2013: Breakout Year for SUP?

By Pete Williams

Paddlers compete last month at Benderson Park in Sarasota.

Paddlers compete last month at Benderson Park in Sarasota.

ORLANDO – Surf Expo, the semi-annual trade convention that converges here at the Orange County Convention Center, perhaps should be renamed SUP Expo.

Everywhere we looked on Saturday, stand-up paddleboarding dominated the scene. There were two dozen board manufacturers, more than double the amount from just two years ago, and only a fraction of those represented on Thursday during SUP Demo Day at a nearby watersports facility.

Perhaps the coolest product we saw was the Nocqua 2000 LED system, LED lights that go on the bottom of a paddleboard that light the water below, enabling the paddler to go out at night. (We’re hoping the $399.99 price tag comes down over time.) Even products such as the DryCase and the GoPro Camera, though not SUP-specific, seem made for the sport.

SUP Expo – er – Surf Expo is just one sign of the phenomenon. When I got my first board early in 2011, the sport still was catching on here in Florida. Even though my Paddle Fit co-author Brody Welte had launched a successful SUP business in St. Petersburg two years earlier, I still got odd looks out on the water and occasionally had to explain what I was doing.

These days, it’s impossible to drive for more than an hour in Central Florida and not see a paddleboard strapped to a car. I counted at least two dozen paddleboarders out on the Dunedin Causeway Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t that long ago where I would have been one of only a few out there dodging boats and jet skis. Attendance at SUP races, though still modest compared to running and triathlon, has increased significantly. Benderson Park, the new $40 million, man-made watersports park in Sarasota that has hosted several SUP events, is tailor-made for the sport.

Why the boom? Here are a few theories:

HelgaSUP2IT’S THE BEST WORKOUT EVER: If you want to see some seriously jacked physiques, watch the elite division of a SUP race. SUP combines core training, balance work, and rotational movements. It’s like working out on a giant BOSU ball. Plus, there’s perhaps no better cardio workout than doing intervals on a paddleboard. Find a few buoys, crab traps or other markers in the water and alternate between sprinting and paddling at a relaxed pace. There are SUP Pilates and SUP yoga classes, which are more fun (and definitely more challenging) than traditional yoga and Pilates.

IT’S MORE FUN THAN RUNNING: We’re big fans of distance running. But how much fun is running, really, when many people can’t do it unless they’re tethered to some sort of music device? If you find running boring, try SUP. And while it’s true that you can use a DryCase or some other device to keep your music dry, few paddlers do. That’s because they don’t need to be entertained out on the water. (On a safety note, paddlers should not wear earphones so they can hear oncoming boat and jet ski traffic. Now if only cyclists would get that message and stop with the distracted riding.)

SUP yoga enthusiasts at Surf Expo on Saturday

SUP yoga enthusiasts at Surf Expo on Saturday

IT’S MORE BADASS THAN KAYAKING OR BOATING: I’m often paddling when some jerk in a six-figure boat flies by way too fast, with a beer in one hand and his bloated, sunburned belly jiggling in the breeze. I’ll think of all the money and effort it takes to experience a day on the water like that.

Nothing against boating – and I’m thankful for my friends with boats – but SUP is a more enjoyable, less expensive way to spend a few hours on the water. SUP often is compared to kayaking – or at least a hybrid of surfing and kayaking – and that’s an accurate analogy. But sitting down doesn’t produce the same experience as SUP. You don’t see as many sea critters or get as much of a workout.

IT’S SAFER: Like any watersport, SUP can be dangerous. I prefer to paddle on weekdays since there’s less boat and jet ski traffic. For a while, paddlers resisted life jackets and leashes much like some motorcycle enthusiasts won’t ride with helmets. But there are plenty of small, lightweight personal flotation devices that fit around the waist and these days even experienced paddlers wear them. (If you can’t swim at least a quarter-mile in open water, you should definitely be wearing one.) Unlike cycling, where any fall is going to produce at least road rash, falling off a paddleboard will just make you wet. Unlike running, you’re not pounding your joints into concrete or asphalt hundreds of times an hour.

