stroke you have ever been shown! Highly recommended 🙂
Before the main race season kicked off, I saw a Facebook popup for the Bala Race-The-Train event. Last year, this was my very first outing on a board, and even if it wasn’t part of the race calendar, it seemed like a god idea to see what it was like a year on…
By coincidence, we were planning to visit the in-laws in Wale that weekend, and with a bit of persuading, managed to convince my other half that a ride on a steam train in Bala would be great for the kids…
Having dropped the family off at the staion, I headed over to the start line to blowup the board, get kitted up and generally faff.
Tony from Green Dragon was organising things, and this year wasn’t supposed to be a serous race, and that once the train started, we could all paddle en-mass towards the end, and possibly have a little race once we were near the bottom end of the lake. That plan went totally out of the window as soon as the train whistle blew and off we set at race pace!
5Km later, we managed to draw with the train. I came a very close second, losing the lead in the last few hundred meters. Roll on next year’s race!
As we race N1SCO boards, we compete in two series – the main N1SCO events (three of them) and as part of the N1SCO fleet in the GBSUP Race Series. Both series are excellent for paddlers of all abilities and experience.
The GBSUP races were held in London (Battle of the Thames), Cardiff (part of the Cardiff International White Water Festival), Rutland (at the National Watersports Festival), Windermere (Windermere Solstice Paddle Fest) and Bournemouth (BaySUP).
BoTT was a bit of a damp and gloomy start of the race series, and I certainly wasn’t paddling my best, even if I did manage to avoid the various lumps of tree drifting down the Thames (a few others didn’t!)… Having ran out of energy before the halfway point, I slowed right down and considered looking for a tea room or cake shop to stop at on the way back to the finish line. It was only when I heard Neil tying to sneak up on me that I picked up the pace a smidgen and get to the finish a few boards length in front!
Cardiff was ace. It was a Bank Holiday Weekend and we went SUP surfing the day before, which was probably a mistake in terms of a race result as any pretence of saving some energy for the race went out the window. We went MegaSUP surfing for a while and I have never laughed so much. Normal SUP surfing is a fantastic way to gain board skills and kill yourself at the same time!
The actual race in Cardiff involved a short sprint (managed to bag 3rd!) and the main 10Km race up and down the Taff (not my best race, but felt better than the Thames, despite the heat).
Rutland… Where to start?
The GBSUP race in Rutland is part of the National Watersports Festival,which is mainly Windsurfing and (a growing number) SUP.
The was plenty to do on the the water with the GBSUP races and the NWF events, and then a couple of nights of partying.
The GBSUP races were a one way sprint (2nd!) and a 10Km distance race.
The Friday night party may have taken it’s toll somewhat as there didnt seem much enthusiasm on Saturday morning. Much bacon did help matters! The 10km race was obviously set by a masochist. From the start, it was across the reservoir, round a buoy, across the water again and round another buoy and then paddle to the bottom end of Rutland water, round another mark that you couldn’t see due to the curvature of the Earth, and then retrace your course.
It did seem much longer than 10K, but I actually had a reasonable race, found a good pace and stuck to it, and finished much higher up the board than I was expecting to (5th :-))
Unfortunately I couldnt make Windermere due to kiddies birthdays, but it looked a fantastic, if slightly challenging race – I heard ore than one comment about there being both a headwind and a tailwind on a dead straight course!
BaySUP was the last race of the GBSUP celendar and saw more scorching hot weather on the beach down at Sandbanks, near Poole Harbour. This was a last minute entry for me as I didn’t think I would be able to make it, but Deke yet again provided transport and accommodation for the night. The race was hard work, with five laps involving a technical course (with a long leg running parallel to the shore and across all the swell/chop) including a run around a flag on the beach. Run might be being slightly optimistic and I walked around the flag most times. I found the course extremely challenging due to the swell and had many swims on the way round!
The N1SCO races kicked off in Emsworth down in Chichester Harbour. The N1SCO events usually follow the same format. A short (2-3Km) technical race, sprints (including a bouy turn) and a longer distance race (5-8Km). The N1SCO events are always great, with a fantastic atmosphere. The sprints and technical race are all in the mirror calm (at least until the paddling starts) Slipper Pond, and the distance race takes place in Chichester Harbour itself.
In the races themselves, I felt much better than last year, and was keeping up with the guys I only saw in the distance last year. The race across the harbour was great and much more enjoyable than last year (I still owe Johnny a fiver for taking Lee out at the half way mark!)
Swanage was the next N1SCO race and is a fantastic venue for a weekend on the beach. This year, we didn’t have the Mowlem Theatre as a base, but were outside on the promenade. For me, this was much better than the year before.
We also had Naish rider and world Champion Casper Steinfath along to give hints, tips and encouragement. The Q&A session on Saturday was excellent, even if a few totally random, non SUP related questions snuck in!
The racing was in the same format – Technical, sprints and a distance race.
