Tag Archives: Stand-up paddleboarding

Florida Cup: Growing in SUP Stature

By Pete Williams

FLCupMADEIRA BEACHBruce Denson paused this morning during his busy day of race director duties at the Florida Cup to consider the growth of the third-annual stand-up paddleboarding event.

There were nearly 200 paddlers between the open, elite and kids races, a tent city of sponsor tents representing prominent SUP companies, and postcard-perfect weather. There was a massive inflatable finish arch and announcers from Stoke Radio handling emcee duties to give the race a big-event feel. Best of all, Denson seems to have found the ideal spot for a major SUP race in Tampa Bay: Archibald Park in Madeira Beach.

“We’ve gotten tremendous support from Madeira Beach, the sponsors, and of course the entire SUP community,” says Denson, a St. Petersburg attorney and avid paddler.

Archibald Park, the longtime home of the Madeira Beach Triathlon, seems tailor-made for SUP, with parking for about 80 cars in the beach lot and at least 100 more at a supermarket across the street that allows athletes to park there for no charge in a designated area.

Though Pinellas County’s Gulf of Mexico beaches are ideal for SUP racing, parking always has been the stumbling block. Numerous events have tried to build traction at sites between St. Petersburg and Clearwater only to struggle with offering adequate parking nearby. Denson debuted the Florida Cup in Treasure Island in 2013 and staged it at St. Pete Beach last year, encountering the same issue in both places.

The Archibald Park lot, usually shut down for triathlon parking to stage the transition area and post-race festivities, proved adequate for Florida Cup parking. For later arrivals, Denson had board “sherpas” on hand to unload boards and transport them to the shoreline while racers parked at the supermarket.

Denson also has streamlined what was a packed weekend-long series of activities. There’s still Friday night packet pickup and a post-race lunch, but the focus is on the race itself.

FLCup2That’s why we believe the Florida Cup will be among the major SUP races that will survive long-term. As with running, triathlon, and obstacle racing, the number of SUP races has exploded in recent years only to see a shakeout. Many SUP events self-destruct by offering prize money, multiple parties, and lavish awards presentations held well after the end of the race – all of which adds financial pressure and organization hassles to what is already a challenging production staged on public waterways.

Even The Battle of the Paddle, the sport’s premier event held in California, folded earlier this month after nearly a decade because race organizers grew tired of staging what had become an increasingly lavish and expensive weekend.

Which races will fill the void? The popular Carolina Cup, held in Wrightsville, North Carolina in April, is now the biggest event with more than 600 athletes. Denson’s Florida Cup also seems in good position to grow, especially with athletes and sponsors raving about this morning’s event.

Florida always seems like the overshadowed little brother in endurance sports, with Californians claiming ownership of triathlon and stand-up paddleboarding. But the Sunshine State leads the nation in number of marathons, obstacle races, triathlons and SUP events – and also the quality of events – with California promoters forever struggling to get their act together. The nation’s largest warm-weather state now has no major championship in triathlon or SUP.

Some might suggest that mirrors the overall management of the states in general. Either way, we’re bullish on SUP in Florida and the Florida Cup, the Sunshine State’s premier event, which seems poised to flourish in 2016 and beyond.

 

 

 

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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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Shelby Chesnes, Playboy’s Miss July, on Fitness Buff Show

By Pete Williams

Shelby Chesnes, Playboy’s Miss July, is an avid fitness enthusiast. The Jupiter, Florida, native is into surfing and stand-up paddleboarding. Chesnes, 21, has been a SUP enthusiast for years, which makes her an old timer in the world of Florida paddleboarding.

Chesnes, an aspiring model who owns a mobile spray tanning business, joined us this morning on The Fitness Buff Show. You can listen to that interview HERE.

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Race of the Week: Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure

By Pete Williams

Arnie Goodman almost called off his fourth-annual  “Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure,” which raises money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

Goodman, a Tampa physician who has been battling the disease for six years, has been undergoing another round of chemotherapy and figures he might not be able to appear at the event, which will go on as scheduled on Saturday (May 5) at 8:30 a.m. from Tampa’s Riverfront Park.

“I’ve been really sick, the disease is catching up with me,” said Goodman, 54. “But when I started talking about calling it off, my friends stepped up to make this happen and pull it together. I’m hoping to make an appearance.”

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.

Goodman, who has undergone two stem cell transplants and spoke extensively with EnduranceSportsFlorida.com about his battle last year, has written extensively about the disease online. In 2009, he created the “Sweetwater Paddle for the Cure,” which began as a 5-mile kayak race and a 2-mile family fun paddle through downtown Tampa. That year, just one stand-up paddle boarder entered. Last year SUP enthusiasts outnumbered kayakers and Goodman says more than 200 total paddlers are expected this year between the two events.