SUPSandyWOMEN ARE EARLY ADAPTORS: Women drive the popularity of anything. Triathlon boomed six or eight years ago when more women got involved. More recently, we’ve seen the same phenomenon with half-marathons and obstacle races and it’s also fueling the growth of SUP. Women tend to be more adventurous and have better balance than guys, who worry that they’ll fall on their butts and look foolish on paddleboards. (SUP actually is much easier than it looks.) This is true of females of all ages. I’ve introduced a number of kids to SUP and inevitably the girls get it faster and show more patience as they learn.

Most importantly, women control household budgets. A quality board starts at $1,000 and paddles in the $150 range. That sounds like a lot, and it is, but road and triathlon bikes cost more and require far more maintenance. Heck, avid runners spend $1,000 on shoes every two or three years. Boards can last indefinitely.

Two years ago, it seemed SUP would be a niche phenomenon.

Now it seems like everyone is looking to take a stand.

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The Day-Night Triathlon Doubleheader

By Pete Williams

SunriseSunsetTriathlon2Perhaps it’s not as grueling as an Ironman Triathlon, but racing two triathlons in one day presents its own set of challenges.

Just finding two relatively close events on the same day, one in the morning and one in the evening, is difficult. Heck, Saturday’s scheduling of the Top Gun Triathlon at Fort DeSoto Park in St. Petersburg and the Twilight Triathlon in Crystal River might be (for the second straight year) the only opportunity in North America.

Evening triathlons are unusual. It’s much easier to shut down roads in the early morning hours. Race directors do not have to provide much additional lightning or require racers to have their own. Triathletes tend to be morning people anyway and prefer to race as the sun rises.

But the novelty of completing two triathlons in one day – even modest sprint distance events – was too much for about 60 of us to pass up last year. By all accounts, there will be more of us on hand on Saturday.

It’s not so much the distance of the races – quarter-mile swims, 10-mile bikes, and 5K runs – that are as short as it gets for sprint events. It’s the two-hour drive between race venues. Even if you live midway between them it’s a challenge to grab a few hours sleep. Assuming you get up at 4 a.m. for the 7 a.m. Top Gun start, you’ve already been up for 15.5 hours (and completed a triathlon) when you get in the water for the Twilight event.

Racing at Fort De Soto Park

Racing at Fort De Soto Park

Since both events have terrific post-race parties, it tends to be close to a 24-hour day. It also helps that race directors Fred Rzymek (Top Gun) and Chris Mohling (Twilight) are among the best in the business, having staged dozens of races at their respective venues. They bill the doubleheader as the “Sunrise Sunset Triathlon.”

If you’ve never raced a triathlon in the evening, you’re in for a treat. I started doing the Twilight Triathlon in 2010 when it came a week before Top Gun. Then last year with leap year the calendar shifted and the events ended up on the same day and have remained there.

It’s possible to do two obstacle races in one day since start times go on well into the afternoon. With so many OCR events, just do one at 8 a.m. and a nearby race at noon or later. I’ve done two OCR events in one day, an OCR event at night (last Saturday’s Mud Endeavor at the Pasco County Fairgrounds) and even a triathlon (Escape from Ft. DeSoto) and obstacle event (Savage Race) on the same day. But this is the only shot we get at two triathlons in one day.

The most impressive performance likely will come from Whit Lasseter, a thirtysomething fitness guru from South Tampa who will do her first triathlon and then her second in one day. That’s got to be a first.

Racing at night is a blast with the breathtaking sunset and the sight of hundreds of blinking bikes in post-race transition. With two events, it’s not a day for PRs, but perhaps the most memorable triathlon race experience of the year.

Listen to Twilight Triathlon race director Chris Mohling discuss the Sunrise/Sunset Triathlon Challenge on The Fitness Buff Show HERE.