As with the previous year, the wind featured quite prominently, and Sunday’s distance race was windy, wavy (not quite 8 foot!) and involved a few dunking.
The last N1SCO was originally going to be held in the Midlands, but the dates would have clashed with the APP races in Docklands. Instead, the Profesional paddlers in the APP were joined by the slightly less professional paddlers and the race venue was moved to London.
As with a lot of summer 2018, the weather was hot (over 30C).
The technical race for me wasn’t brilliant, but I did better in the sprints than last year. The distance race was hard going, but I had my best result in a N1SCO race (11th!).
With few tonnes of peer pressure, I was persuaded to enter the sprint wildcard, and after a bad buoy turn with a lot of congestion, I clawed my way back to a photo finish with Jonny Greatrex and into the sprint final 🙂
The sprint final was tough – I managed to nearly get knocked off approaching the turn, but didn’t finish last, so really pleased with the result!
Aside from the racing, there were also numerous club trips, pub trips, SUPX games and not forgetting the fabulous Trent 100 (more on that at a later date…).
The highlights of the year for me?
There were several highlights for me.
The first was passing the WSA instructors course. It’s a tough and tiring few days, but the course is excellent.
The next was winning the GBSUP N1SCO sprint series, which was totally unexpected!
The Trent 100 was a superb experience – there’ll be a write up along shortly!
Overall, it was great to finish races in a higher place than last year – definitely seeing an improvement in fitness.
When SUPing, on whitewater, one overlooked aspect is how to swim safely through stoppers and other obstacles.
In this article, Saltwalk Raceteam Captain, Deke, provides a flawless demonstration of an Inverted Body Roll (IBR).
The IBR is an extremely valuable skill to have in your WW SUP toolkit.
Essential, the IBR is a method of reaching the other side of the board, quickly and safely by using the hydraulic features of the environment to your advantage – There are times when you will need to move from being upstream of the board to being downstream to minimise the risk to you as a swimmer, and moving around the edge of the board will take too long.
In the first picture, Deke is in the water, swimming defensively downstream with the board. He’s already spotter an obstacle and is looking to position himself for the IBR.
Deke is now entering a large stopper. Underwater, he is bringing his feet up ready to roll.
In the last two photos, you can see the roll being performed. The key is to let the water do the work for you.
The roll is now complete, and Deke is safely in the downstream side of the board.
Saturday 21st October saw the final race of the UKSUP series head north of the Watford Gap and up to Tamworth, home of the Robin Reliant, a Castle, and Central SUP, who were to host the event. Tamworth was also being visited by Brian, but more of that later…
As this was the nearest race to Saltwalk HQ, and given that the Race Team was now at full strength, we were planning on turning up mob handed. This would also be the first experience of racing for quite a number of our members.
During the weeks leading up to Tamworth, we’d had a number of sessions on the water to practice turns, drafting and all the other bits and bobs that might be useful in a race. As it turned out, the wonderful UK Weather had other ideas.
The week before, Mark and co had headed north to the land of Haggis, Neeps and Nessie for the Great Glen Endurance Race. On the way up, Storm Ophelia swept across Northern England and Scotland uprooting trees, ripping off Mark’s roofrack and stopping the Race. As we got nearer to Tamworth Race Day, it looked as if Storm Brian was going to attempt the same.
As the days counted down the forecast was changing by the hour, and it looked like the worst of the wind would hit sometime after the race. UKSUP had put out a number of Social Media updates regarding the weather, and it looked like it would go ahead as the lake was quite sheltered. Race on!
Saturday dawned, and didn’t look so bad! For once, the race was only an hour away, rather than the usual four, and it didn’t look too stormy. Lee kindly gave me a lift down and we arrived with a hint of sunshine in the sky and plenty of time for a bacon butty and a coffee before registration.
The club was bringing fewer racers than originally planned due to illness and injury, but one by one, they rolled up, signed in and started the mammoth task of blowing up the boards, suiting up, drinking tea and generally getting ready to race.
With the race briefing, the nerves started to set in…
We were looking at three full laps, plus one super lap of a clockwise course. I still hate right turns! We were also expecting pretty strong winds, but given the sheltered nature of the lake, and the lack of an ocean to be blown out into, the race was going ahead, albeit without a novice or junior race.
At the stroke of 11, the Inflatable class (including the N1SCO fleet) started, and we were off across the wind with a short paddle to the first right hand turn. I had a wobbly start, as normal. It was windy, the water choppy and I was having flashbacks to Swanage.
Safely around the first buoy (with a distinct lack of step back pivoting!) and we’re heading off to the bottom turn (right hand – grrrrr) with the wind behind us. This wasn’t so bad! I had a slight wobble as I somehow managed to totally submerge the front of the board, but a couple of shakey steps backwards to re-trim sorted that out. Before long, the bottom turn arrived. I’d shortened my paddle a couple of inches as we approached the turn as I knew it was going to be drafty on the way back up.
