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.
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.