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The Pro Triathlete College Student

By Corrie Seabrook

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATAMPA, Fla. –  At 9 on a Friday morning, Michael Poole jogs a lap around the trails by the University of South Florida’s tennis courts. His new orange Saucony shoes leave imprints in the dirt. The warm up barely makes him sweat, but his hair is wet from the swimming workout just before. His lean body stands at 6-foot-1-inches and his skin is tan from being in the sun for years.

This morning his training is light because the next day he will be racing in Barbados. There he races what he says was the best race of his life.

At 21, this New Zealand native spends 30 to 35 hours per week training for triathlons, while balancing a 15-hour course load for chemical engineering.

Poole discovered his passion for triathlons at age 16, when he joined his high school team. He met the challenge of coming into the sport late in adolescence. “I ran growing up, but didn’t start swimming until age 16,” Poole says. “That is something I have had to work very hard to catch up on.”

At 18 he began to excel and win race after race in Auckland. At that point in time he made the choice to go pro. In 2012 he was ranked seventh in the U.S.

Poole made decisions that many young people cannot imagine. Realizing that his best shot at making a living as a professional triathlete was in the United States, he decided to move to Florida, specifically the Tampa Bay area.

His area of study, chemical engineering, serves as his plan B.

“This is more like a backup plan,” Poole says. “Some guys get to 35 and they have to retire from triathlons, and they have nothing. I don’t want to be like that.”

MichaelPoole2So he researched what college he wanted to study at with the help of Google. He weighed the qualities of all the universities in the state, the locations and the fees. He decided that University of South Florida was the best place for him.

Before Poole moved, he endured a horrific bicycle accident when a car knocked him off of his bike, smashing his face. The driver drove off after the accident. The friend he had been training with called Poole’s mom to rush him to the hospital.

“At that moment I really realized I needed to go to college; it could’ve been worse,” he said.

Although he now has a fear of cars and sustaining another injury, Poole hasn’t allowed the incident to prevent him from racing.

In January of 2010 Poole competed in New Zealand’s Half Ironman Championships and met the professional triathlete standards. “It’s not complicated to stay a pro, I just need to be consistently getting top placings in races,” he says.

Another hurdle Poole had to jump was getting sponsors to invest in him. “Many triathlon related companies are willing to give me products,” he says. “But it is very hard to get a company to invest cash, which is important for me to be able to make a living and pay tuition.”

He is sponsored by New Zealand businesses like the bike company, Orbea. He receives two bikes and triathlon clothing throughout the year. His sponsors pay for 50 percent of each race’s fees, and Poole must come up with the rest. He manages to use the money he wins to finance his future races. For some of the races he stays in hotels when the race organizers pay for his stay. Otherwise he finds someone to stay with for that weekend.

MichaelPoole4“I have found Americans to be amazingly generous at inviting me into their homes,” Poole says.

Poole lives at an apartment alone near the USF campus. He trains by himself. No trainer or nutritionist guides his training. He starts his school days with 5 a.m. workouts and begins exercising later on his free days. He spends five hours every day training.

Poole suits up in his Lycra and takes his bike to a park called Flat Woods Park. There he rides a seven-mile long course for three hours. Next he runs in circles around the neighborhoods by his apartment for an hour. Finally, he swims freestyle for an hour and a half at USF’s indoor recreational pool.

“In a week I do 250 miles cycling, 60 miles running and 20 miles swimming,” says Poole, who has been away from New Zealand for more than a year.

He keeps in touch with his father, Alwyn, who acts as Poole’s agent and coach. Poole misses many things from home like the culture but most importantly his wife who works in Australia.

Every other weekend Poole travels to races. He takes a shuttle or catches the bus to the airport. So he doesn’t miss any classes because he usually flies early Saturday mornings and comes back to Tampa on Sunday evenings.

This year alone he has competed in 20 to 25 races. His dedication to this career has led him to travel to 20 different states for this sport. Poole doesn’t focus on Ironman races anymore, but instead concentrates on the Olympic distance races.

“I no longer do Ironmans as it takes me too long to recover from them so I would rather race Olympic distance races every weekend,” Poole says.