Drafty was a bit of an understatement. As we started the long slog back up the lake, we were heading straight into the howling face of Storm Brian. After the race, it was mentioned that some of the gusts were up to around 50 MPH.
The paddle up the lake was brutal, and the wind was picking up as we got nearer the only left hand turn on the course (and not much of a turn, either – more of a kink!). Ahead, I could make out the blur that was Naish Alex as he crossed the start/finish line. They had to stop the race, didn’t they? It was much too windy! But Alex carried on onto the downwind leg, so it looked like the race was still a goer.
Fortunately, the wind slackened off a bit as we turned onto the start/finish line, but at the back of my mind was the thought that there was no way I could do three more laps of that!
Another downwind experience was a great opportunity to recover a tiny bit. I did stay with Deke (another Saltwalker) for a minute or two, but he soon picked up speed and went with the wind.
The second upwind leg was much like the first. Head down and slog. By this time we were catching up with a number of paddlers who were struggling in the testing conditions. Mark and Helen had dropped out of the race to offer moral (and gentle nudging) support to those who were paddling on their knees just to get back to the launch area. I was trimming the board into the headwind, and a few times my toes were hanging off the from of the foam pads on the deck. As before, the nearer the left hand kink we got, the stronger the wind blew, and after every paddle stroke, the board was being blown to a standstill, and occasionally backward…
Lap three was much like the first two. Fast and relaxing downwind. Painful and slow upwind.
Lap four was my Superlap, which meant I could cut a big chunk of the lap out. Deke was a fair way ahead of me at the Superlap buoy, but I managed to catch him on the slow paddle up, so we were neck and neck at the left hand turn, but as soon as we hit the wind shadow, off he went and managed to cross the line several board length ahead.
For me, I think this was my best race all season. As I’ve only been paddling for just over six months, there’s not that many races to choose from, but I was over the moon just to finish the entire course on my feet. At Swanage (home of the head high waves and hurricane force winds – the sort of conditions that make the Red Bull Heavy Water event look like a paddling pool!), I did paddle a while on my knees, as did a fair number of other racers, but it was great to finish the entire Tamworth race on my feet.
The prize giving was a lengthy affair as it was also included the overall season awards. It was also Jo Hamilton Vale’s last season running the series as she and Pete are heading to Australia. Jo came armed with a collection of trophies from her recent trip to Hawaii signed by some of the worlds top Paddleboarders – details of the prizes coming soon 🙂
Saltwalk did well again, scooping the Club award due to the sheer number of paddlers we managed to persuade/bribe/blackmail to come along.
Helen managed 3rd place in the series, with Mark bagging joint third
Deke managed 3rd in his age class, and Ben managed to win the Rookie award for putting in a fantastic effort and completing his first race in epic conditions.
I was over the moon to managed third place in my age group (it looks like only three of us finished the race), and also get the Saltwalk Paddler of the Year, mainly for turning up I think – although Mark assures me it’s for ‘most improved’ as well 🙂
Thanks to everyone involved in the UKSup series for making it a fun and inclusive set of events – it’s been a fantastic 6 months.
And a huge group hug to Mark, Helen and all at Saltwalk for getting me off my bum and onto a paddleboard.
Here’s to a fun winter, and a fantastic 2018 race series 😀
In my previous life, before seeing the light of SUP, I used to canoe a little bit. OK, I used to canoe and kayak an awful lot, and one of the many bits of gear you come across in the canoe and kayak world (especially if you paddle moving water) is the throw line or throw bag.
So what is a Throw Line?
Simply put, a throw line is bag with some rope in it that you can throw to a person in the water and then pull them to the bank. Simples!
There’s a little more to it than that, but not much.
The line is contained in a bag for a few reasons:
It keeps the rope contained – the last thing you need on the water is several meters of rope tangling up your board.
It allows you to throw the rope – throwing the rope and the bag is a lot easier than throwing just a rope.
It allows an easier re-throw – the bag is designed to be filled with water to help throw without repacking the bag.
The rope in a throw line is called float rope. It’s rope that floats. It’s usually a man made fibre such as polypropylene.
Different bags use different sized rope, usually around 6-8mm. The thicker the rope, the stronger the rope and the easier to grip. The strength shouldn’t be an issue in SUP, as its only really a concern when rescuing pinned canoes in moving water, and they can weight a huge amount when full!. Whilst the thicker rope is easier on the hands, it also makes for a larger bag, so there’s always a compromise to be made.
As with a lot of safety equipment, there’s no substitute for experience and proper training. I’d strongly recommend going on a Swift Water Rescue Course to learn more. It a fun, if slightly scary way to practice a lot of different rescue techniques.
If your going use a throw line, always carry a suitable knife. Ropes and water can be a dangerous combination, and moving water is worse. Knifes can be either fixed or folding, with or without points. Whatever you choose, it’s worth making sure it’s useable with one hand.
