Tag Archives: Pete Williams

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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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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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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Pacifico – Stepping Up the SUP Race Experience

By Pete Williams

Start of Pacifico open race

ST. PETE BEACH – I heard footsteps. Make that splashes. For 77 minutes, I could not shake the paddler behind me at the second-annual Pacifico Paddle Challenge off St. Pete Beach on Saturday afternoon.

Were this a running event or triathlon, I probably would have let him pass. But there was money involved. Not much, just the $25 for third-place in the men’s stock board division of the 4-plus mile “elite” race, enough for me to understand how motivating a little cash can be in an athletic event.

And so I kept paddling. Hard. Stand-up paddling usually is a relaxing way to spend a leisurely afternoon. But when you’re hammering your core, pushing your lactate threshold, and trying to stay balanced on a 29.5-inch wide Yolo Ecotrainer, it’s a wonderful test of pain.

The four-lap technical course featured nine buoy terms per lap, each an opportunity to fall into an increasingly rough surf kicked up by afternoon winds. One fall is enough to lose 20 seconds.

I’ve often wondered why Shane “Waterboy” Webb and other organizers of SUP races feel the need to throw prize money into the mix. Does it attract more prominent athletes? Maybe. What I do know is it makes the race far more interesting for those of will never get any closer to being professionals – and those watching us.

Stand-up paddleboard racing might never be as big or as organized as road racing, triathlon, or obstacle mud racing. But as the second-annual Pacifico Paddle Challenge demonstrated here Saturday afternoon in front of the Postcard Inn, SUP racing is developing into a different race experience than other endurance sports.

Sure, there’s chip timing, T-shirts, various competitive divisions, race numbers, and post-race awards. But if you’re looking for an early-morning, to-the-minute itinerary that gets you home by 11 a.m. like running or triathlon, well, SUP racing might not always be for you.

The first of Pacifico’s four races was scheduled to start at 11 and got underway about 45 minutes later. The 2-plus mile open race was followed at 12:45 by a 4-plus mile elite race, a kids’ race and a relay event. Awards did not kick off until 5:30.

Transitioning – Battle of the Paddle style

And yet the late-morning, island-time mentality – which we’ve seen at other SUP races, too – seems to work for a sport that grew out of the Hawaii and California surf culture and the 125 or so racers and their guests didn’t seem to mind spending a full day (or weekend) around the Postcard Inn, especially with weather right out of a chamber of commerce video.

Webb and co-race director Grace Marcel again created a big-time race atmosphere, with a tent city of sponsors, an announcer’s booth and sound system perched atop scaffolding, 20-foot Pacifico beer inflatables, and a race format inspired by the Battle of the Paddle in California, which is to SUP what Ironman Kona is to triathlon.

On a weekend where the well-heeled Competitor Group debuted its TriRock triathlon amid little fanfare in Clearwater Beach, the Pacifico had perhaps the most big-time feel of any Tampa Bay endurance event. There was $5,000 in cash and prizes, numerous high-ticket raffle items, and the return of the best post-race spread of any endurance event we’ve attended: a pig roast.

SUP also has the best people-watching element of any endurance sport. Some believe SUP is the best workout ever created with its full-body, rotational movements and the way it challenges your balance, core and proprioception in a tough cardio workout. Exhibit A: the chiseled, jacked people you see at a SUP race.

Our friend Karen Mirlenbrink, an accomplished paddler and race director for the annual Shark Bite Challenge at Honeymoon Island, bowed out of the elite race after falling and cracking her board by landing on one side of her rear end. Talk about buns of steel. How many women can crack a board with their glutes? (Pretty good testimony for Karen’s business, Dunedin Pilates.) Unfortunately for me, Karen’s equally accomplished paddling husband decided to jump in the race in my stock board division and collect the $150 first-prize purse, which presumably goes toward Karen’s new board. (Second place received $50.)

Webb, the race director, spent a lot of time pre-race making sure everyone was familiar with the course, a technical, multi-buoy layout that required nine turns per lap — two laps for the open race, four for the elite. Such instructions seemed unnecessary since he provided a terrific pre-race video of the course, something we’d like to see triathlon and obstacle racing emulate.

We love the Battle-of-the-Paddle format, which requires racers to come to the beach after each lap, run 50 yards or so through a chute and then transition quickly back onto the board, which board caddies turn around and place into position. This is SUP’s answer to triathlon’s transition and perhaps gives a bit of advantage to those of us accustomed to the quick turnarounds of triathlon or obstacle racing.

Best post-race food anywhere

Last year I showed up for this event and won $75 by default as the only guy on a stock board — as opposed to a sleeker, faster race board — to complete the elite race. I wondered if prize money was necessary, especially since the $35,000 pot for the one-and-done U.S. Open of SUP in September of 2011 in Miami didn’t attract the crowds.

Last year, I only had to finish to collect cash. Lining up before the race, I could tell there were at least a half dozen guys on stock boards entered. When the horn sounded, two shot out well in front of me. I passed two others and settled into fourth. Early in the first lap, the guy in front of me fell on a buoy turn, giving me an opening to pass.