In addition to the two paddles, there will be a benefit concert at The Lodge Restaurant and Bar in South Tampa the night before the race, May 4, from 5:30 to 8:30. Registration for the race is available online as well as the day of the event.

“I’ve been dealing with this disease for a number of year and thought I had it under control, but am hitting a bad spot right now,” Goodman said. “Once it became clear I probably wasn’t going to make it, every one of my friends said they’d step up and make it happen, and that’s pretty cool. I’m very grateful for the support.”

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Race Across Tampa Bay SUP a Success

By Pete Williams

 

ST. PETERSBURG – Eighty-six SUP racers competed in the inaugural Race Across Tampa Bay along the St. Pete waterfront Sunday afternoon. Though weather conditions caused race director Bruce Denson to scrap plans for a Tampa-to-St. Pete crossing, thirty-seven paddlers completed a 7.5-mile loop from Spa Beach. Forty-four paddlers finished the 3-mile race and five kids competed in a 200-yard event.

Proceeds went to Paddle Addict, Inc., a nonprofit, dedicated to providing a free paddleboarding experience to people recovering from addictions.

(Photo courtesy Christy Collins Photography)

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Race of the Week: Race Across Tampa Bay

By Pete Williams

Bruce Denson is an attorney, an avid stand-up paddleboarder, and the creator of Paddle Addict, which helps addicts replace destructive habits with something positive, namely stand-up paddleboarding.

Denson, who is based in St. Petersburg, is staging a first in the sport of SUP: a Tampa-to-St. Petersburg “Race Across Tampa Bay” on Sunday, April 22. The 7.5-mile elite race begins in Tampa at Picnic Island, proceeds across Tampa Bay and along St. Petersburg’s waterfront and ends at Spa Beach, next to the Pier. There’s even a 15-mile “super elite” race that starts in St. Pete, turns around at Picnic Island, and returns to St. Pete. That race, like the elite event, is meant for experienced paddlers only.

There’s also a 3-mile open race at 10:30 and a 200-yard kids race at noon. There will be awards, raffles, and a post-race party immediately after at Jonny Reno’s on the Pier.

With Brody Welte postponing his Gulf Coast Stand-Up Paddleboard Championship in Madeira Beach for at least a year, other SUP promoters seem to be picking up the slack. The ninth-annual Shark Bite Challenge drew nearly 200 paddlers over two days at Honeymoon Island last weekend. And Denson’s Race across Tampa Bay could be another great signature SUP event for the area.

Name of Race: Race Across Tampa Bay, inaugural event

Location: The event’s signature race begins at Tampa’s Picnic Island and goes across Tampa Bay to St. Petersburg, finishing along the pier. Racers are encouraged to drop off their boards the night before and take a shuttle from St. Pete to Tampa at 6:45 a.m. on Sunday. The 3-mile and kids races take place along the St. Pete waterfront.

Format: This is a WPA-sanctioned event and points will be awarded in all WPA categories for the 7.5 mile race and the 3 mile race.

Signature Feature: This is the first across-the-bay SUP race.

Note: All proceeds from this event go to benefit Paddle Addict, Inc., a nonprofit, dedicated to providing a free paddleboarding experience to people recovering from addictions.

Projected Turnout: 100-plus

Cost: $65 for 7.5-mile race; $45 for 3-mile; and $25 for kids

Sign-Up: IMAthlete.com. Race day registration also available.

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Race of the Week: Shark Bite Challenge

By Pete Williams

April 14-15, 2012

It’s not often you find a race for $30 that offers an hour-plus-long event, a dry-fit shirt, post-race food and entry to one of America’s finest beaches, which is waiving the usual $8 parking fee.

That’s all part of the package for the ninth-annual Shark Bite Challenge and Paddlefest at Honeymoon Island in Dunedin, which includes two days (April 14-15) of paddle races. If you can paddle it, you’re pretty much in. Not surprisingly, a large stand-up paddleboard (SUP) contingent is expected for Sunday. Anyone registering at the Dunedin Brewery from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday night gets a free beer.

The race is organized by Karen Mirlenbrink, owner of the Dunedin Pilates Studio and an accomplished paddler herself. At a time when an increasing number of endurance races charge for parking and offer little in terms of free post-race refreshments, the Shark Bite Challenge & Paddlefest might be the best value in the industry.