Clean Line Principle
Apart from the bag, the line you’re using shouldn’t contain any knots or loops. The idea is that there is nothing to snag on the river and cause a hazard. Some lines, and we’re talking a few years ago now, had a handle at both ends. This is now considered very bad practice as it can easily snag on rocks or branches.
Any loops on the bag should also be small enough not to get a hand through to cause an entrapment. Usually, loops are only big enough to fit a carabiner through.
Throwing the line
So then, you’re stood by the river, wearing your BA (remember, the riverbank is the most dangerous part of the river!) and you see a fellow paddler floating in the river. What do you do?
First things first – get their attention. Ideally, you shouldn’t need to use your throw line. If you can, get them to swim close to the shore and possibly use you paddle if needed to assist.
Throwing the Line
if they can’t make it to the bank, it’s time to unleash the throw line. There’s several different ways to throw the line, but in all cases you need to asses your surroundings.
Are you on stable footings? Are there any hazards the casualty will hit? Are there any obstacles you could hit with the line?
Underarm or Overarm? Throwing underarm is the usual, recommended way of throwing. It’s quite slow, but more accurate. If there are any trees, overhead branches or other things in the way, you may not be able to throw underarm, in which case an overarm throw is needed. This can either be like bowling a ball or throwing a grenade, or like throwing an American Football.
In all cases, you undo the top of the bag and pull out the loose end. If the water is fast flowing, it may be worth passing this piece of rope around you back to give you more grip and stopping power. Once you’ve got the loose end out, DONT LET GO OF IT!!!
Holding the neck of the bag, you are looking to throw the bag over the casualty so they can easily grab hold of it.
Once they’ve grabbed hold, you need to brace as the rope will go taut, and they will swing in towards the bank, or you can pull them towards either be pulling the rope, hand over hand, or by walking up the riverbank.
If you need to rethrow the line, quickly pull it in and fill the bag with water, then just throw the bag – the line should follow it quite easily.
Once your rescue is over, you need to repack your line. There is no special technique needed, but it’s usually easiest to put the line over your shoulder and stuff the line a handful at a time into the bag.
Swimming on a line
Being the casualty is something that is very often not practiced, but can make a huge difference to a rescue.
If you are on the receiving end of a line, try not to wrap it around your wrist or hand (or anywhere else) – you may need to let go in a hurry. Ideally, you need to be swinging on your back and grasp hold of the bag on your chest. Try and get the rope under your shoulder so the rope lifts you slightly when it goes taut. At no point should you try and clip yourself onto the rope.
Once you’re at the bank, you shouldn’t let go until your safely back onto dry land and safe.
The 2017 N1SCO Inland Championships took place on the sea at Swanage (again!), so here it is…
the N1SCO not-so-Inland Championships.
Swanage 2.0 – SUP Harder…
for a number of reason (mainly related to waves and the hopeful lack of them), I was really looking forward to the N1SCO Inland Championships being held at Bray Lake near Maidenhead. The location was the nearest to us lot in the barren northern wasteland that lies beyond the Watford Gap. The plan was to head down on Friday evening, set up camp, grab a bite to eat and enjoy a swift half, purely to replenish essential electrolytes, minerals and hops, before enjoying a health smoke cured porcine related breakfast and a day of relaxing paddleboard racing.
On Wednesday, I received an unexpected call from Captain Saltwalk himself with the news that there was an issue with Bray Lake (something about an ill tempered mutated sea bass) and they were looking to move the event, possibly to Swanage as we’d been there before and it would mean less paperwork for Alex and the Naish crew. If it moved, would I still be going? After a bit of thinking time, the answer was ‘yes’. OK, it’d be 4 1/2 hours driving each way, plus more expense for camping, but, count me in 🙂
Thursday saw a few frantic calls and messages to arrange overnight accommodation, but Herston Camping where we camped for the European Championships had spaces and we’d be welcome again.
A few of Saltwalk Team couldn’t make it down due to the much longer drive, and after various juggling of drivers and passengers, 6pm on Friday saw fellow Saltwalk Teammate Sara and myself leaving Aldi stocked up with bacon, bread rolls and cider and heading south past Birmingham and Oxford, under the M4 within shouting distance of Bray, skirting past Southhampton and through the New Forest to Bournemouth, Wareham and eventually into the lovely seaside town of Swanage.
The journey was largely uneventful, even if it was two and a half hours beyond Bray – just don’t mention the dogging site or the Birdie Song!
Upon arrival at Herston, we soon found the rest of the Saltwalk bunch lurking out of the way towards the bottom of the camping field. Fortunately pop up tents really do take two minutes to put up and peg down, and we were soon enjoying a couple of drinks, philosophical conversation and Neil’s fairy lights. At no point in the evening did it get silly, and at no point did we take the Micky out of certain web-toed paddling shoes worn by some members of the group…
Saturday morning saw a quick pack up of the camping gear and we headed down to the seafront. I’d actually had a reasonable nights sleep despite the noise of the surf crashing onto the beach two miles away…
We managed to claim some free on road parking and wandered down to the Saltwalk van which was being used for the race registration.