MichaelPoole3His favorite race by far has been the Escape from Alcatraz in San Francisco. The athletes zip up their wetsuits and swim from the former prison through 1.5 miles of freezing waters to the St. Francis Yacht Club. They then bike up hilly terrain for 18 miles and finish by running eight miles along the ocean side.

When Poole is not training he is taking five classes two days a week. His favorite thing to eat is Snicker’s ice cream and Asian cuisine. He gets through each race by picturing a bowl of ice cream at the end of it.

A sophomore, Poole has two more years to go in school before he can graduate. On average, he wins about $1,000 a race. He pays for most of his living expenses, but he hopes to attract more sponsors so he can provide more financial support for his wife.

His most recent race took place in Barbados, which was an International Triathlon Union Continental Cup. He placed second.

“Must have been a combination of shaved legs and the short run on Friday,” he laughs.

Poole hopes to continue to advance in this sport.

“In five years time if I am not the best, I am not stuck,” Poole says. “I can do something else with my life.”

View Michael Poole’s fan Facebook page HERE.

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Continuing to Beat Cancer with a Paddle

By Corrie Seabrook

ArnieGoodman3Arnie Goodman slides his legs until they touch the end of his shallow kayak. He grips the paddle and glides along the water flowing through Riverfront Park in Tampa. He’s paddling just as he has done on this day for the past five years. The myeloma cancer is working through his body, dangerously. But Goodman keeps paddling, for himself and for a cure.

Goodman, 54, grew up in the waters off Fort Lauderdale. There he boated and sailed through the east coast waves. When he moved to Tampa he was introduced to kayaking, where he fell in love with the sport.

“It became my love,” he says.

At 47, he was a practicing ear, throat and nose physician and continued to swim and kayak regularly. Then he was diagnosed with myeloma cancer. He, his wife and their two kids stared into what was left of the time that this cancer had cut short.

He has dealt with the disease for more than seven years. Since the treatment is so extensive and time consuming, Goodman stopped practicing medicine. A year after the diagnosis, he formed the non-profit organization, Beat Cancer with a Paddle. Though the organization, Goodman, Russell Farrow (owner of Sweetwater Kayaks) and other sponsors created the “Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure” race in 2009.

This year’s event takes place on Sunday, May 5 from Tampa’s Riverfront Park.

SweetwaterThe race started with individuals and groups competing in kayaks. Then one year a man showed up with a stand-up paddleboard. “We thought, who’s this buff guy out there on a surfboard?” Goodman says. As the years have progressed, more and more paddle boarders have accompanied the kayakers.

The Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure doesn’t solely include endurance athletes. Parents bring their children to enjoy the day on the water in double kayaks. Beginners come to fall and try again on the kayak and paddleboard rentals.

“Paddleboard companies that work with us, Stand Up Paddle Life and Urban Kai, provide the boards and demo for those who want it,” Goodman says.

The participants set up in a staggered line. The gun blasts and the racers paddle off. The course takes the boarders down past the Tampa Convention Center and under the bridge. They swirl around three buoys up the channel and then hurry back to the finish.

The event’s target audiences are paddlers, newcomers to the sport, and those who come to support the cause. (All proceeds from the event benefit the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation and Be The Match National Bone Marrow Registry.) The event consists of a 5-mile race for time at 9 a.m. The second race is a 2-mile family fun paddle around the course. The event has raised more than $35,000 since 2009.

Goodman predicts that “the paddle boarders will probably outnumber the kayakers this year.”

This is the first year this race has become officially sanctioned by the World Paddle Association. It’s also the first time it will include a tie-in to firefighters.

Sweetwater2Tampa’s fire department will be volunteering alongside high school students. A unique race called the Firemen’s Challenge Relay will be set up specifically for the different firehouses to put their training to the test. These firefighters will sprint against each other for trophies and the cause.