I spent the rest of the race holding him off. As we came to the beach for each transition, people cheered us on, producing a strange dynamic. As stock board racers, we were near the back of the pack. But as third-place contenders in our division, we still had a shot at money.

By the start of the fourth lap, my shoulders and back were barking. The surf was getting choppy and my opponent closer. On long straightaways, he took a lower path and soon I could see him out of the corner of my eye. If I fell, there was no way I’d regain my lead.

As we rounded the final buoy, he made one last push. All I had to do was get to shore first and run through the finish chute. I paddled as hard as I could to shore, leaped from the board, and chugged up the sand – winning by six seconds. Afterward, my new buddy — 38-year-old Bruce Jones – offered congratulations and mentioned that he quit smoking two years ago and only has been paddling since March. Clearly I have to step up my game.

Webb raised the entry fees of the race from a $45 pre-registration rate last year to $58 this year. That’s still an incredible value considering there were no online entry fees. Plus racers got to compete in a chip-timed event with tech T-shirts and a bonus four-person relay race. Then there was the pig roast and cash to the top three finishers in multiple divisions, including $700 apiece to the men’s and women’s elite winners.

Pacifico winnings

We can’t imagine Webb is making much money on these events. But he seems to be putting a long-term model in place to benefit as the sport grows — as opposed to obstacle races, many of which seem to be pushing the limits on how much they can charge and how little they can provide.

Heck, with multiple SUP races, a pig roast, and cash money involved, who can complain about a schedule that falls behind an hour? We’re guessing we’ll continue to see smaller SUP races spring up, traditional no-frills endurance events that start and finish early. But it’s hard not be bullish on the grander SUP race experience

It’s definitely worth building a weekend around.

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Taking Competitor’s ‘Best of’ Survey

By Pete Williams

Best trail race – Yak-a-Thon?

Competitor Magazine is holding its annual survey for the best in endurance sports for 2012, surveying people in each of the eight regions where it publishes a magazine. Voters select 37 categories, including best marathon, triathlon store, and personal trainer.

Here’s our vote:

(Instructions: Write in your LOCAL Winners for:)

Best Charity Training Program – Too many to choose just one

Best Charity to Fundraise for – Too many to choose just one

Best 5K/10K – Oldsmar Tap House/Beer Run 5K

Best MarathonX-Country Marathon (Alafia River)

Best Half-MarathonFlorida Challenge Trail Half Marathon (Alafia River)

Best Trail RaceYak-a-Thon Adventure Race (Winter Garden)

Best Swimming/Watersports Event – Pacifico Paddle (SUP) Challenge (St. Pete)

Best Women’s EventWomen’s Half Marathon (St. Pete)

Best Cycling Event – Team Tony’s Cycle of Life

Best TriathlonTop Gun Triathlon

Best Adventure/Mud Race – Too many strong candidates to choose just one

Training at TNL Tampa

Best Race SwagWarrior Dash (Lake Wales)

Best Race T-ShirtHighlander Adventure Run (Winter Garden)

Best Running Shoe – Too many strong candidates to choose just one

Best Swim ShopAll-American Aquatics (Clearwater)

Best Outdoor ShopBill Jackson’s Shop for Adventure (Pinellas Park)

Best Bike ShopOutspokin’ Bicycles (Clearwater)

Best Specialty Running StoreFitNiche (Lakeland)

Best Triathlon StoreKona Multisport (Tampa)

Best Running Club – Running Commando

Best Triathlon Club – Team Espresso Love

Best Sports Massage – Enhanced Performance/Karen Stromberg

Best Health Club – N/A

Best CrossFit StudioTNL Tampa

Best Spinning Class – LA Fitness Countryside, Fla. (Alyssa Bubeck)

Best Sports Rehab CenterAthletes’ Performance (Gulf Breeze, Fla.)

Best Sports Doctor – Michael Reilly (St. Petersburg)

Top Gun Triathlon

Best Yoga Class – Cathy Winters (Land O’Lakes)

Best Sports/Recovery DrinkMix1

Best Energy BarKawaii Bar

Best Energy Gel – GU (Espresso Love flavor)

Best Postrace BrunchSharks Siesta Key Triathlon

Best Active Lifestyle Vehicle – Jeep Liberty or Wrangler

Best Personal Trainer – Sophia Zayfman

Favorite Destination RaceCaliente Bare Dare 5K (Land O’Lakes, Fla.)

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‘Baddest Mud Run’ Preview

By Pete Williams

With so many obstacle races on the calendar, it’s a bold statement to call yourself “The Baddest Mud Run.” But Dan LaPlaca believes his event, coming up Nov. 3-4 at the Hernando County Fairgrounds in Brooksville, is deserving of that title.

We spoke to Dan this week on The Fitness Buff Show to preview the event, which also features a kids’ race. You can listen to that show HERE.

 

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