Yet again, Swanage was utterly glorious. Golden sandy beach, clear water, blue skies and wave after wave of rolling surf (2 inches is a huge amount of swell, isn’t it?). After registration it was time for breakfast, and we cranked up the stove and cooked a pile of bacon rolls on the seafront whilst we sorted out the boards.
It was soon time for the race briefings to start. The first race was to be around 5KM. Starting at the pier, up the beach to the harbour wall, around a couple of buoys and then down the beach and round the tiny speck of yellow that was the bottom turn, before retracing our paddle strokes up to the harbour wall again and finishing on the beach.
The race itself was much better than my first experience on the sea at Swanage. With the wave height being smaller (chest high if I remember correctly, although the photos all appear to show a few inches high), and much less wind it was much better going. I even managed to pass a few people!
The next races were the sprints. Yet again, the less windy and wavey conditions were much nicer than the last race and I had a proper battle to the finish line against a couple of my fellow racers where some tactics actually paid off! A couple of pivot turns were also attempted and as I didn’t end up wet were executed successfully 🙂 Just don’t ask how far back I stepped, or how far out the nose came!
Following the sprints, we didn’t bunk off for some refreshments, and any reports of us doing so are fake news.
The last race of the day was the technical. After some confusion at the briefing, this was to be a proper super lap course. A beach start followed by three laps, one of which could be shortened (the super lap) at the paddlers discretion, and a run up the beach to the flag to finish.
As with the other races, it was much easier for me than the last Swanage outing. Less wind and swell were ace. The only potential fly in the ointment was being rammed roughly from behind and having a major dunking approaching one of the buoys! Fellow Saltwalk member Neil was apparently very sympathetic and only laughed for a couple of minutes…
I did make up a few places and had a fight to gain another place on the run up to the last turn before the beach.
With my race over, it was time to watch and cheer the rest of the fleet home.
For the race, Alex had arrange for Naish team paddle, several times World and European SUP Champion Casper Steinfath to pop over from Denmark
to give a few paddling clinics. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the clinics due to having to get home, but I did end up with a signed race bib 🙂
The prize giving was on the beach (Helen managed a bronze medal and Team Saltwalk received the club award by turning up mob handed at each race), followed by fish and chips and ice cream as the sun went down. A fantastic way to end a fantastic race.
Yet again, huge thanks must go to Alex and everyone else who helped to organise the race series. Given the challenges in moving a venue a hundred miles down the road with a couple of days notice, it all went superbly.
So what’s next?
Well, there’s a few more UKSUP races this year, but roll on 2018!
Having looked at my results over the three N1SCO events, I recon I may stand a chance of being on the podium by the year 2039, assuming no one else improves, and possibly a zombie apocalypse 🙂
See you on the water 😎
Photo credits: photos on the blog are either my own or shamelessly taken from the UK N1SCO Facebook pages where they belong to Casper Steinfath, Andy Stallman or Ian Gray Promotional Filming and Photography.
The weekend of 10th and 11th June 2017 deserves a special mention in the annals of history. Not only did the weekend see the anniversary of the first Apple II computers being shipped, and the birthday of Elizabeth Hurley, it also saw an international pack of race hungry Stand Up Paddleboarders descend upon the small seaside town of Swanage for the N1SCO European Championships.
My racing (and SUPing) history is still in its infancy, having first stood on a board in the wild for the Race the Train UKSUP event a couple of months before in April. Since then, I’ve been training at least once a week with the Saltwalk guys and gals in sunny Derby as well as some races (Cardiff 10K and the National Watersports Festival). I definitely feel slightly more comfortable on a board, as well as slightly fitter 🙂 However, a lack of experience is something only time on the water can address.
Anyhow, back to the N1SCO event.
So, Friday evening for once sees a lightning turn around from getting home from work to getting underway. Fortunately, we’d packed the car the night before and it was just a question of throwing the kids bodily into the car, firing up the satnav and heading south into the great unknown (or Dorset as it’s called). For once, the journey down was mostly uneventful, with no traffic around Birmingham and easy driving past Oxford. The only fly in the ointment was the Satnav trying to take us over the Studland Ferry…
We finally arrived at Herston Caravan and Camp Site at around 9:30 at night, put up the tents, bundled the kids and wife inside, and then I managed to head off for a catchup and team planning and tactics session (definitely not a gentle drinking session with much silliness – no one mention ‘eleven’ or crabs
) before turning in ready to race in the morn!
Saturday dawned bright, warm and windy and we headed down early to the Mowlem Theatre on the shore to register and get ready to race 🙂
Even at 7am, there was a bustle of activity on the shore (and free parking to be had!), with Alex and the team setting up for the racing.
Registration and breakfast were the next to be ticked off the list. Breakfast was from the Pure Recharge pop up cafe (great porridge and tea, by the way!) and registration saw number 113 issued to myself. A number that would soon instil fear into all those lurking at the back of the pack!
