By Pete Williams
Brody Welte figures there were just 20 people in the entire Tampa Bay area participating in stand-up paddling when he moved to St. Petersburg from Hawaii just two years ago.
On Saturday, the owner of Stand Up Fitness likely will have at least three times that many people in the fourth race in his Yolo Board Winter Race Series. The sport of “SUP” is exploding nationally and perhaps nowhere more than in Florida because of the Sunshine State’s year-round warm weather and flat, calm water.
The sport embraces newcomers. It’s not unusual for someone to take a lesson and enter a race the following day. Though some “veterans” of the sport (who took it up way back in 2007 or ’08) will navigate the course quickly, most will finish at a more leisurely pace. I entered a race in October after just two brief stints and will be out there Saturday.
Location: Clearwater Community Sailing Center – 1001 Gulf Blvd., Clearwater
History: This is the fourth and final race of the Yolo Board Winter Race Series. The second race also took place at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center in January. The event’s organizer, Brody Welte of Stand Up Fitness Inc., also is the organizer of the second-annual Gulf Coast Stand Up Paddleboard Championship (May 21-22) in Madeira Beach, which is quickly emerging as one of the top SUP events on the East Coast.
Format: Paddlers compete in four categories: 12’6 and under stock board, 12’6 race board, 14′ race board and unlimited board. There’s a single four-mile race with paddlers entering the water in two waves: race boards and stock boards. For paddlers who have been competing in the four-event series, this race will determine the winners. Registration begins at 9 a.m. with a mandatory paddlers meeting at 10:30. Race begins at 11 a.m.
Schwag: Green T-shirts in honor of St. Patrick’s Day week. Similar design to the popular styles for the previous three races.
Signature Feature: Bow-tie course layout is technical, but not too challenging for less experienced paddlers.
Post-Race: Barbecue included with entry fee; $5 for guests
Cost: $35 pre-registration, $40 race-day
Comment: “We’ve had a strong turnout all winter even with it being a little chilly, but with the beautiful March weather we should have ideal conditions and a great turnout.” – Brody Welte, race director