Name of Race: Shark Bite Challenge and Paddlefest

Location: Honeymoon Island State Park, Dunedin

History: The Shark Bite Challenge is a fundraiser for the Friends of the Island Parks, a non-profit, citizen support organization that supports the efforts of Caladesi and Honeymoon Island State Parks.

Format: Two-day event kicks off Saturday, April 14 with a nine-mile, 6-man outrigger canoe race. The following day, there’s a 4-mile and an 8-mile kayak, canoe, surfski, OC1, OC2, SUP, and prone paddleboard race.

Schwag: The Shark Bite Challenge works in conjunction with the Island Earth Days festival. With registration, racers receive a dry-fit t-shirt, free parking, and post-race lunch courtesy of Cafe Honeymoon.

Signature Feature: Honeymoon Island and neighboring Caladesi Island are consistently rated among America’s most beautiful beaches.

Projected Turnout: 150-plus

Cost: A bargain at $30 for Sunday. It’s $120 for each six-man OC-6 canoe on Saturday. Those who compete Saturday get $10 off Sunday entry fees.

Note: Competitors must have personal flotation devices (PFDs) on their vessels at all times.

Sign-Up: Via Active.com. Race day registration also available.

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Great American Paddle-In

By Pete Williams

Talking paddling and writing

I love the Great American Teach-In, where parents come to school and talk with their kids’ classes about what they do for a living.

As a writer, though, it’s a challenge to compete with brave people in uniform: cops, firefighters, military. They have cool stories and even better props.

I did my first Teach-In in 2008 and back then I thought kids might find my sportswriter perspective interesting. After all, my kids go to a school adjacent to the Toronto Blue Jays spring training site. Tampa Bay is a sports crazed market. Surely, they’d find it cool that I go to sports events, interview athletes, and write about it.

What I found, however, is kids weren’t that interested, which should trouble those who run professional sports teams. When I was 8 years old, I could rattle off every player on the Blue Jays – at the time a two-year-old expansion franchise – and I lived in Virginia.

These days, I wonder what would happen if Jose Bautista walked behind the outfield wall during spring training, strolled through the school courtyard and into the lunchroom in uniform. How many kids would know who he was?

I gave my same sportswriter spiel in 2009 and 2010. I brought a DVD of my television appearances talking sports and kids found that slightly more interesting.

Today I took a different approach, bringing in a stand-up paddleboard and an iPad, which I used to show off Paddle Fit, the “vook” (video book) on stand-up paddleboarding I had the honor of writing with SUP guru Brody Welte, who recently moved from the Tampa Bay area to San Diego.

Even though I only brought an 8-foot kids paddleboard, as opposed to my 12-foot-6 board, that was enough to draw oohs and ahs the moment I walked in the door. I demonstrated how to size a paddle and proper paddling technique. The vook helped a lot.

The third graders and first graders asked a lot of great questions about writing and paddleboarding, though the first graders seemed much more concerned about encountering sharks.

Why didn’t I take this approach earlier for the Great American Teach-In? After all, the media world I’ve worked in over the last 20 years is unrecognizable today. Who knows what it will look like in five years?

Last week, I spoke to a feature writing class at the University of South Florida, a group composed of communications majors. I couldn’t help but wonder what these kids planned to do with their degrees.

Go into journalism? Really?

The first graders and third graders are passionate about writing. They asked what I like to write about and I stressed how it’s a lot easier to write about things that interest you. For me, that’s been sports, business, fitness, and now endurance sports. Adapt to new technologies – like the iPad and vook – and you can keep writing forever, at least I hope.

After speaking to my second class, I packed up the paddles and board and headed out. I’m not doing noble work like the folks in uniform, but at least I could hold my own at The Great American Teach-In.

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Turning Pro at Pacifico

By Pete Williams

"Pro" SUP rider? (photo by Chad Jarae - Encounter Creative)

ST. PETE BEACH – So maybe it was a lightly-contested field or a win by default.

It doesn’t matter. I won $75 in a competitive race.

Today I am a professional athlete.

The Pacifico Paddle Challenge took place Saturday afternoon on a postcard-perfect day in front of, appropriately enough, The Postcard Inn. Shane “Waterboy” Webb, a co-owner of SUPPaddleboard.com, promised $3,000 in cash awards, $3,000 worth of raffle prizes, and a free pig roast – all for a $45 pre-registration fee (or $50 raceday).

Webb delivered on everything. At a time when your average obstacle mud run charges $75 (providing no food) and triathlon entry fees continue to escalate, SUP races are the best value in endurance sports.

Admittedly, they have to be because they’re not drawing huge numbers – yet. That’s how I knew I had a shot at prize money.