Beer tokens were also included for the evening 🙂
With registration out of the way, and the rest of the family roaming Swanage looking for sweets and playgrounds, it was soon time for the race briefing to start and the racing (and nerves) to start.
The first race was the mid distance technical race, with an inverse superlap (or something!). This involved three laps of course, with one lap involving and extra buoy. You, the racer, got to choose when to do the longer lap.
With the fleet on the water it soon became apparent that I don’t like the sea! I’d estimate there was an eight foot swell heading to the beach, with wind in the strong gale to hurricane force. Ok, there may be a slight exaggeration going on here. The swell, if I was forced at gunpoint to admit, may have been more like a foot, but it was windy, with gusts reaching around 25MPH. Perhaps not hurricane force, but definitely challenging for a relative novice such as myself.
Back at the start line, even the huge gentle swell was tipping the odd racer in whilst the wind blew me gently backwards from the start line. Alex gave the one minute warning…30 seconds…10 seconds and go! I got off to a very British start – after you, no after you, you go ahead, but soon I was underway up to the first set of turns. For my weekends racing, to give everyone a fighting chance, I’d decided that vigorous jumping to the back of the board, followed by a perfectly executed pivot turn and blistering acceleration away from the mark would be unfair, and settled on a set of slightly wobbly cross deck turns,interspersed with a selection of paddle slapping supports to stop going in due to the head high swell. Heading up to the upwind buoy was even more unsettling as there were reflected waves from the seawall, leading to an even more knee shaking cross deck turn. The down wind leg was slightly better, but I still didn’t feel settled in the swell.
After taking the longer super lap first, the next two laps were shorter and easier, and the finish flag was a welcome sight. This time, it was a beach finish, surfing in the huge breakers and sprinting up the beach to the flag.
Finishing was great, with a fantastic crowd cheering everyone on, and it was brilliant to actually finish in the (to me) challenging conditions.
The next event was the sprints.
These involve paddling flat out towards two buoys, turning around one of them, and then hammering it back to the start/finish line. The course was in the more sheltered area near the sea wall, but this did mean there was the dreaded rebound swell. My performance in the heats was not brilliant. I got off to a bad start, caught in the confused wake from everyone’s boards and was constantly unsettled by the swell. Very happy just to finish!
With the racing for the day finished, there was time to generally mess around before heading back to the tent to get changed before wandering back for the evening meal.
The meal was great, as were the ice cold beer tokens, and there was even time to enjoy some of the Fish Festival before meandering back to the tent.
Sunday morning was a slightly later affair than Saturday, with having to pack away the camp gear, but we made it down and bagged some free parking, blew up the boards, drank tea and generally procrastinated until the briefing.
This race was to be the long distance. Long distance in this instance meant 5KM of paddling. Either two laps of the course, starting near the Mowlem Theatre and heading off to the yellow buoy miles off in the distance, or a shorter (around 1 KM) option if you didn’t like the look of the full course.
Yet again, I had a very British start (no, no, after you, I insist!) and wobbled up to the first turn. Upon reaching the marker to take the short course, I very nearly decided to call it a day as I wasn’t feeling the love!, but I decided to go for it as it couldn’t be that bad, could it?
The further downwind we got, the bigger the swell was. Turning around the bottom buoy was extremely dicey and then it was a energy sapping upwind paddle into the gale. After making very little headway, and looking at what a number of others were doing, I ended up dropping to my knees and having a (supposedly) gentle paddle up wind. Whilst kneeling, I was deliberately not powering through as it may have been unfair to those who managed to stand the entire way. Fortunately, as we progressed upwind and got nearer the shore, the wind did drop a little, as did the swell, dropping from twice head height to somewhere around chest high, and it was time to stand again to complete the first lap.
Lap number two I was not looking forward to after the upwind stretch. This time, I found it even more leg wobbling at the bottom turn, and had to drop down to my knees just to make it around. After rounding the buoy, I decided to give standing up a go and just put my head down and paddled! Keeping closer to the shore must have helped and I was making some headway, but after ever stroke it felt as if the board was stationary, with no glide whatsoever. But slowly, stroke by stroke (and inch by inch) the final buoy was getting nearer and with much relief, but very little style, the last turn was made and I even managed to pick up some speed on the way to the beach and the finish flag.
Finishing was yet again fantastic. There was such a good atmosphere for the weekend and everyone who finished got a cheer from the crowd. I even managed to run (badly) up the beach to the flag 🙂
After the serious racing, there was time for some fun racing whilst the scoring was worked out culminating in a Thunderdome-style-helicoptor-pivot-last-man-standing competition. I’ll apologies to my team mates now!
Very soon, it was time to deflate the boards and pack the car, before heading back to the prize giving.
Team Saltwalk did well again with Helen scooping third overall, and a first place in the sprints, and Amy getting a second place in the juniors.
Did I enjoy the racing? Enjoy is definitely the wrong word! I don’t like swell, or wind! The sprints threatened to throw me in with stroke and the upwind section of the long distance was hard work.