Last fall Goodman endured a bone marrow transplant. He’s also undergone two stem cell transplants. Multiple myeloma accounts for just 1 percent of cancer cases but has claimed the lives of a number of prominent Americans, including Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, syndicated advice columnist Ann Landers, and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro.

After treatments, Goodman puts his energy into making this event a success despite how he feels. “It helps me to tolerate the side effects. You have to force yourself to do something even if you don’t feel good,” he says.

Recently Goodman received an email from a man suffering with myeloma. He expressed that he was coming from his home in New York to do the race. Goodman felt good from the impact he had made to someone in such a personal way.

Goodman continues to chug through his life kayaking with the cancer moving through his body like the river does beneath his vessel.

“I want people to remember this race and come back again. I’m going to keep going for as long as I can.”

Corrie Seabrook is an intern for EnduranceSportsFlorida.com and ObstacleFit.com.

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Jaslyn Ome, Playboy’s Miss April, Talks SUP

By Pete Williams

PMOM: Small CameraJaslyn Ome, Playboy’s Playmate of the Month for April 2013, joined us this morning on The Fitness Buff Show to talk about two of her passions: stand-up jet skiing and stand-up paddleboarding. You can hear that interview on The Fitness Buff Show, the official broadcast partner of Endurance Sports Florida HERE.

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Mr. Media Features ‘Obstacle Fit’

By Pete Williams

Bob Andelman (aka “Mr. Media”) usually interviews actors, TV stars, and media personalities. This week he was nice enough to devote a 30-minute Skype interview to obstacle racing and my new book Obstacle Fit. Please check out the interview.

 

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Becoming a ‘Dirty Girl’

By Pete Williams

IMG_6907Corrie Seabrook, (right) a University of South Florida mass communications student who is interning with EnduranceSportsFlorida.com and our sister site, ObstacleFit.com, reviewed Saturday’s Dirty Girl Adventure Run at Little Everglades Ranch in Dade City.

You can read Corrie’s report on Dirty Girl HERE.

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ObstacleFit.com Launched

By Pete Williams

ObstacleFit3 With the recent publication of our e-book Obstacle Fit, we’ve launched a companion website – ObstacleFit.com – that will cover all things related to the booming sport of obstacle racing.

We’ll continue to to cover the world of Florida endurance sports, including Florida-specific obstacle races, here at EnduranceSportsFlorida.com. But if you’re looking for the definitive site for obstacle race news, training tips, and videos, as well as a comprehensive list of races around North America, check out ObstacleFit.com.

Obstacle Fit the book – Your Complete Training Program to Run Fast, Conquer Challenges, and Discover Your Inner Spartan, Mudder, or Warrior,” was released last month and is available at the moment for just $4.24 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com.

PeteHanging“Obstacle Fit is a must-read for anyone who wants to race at their peak,” says Adam Campbell, the fitness director of Men’s Health magazine. “Pete Williams has created a cutting-edge training plan that will help you perform better, reduce your risk of injury, and literally overcome any obstacle in your way.”

“Obstacle Fit is exactly what I’d expect from a masterful writer like Pete,” says Lou Schuler, co-author of the “New Rules of Lifting series. “It tells you as much as you’d ever want to know about the subject, including how to train for it, in Pete’s signature writing style – upbeat and entertaining while also thorough and useful. If you currently race, or have any interest in starting, this is the book you need.”

An excerpt from the Obstacle Fit book appeared today on Livestrong.com.

 

 

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Want to Dominate Obstacle Races? Get Obstacle Fit

ObstacleFit3Obstacle Fit, a new training program e-book to prepare for obstacle races and get in the best shape of your life, is now available.

Written by Pete Williams, editor of EnduranceSportsFlorida.com and an avid obstacle racer, Obstacle Fit is your complete training program to run fast, conquer challenges, and discover your inner Spartan, Mudder, or Warrior.

Williams is a certified personal trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the co-author of a number of prominent fitness books. Obstacle Fit is currently available for just $4.24 at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.