In July, I entered one of Webb’s SUP Splash Series races at the same venue and was stunned to hear my name called at the awards ceremony since I finished last in the elite 6-mile race.

But I was the only entrant in the “stock board” category. Unlike the rest of the athletes, who competed on sleeker, faster “race boards,” I used a slower board, although my Yoloboard Eco Trainer is a terrific stock board.

Best postrace spread ever

Some compare racing a stock board in an elite race to riding a mountain bike in a triathlon. The difference probably isn’t that pronounced, but there’s no question you’re significantly slower on a stock board.

Since July, I’ve acquired a race board and considered riding it Saturday – until I realized there was prize money for the stock division: $150 for first, $75 for second and $50 for third. (Top three men and women won money in the race board division, starting with $700 apiece for the first-place finishers).

The 3-mile race featured athletes mostly with stock boards. Upon checking in, I learned that the most I could hope to win in the 5-mile race was $75 unless at least four athletes competed in stock boards. That seemed only fair.

When we lined up on the beach for the mass start – paddleboard race starts make triathlon swim starts look tame since everyone is swinging carbon fiber and trading epoxy – I noticed just one other stock board.

I had a competitor for $75.

That guy fell behind quickly and bowed out before the race ended. I stayed in front of eight or 10 race boards for most of the race, but could not keep up on the third lap, finishing ahead of just four.

Transitioning at Pacifico

I love the race format of the Pacifico race, which borrowed from California’s Battle of the Paddle. After each of the first two 1.7-mile laps, athletes exited the water, ran 40-yards with their paddles as “board caddies” turned their boards around, and reentered the water. It’s SUP’s answer to the NASCAR pit stop or the triathlon transition.

I picked up my cash winnings after enjoying the best-ever post-race food – a pig roast – and watching a raffle that included a beach cruiser bicycle and a killer surfboard. The various winners of the 3-mile race did not win cash, just cool hardware, but each received a raffle ticket. (The money for the women’s stock board 5-mile division went unclaimed as there were no entries.)

After the 5-mile race, Webb staged one last event: the “Dash for the Cash.” Competitors sprinted about 200 yards to a buoy and back. Hundred bucks for the male and female winners.

Best part of the day was seeing a 12-year-old racer go absolutely nuts when his raffle ticket was called for the surfboard – about 15 minutes after a wedding ended on the beach in front of us.

It’s tough to say how long SUP races can keep offering cash prizes. Love the idea, and there seems to be enough sponsor interest from the likes of Pacifico beer to make it work for now, but it’s always a challenge to make the numbers work for any race director in any endurance event.

For now, cash is a great thing. It makes the race more interesting and attracts the professionals.

Like myself.

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Race of the Week: Pacifico Paddle Challenge

By Pete Williams

Pacifico Paddle Challenge coming Saturday

For all the talk about saturation in the number of triathlon, running, and obstacle mud run events, one part of the endurance sports industry still is on the upswing: stand-up paddleboarding.

That’s why it’s perhaps no surprise that there’s a lot of buzz surround the Pacifico Paddle Challenge, which takes place on Saturday, Nov. 12 on St. Pete Beach just in front of The Postcard Inn.

It helps that race organizer Shane Webb and his colleagues at SUPPaddleboard.com put on a successful series of races throughout the Southeast this summer. It helps that Tampa Bay weather right now is gorgeous. And it definitely helps that there’s both $3,000 in prize money and $3,000 in raffle prizes, part of an all-day SUP extravaganza.

The race borrows its format from the popular Battle of the Paddle, the Super Bowl of SUP, with a technical, multi-buoy, multi-lap course. Racers must exit the water after every lap, run a brief 40-yard lap with their paddles and reenter the water. Like a NASCAR pitstop or triathlon transition, it’s a challenge not to lose time in the process.

We spoke to Webb about the race earlier this week on The Fitness Buff Show.

Name of Race: Pacifico Paddle Challenge

When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 12 at The Postcard Inn – 6300 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach

History: This is an inaugural event, though the organizers put on the successful SUP Splash Race Series, which included an event at the same venue on July 16.

Format: Races include a 3-mile short course race at 11 a.m., a 5-mile elite race (12:30), and a “Dash for the Cash” at 2 p.m. Prize money awarded equally to men and women in the 5-mile and Dash for the Cash. Mandatory racers meeting at 10:30.

Expected Turnout: 100-plus

Amenities: Long-sleeve T-shirts to first 70 registered. Pacifico After Party at 3 p.m. Awards at 4:30, raffle at 5:30 and playing of the “Ultimate Wave Tahiti” movie at 6:00.

Cost: $45 preregistration, $50 raceday

Register: Online HERE

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