Did I enjoy the entire N1SCO European Championship event? You bet!
The whole event was a buzz, which I am so glad I took part in.
Would I do it again? Oh yes!
If anyone is considering taking part, do it 🙂 The competitors ranged from 10 – 69 years with all abilities from total novices (as in first time paddling type novices) up to seasoned racers.
My reasons for taking up SUPing two months ago were to regain some fitness, learn some new skills and to meet some great people, and so far that’s exactly what’s happened.
I must say a big thank you to Alex and the team for organising such a fantastic race series, and to Mark, Helen and everyone else in Saltwalk for getting me off my bum and standing up paddling 🙂
'We hope you have all now recovered after the N1SCO European Championships in Swanage. We loved having you all involved and here is a little film to remind you of the fun we had. We hope to see you all again for the final N1SCO Championships of the season at Bray Lake on the 8th July. www.n1sco.co.uk #purerecharge #whitstablebay #thewatersportsacademy
Hello, and welcome to my second blog as a novice Stand Up Paddleboard racer. There’ll be some photos along soon as well 🙂
As well as my second SUP blog, this also marked the second time I’d been out on water on a SUP board.
For those of you who missed my first post (and how could you!), through a variety of circumstances that may not become clear, I’d manage to join the Saltwalk Naish 1 SUP paddleboard team. My first outing on one of these 12’6″ inflatable racing bananas was the week before in Bala, North Wales for the first UK SUP race of the year. Well, with the first race out of the way, and feeling well and truly bitten by the SUP bug, I was looking forward to getting some more time on the water, and build up some fitness and confidence.
Mark and Helen from Saltwalk had arranged a bootcamp for the Team on Good Friday on the River Derwent in Darley Abbey, Derby. They’d also arranged for some additional instruction from Jo and Pete.
Jo is in fact Joanne Hamilton-Vale. She recently claimed the world record (for both men and women) for 24 hour paddling. That’s just over 111 miles. In 24 hours. And Pete coaches her. Basically, what we’re saying is, if you want to know how to paddle, there are the two who can show you!
So Good Friday dawns, and at a much more civilised time than the previous week, we met up at the Darley Barn to have some world class tuition. This week, the Saltwalk Team was nearly up to capacity as we were joined by a few more fellow noobs, as well as a couple of more experienced paddlers.
With the boards inflated, it was time to hit the water.
Darley Abbey is a great stretch of water, and one I used to canoe quite a lot, and it was nice to see the river from a slightly higher, if more wobbly view point.
With everyone on the water we started with the personal tuition, which is a little nerve wracking. Having a world champion following you and critiquing your paddling is a intimidating, but ultimately invaluable 🙂 And don’t mention the videoing!
After a morning’s paddle, we headed to the Abbey for lunch and then back out onto the water for the afternoon session, which was much more intensive than earlier. Starting techniques were discussed, and basically, it’s a free for all when the starter horn blows! Positions on the line for the sprint races, tactics, rounding the turn were all discussed, and hopefully of some use for the faster paddlers (My plan was to let the carnage happen, and then gently paddle past…).
Drafting practice was next on the cards, with a great 2.5Km paddle down into Derby, followed by sprint starts and drafting on the way back. And this led nicely into rounding-the-bouy-without-falling-in practice, and much dropping-to-the knees-to-stop-getting-wet. Cross bow paddle strokes are much easier in a canoe, and when it’s a bit warmer, I’m tempted to try a bow jam just to see how badly wrong it can go…
And then it was time to change, stretch, pack up and head back to the Abbey for a post paddle drink.
It was a fantastic day, again with a great bunch of people. Half the Team are basically novices, but willing to give it a go, which is ace, and having tuition from paddlers such as Jo and Pete was incredible.
Joanne is a Global Ambassador for Standup For The Cure http://suftc.org/, who raise money and support for breast cancer. Remember that name, as there’ll be some Saltwalk fundraising events coming soon!
So it’s just after 4am and I’m staggering around in the dark at home. Only, this time instead of arriving home, clutching a traffic cone and a kebab, it’s getting up at 4. On a Saturday. By choice. To go Stand Up Paddle boarding!
The day in question was Saturday 29th of April 2017, and it’s the day of the first national N1SCO SUP race of the year.
To put you in the picture regarding my SUP racing credentials, they’re not exactly outstanding. If you haven’t read my other blog posts (consider it homework for the weekend), my first time out on an SUP was at the beginning of April which was basically ‘wanna try SUP? Good. You’re going racing down Bala on Saturday…’. Since then, I’ve had one training session (with the lovely and ever so slightly intimidating world record holder Joanne Hamilton-Vale), another session with the Saltwalk guys and gals, and that, basically is that! The N1SCO National Championships in Emsworth would be my forth outing on a SUP.