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Warrior Goes Long with Iron Warrior Dash

By Pete Williams

WarriorDash2012aWarrior Dash, the first obstacle mud run to attract more than 10,000 participants to a single event, announced today a longer version of its popular entry-level 5K race. The move comes at a time when more athletes are shifting to Spartan Race, Tough Mudder and longer, more challenging obstacle events.

Touted as the “most intense obstacle race,” Iron Warrior Dash will debut March 13 in Smithville, Texas, which is between Houston, Austin, and San Antonio, and feature 26 obstacles spread over a course of “15 to 20 miles of ruthless terrain and best-in-class obstacles,” though the three announced events range from 15 to 15.6 miles.

The two other races will take place April 13 in Douglasville, Ga. (near Atlanta) and on Sept. 21 in Michigan. Though there are no Florida locations, a press release issued today promised additional venues to be announced in the spring. The April 13 event could steal some thunder from the Savage Race, which takes place the same day at Little Everglades Ranch, just north of Tampa in Pasco County.

warriordash2012cIn July of 2009, Chicago entrepreneur Joe Reynolds, then 29, debuted Warrior Dash, a 3-mile muddy obstacle race and raucous post-race party, giving finishers one free beer and a fuzzy viking hat that looked like something Fred Flintstone might wear.

Warrior Dash was an outgrowth of the Great Urban Race series Reynolds had created two years earlier after watching an episode of “The Amazing Race.” Warrior Dash has scaled more quickly and this year attracted more than 500,000 participants to 50 events in the United States, Canada, and Australia, accounting for most of the $65 million in revenue that Reynolds’ Red Frog Events will generate from entry fees and sponsor deals with Miller Coors, Reebok, and Monster Energy.

Though Warrior Dash, which returns to Lake Wales, Fla., on Feb. 2, is one of the shorter and easier obstacle races, it attracts an equal number of men and women, with an average age of 30. Most races, including Tough Mudder and Spartan Race, tilt 70 to 80 percent male.

“Being an attainable goal opens up us up to a very wide demographic,” Munirah McNeely, Warrior Dash’s chief innovation officer, told SportsBusiness Journal recently.  “It’s something for young people to do with friends other than just hanging out or going to a concert.”

Warrior Dash debuted eight months before Tough Mudder and 10 months before Spartan Race. Warrior is known for its smooth operations but has seen attendance at some events drop off this year as many obstacle racers seek greater challenges than the modest 5K Warrior Dash.

Tough Mudder, though plagued with traffic issues this fall at events in Maryland and here in Florida, has duplicated Warrior’s lively post-race party scene while providing a more challenging course of 10 to 12 miles, mocking Warrior Dash with a sign at the 3-mile mark reading “Warrior Dash Finish Line.”

WarriorDashGroupAt 15 to 15.6 miles, Iron Warrior will be comparable in distance to Tough Mudder and the Spartan Beast, the 15-mile version of Spartan Race. Entry fees, which range from $105 to $205, are similar to the other events.

Obstacle races have soared in popularity over the last 18 months, with dozens of new events created around the country, most at the entry-level 3-to-5 mile distance to attract the most participants. Since many of those people tend to be one-and-done, bucket-list, casual athletes who do it for the novelty, we feel the longer-term play is at the greater distance as obstacle racing develops into more of a competitive sport.

We’re guessing Warrior Dash, with its experience, bankroll, and legions of Millennial-aged employees who tirelessly work events, has the power to take on Tough Mudder and Spartan at the longer distance.

We’re also curious to see if the World Triathlon Corp., which always is aggressive in protecting its Ironman brand, will go after Red Frog for using Iron Warrior. WTC only has the trademark on Ironman as it pertains to triathlon, but always is aggressive pursuing anyone using Iron in the title of an endurance event.

Of course, that’s usually when a new promoter enters the game. It will be interesting to see if WTC is willing to take on someone its own size.

Then again, given the struggles of WTC this year and the success of Warrior Dash, Red Frog might have leaped over Ironman in terms of size.

(Read our review of the 2012 Warrior Dash at Lake Wales, Fla.)

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