Anyway, back to 4am on Saturday. The reason for getting up at such an offensive time was to be up and ready for collection by fellow Saltwalk Team members (and fellow novice paddlers) Craig and Sarah. The joy of these Naish One Design race boards is that they pack down to the size of a large backpack – no roof rack needed, just chuck it in the back of the car 🙂
Bags packed and waiting…
Shortly after 5am, Craig and Sarah arrive, we chuck me and my bags in, and we’re off down south to Emsworth and the wet delights of Chicester Harbour. Fortunately, at 5am on a weekend there’s not a lot of traffic and we make great time, arriving just after 8am to register.
With the bags unloaded, and the van parked, it’s time for a quick coffee and registration, followed by a natter with our fellow SUPers as they arrive.
Helen, Tom,Craig and Sarah
The less said about inflating the boards, the better. Inflating a 12’6″ Naish race board to 15PSI is tedious hard work, but with the boards blown up, the race numbers and other stickers can be applied.
My new paddle also turned up! Everyone I’d spoken to had recommended getting a decent paddle, and I’d ordered one. Unfortunately, it looked like the Naish Carbon paddles were all out of stock. But then I had the news that Callum from 109 Watersports had one, and it was on the van for me 😀.
Race briefing is when it all starts to get a bit serious, and the nerves really start to kick in.
The first series of races will be the Technical Race, which is three laps of an ‘M’ shaped course, with the option of a shorter ‘superlap’ once during the race. The men’s fleet was split into odd and even numbers, and the odd were off first. Soon it was time to get on the water and wobble over to the start line. 30 seconds to go… 10 seconds… and go!
My start was pretty naff, and I nearly fell off a couple of time due to the wake from the other boards, but that soon cleared and I arrived at the chaos of the first buoy – taking the slightly longer but clearer outside line was the order of the day!
The paddle upwind was a slog, with a small turn around a bouy and then a u turn around the marker at the top of the course. The downwind leg to the start/finish line was much easier. Two more laps to go, and I saved my superlap to the end. The finish line was a very welcome sight – it was totally knackering!
With one race out of the way, it was time to do it all again, this time with competition hopefully of a similar level. I was dreading this as the first heat was murder, but I found it much easier second time around. I don’t know if this was due to be warmed up, or just starting off at a more sensible pace, but it felt much less tiring. It was also much more fun being with more people at a similar speed, and it was even better trying some of the tactics that Joanne had gone through, and shutting the door on boards trying to sneak by at a buoy (with apologies to Craig and Derek 😜).
Next up, we had the sprints, and the less said about this the better. My first heat and I had a reasonable start, got around the turn with some other, letting them help the board turn and then fell off, and it was very muddy! Getting back on and heading to the finish I could see Craig ahead, but couldn’t make up the distance and finished just behind. My second race was slightly better (and much dryer), but it was over, and I’d survived!
Rather than have the wildcard and final sprints, due to tide, the format was changed slightly and the adults had a quick lunch break whilst the juniors raced, and then it was back on the water for the 5K.
The 5K race was in the harbour itself, crossing the main channel, up the far side, around a buoy and then retracing our paddle strokes back to the start. I started near the back and settled in for a slog. The open water was much different than the other times I’d been out, with chop, wake from boats and wind to contend with, but, compared to my first time our a few weeks earlier in Bala, it was much, much better.
On the way up to the top bouy, I’d managed to overtake several others, including Craig who wasn’t enjoying the chop and was kneeling for some of it. Coming back down, I managed to gain a few more places (but lost at least one place to Craig who had his head down and powered on), but I was really starting to feel it, and just plodded towards the end.
Crossing the finish line was fantastic. After finishing in Bala, I was so tired I could hardly talk never mind paddle. This time I felt much less exhausted.
Team SALTWALK boards enjoying a break off the water
Returning to shore, and it was time for the wildcard sprints, and the finals. Not wanting to tempt fate and being happy just to have survived, it was time to watch the experts, get changed and packed up ready for home.
Derek after the Wildcard Sprint
On the way home, we heard from the rest of the gang who’d stayed for the post race meal and drinkie that the club had walked away with some awards 😀
Helen Dennison had bagged third place ladies in the Masters age group.
3rd place for Helen in the ladies Masters
Amy Freeman also managed a third place, in the Juniors.
Third place Junior for Amy
Team SALTWALK walked away with the Top N1SCO Club Award
SALTWALK – Top N1SCO Club
Well done all 😎
It’ll be interesting to see the full results when they’re published to see where I came overall.
So how was it overall?
Brilliant! Ok, the 4am get up was brutal, but the whole day was superb. Everyone there was friendly and welcoming (on the water was a little more serious), and the difference in my paddling in just a few weeks was noticeable.
Next, I think the 10k race in Cardiff seems like a good idea, oh, and a decent paddle really does make a world of difference 😎
A big, big thank you to Alex and all the Naish Team for organising a great event, Callum from 109 Watersports for finding and delivering a paddle with a days notice, Mark and Helen, and the rest of Team Saltwalk, and massive thanks to Craig and Sarah for the lift there and back.