A while back I asked a bunch of people why they paddle, and the answers would bring tears to your eyes. I definitely started paddling to get healthy, to be on the water, and to find some tranquility amidst a hectic work life.
Paddling gives something to me that is mine alone; a sense of strength and competence in an unstable environment that is anything but predictable. I end up feeling in awe of my own strength, ability and discipline to get up and out.
I paddle because for a brief moment in time, I feel truly connected to my soul, my life and God, I feel perfect! Nothing or no one else can decide my worth.
It gave me time on the water without the hassle of dealing with a boat and it made me feel good physically, mentally, and spiritually.
I paddle because I need to be on the water. I want to be in the sunshine and to be with nature. I want to clear my head. I want to sweat and I want to push myself. I love getting to see things that nobody sees. I enjoy getting to experience things from a different view. I often feel like when I get out on the water it is a brand-new adventure.
There was something so tranquil about being on the water and laughing with friends...paddling has provided a life saver for me through some crazy life transitions.
I paddle because it heals me. Three years ago, my dad died and then I had a health scare...Getting healed every time I was out paddling. Feeling stronger. Feeling more capable of fighting.
I continued on to ask, "Why do you Race" and the answers weren't very heart-felt and they were short. Answers essentially echoed: community to becoming a better version of themselves. But do you not get those things without a race? Is it possible that RACING counteracts the TRANQUILITY and PEACE OF MIND that people started paddling for in the first place?
If you can get "community" and become a better you without a race, why spend the money on events? Or on doctor bills from you being injured from paddling too hard?
Or on coaching? yeah... I said that.
Is SUP racing dead?
In the face of decreased race participation and slower board sales, many manufacturers and organizers are asking the question. Its a lot to ask racers, both serious and recreational, to fork out $100-$200 registration fees on a regular basis! I feel like if we can get together to do fun things without spending an arm and a leg, then that may be the future of the sport. Maybe its local races, maybe its a few big-ticket, destination-location races each year. Personally, I dig the full-moon paddles.
But to answer the question, is sup racing dead, the answer is absolutely not. Just like Santa Claus is not dead. It just depends on who you ask. SUP racing is like Santa. It exists to some people, and you can't convince them that its not real. Other people have seen their parents putting the gifts under the tree and realize that its not all its cracked up to be. The folks that believe in Santa are going to continue to follow his sleigh progress across the world via GPS tracking and KNOW IN THEIR HEARTS that he is real. And there is nothing wrong with this. Because if you believe in something, then its real to you. If racing and competing matter to you, then why do you care if other people are following, watching, or entering ("sponsored" racers aside). Just enjoy it for what it is. Bottom line. Quit asking dumb questions and do what you like because you like to do it. If you're feeling tired, broke, or burt out - skip a few races and do something else. We could get run over by a reindeer tomorrow!
Now, maybe all of this was really just a rant organizing my own thoughts in my head about this year's competitions. But,
SHOULD YOU RACE?
YES! Absolutely. As a "recreational" or even a "semi-elite" SUP racer, you should pick at least 2 events in a year that kinda scare you; i.e. they would be huge accomplishments and good bucket-list-check-offs. I think one in spring or early summer, then another late summer or fall would work best in North America. You should get a dedicated training plan that builds you up to the first event. Then rests you adequately, adjusts for summer fun, and gets you ready to crush it again. You should do 2 because you want to see your improvement from the first race to the second race. (Any races in between should not concern you or cause any stress. If you race, race only for the fun and community)
The other reason you should race, is that using those competitions will make you a better human. Every day you're training, you should be treating yourself like a professional athlete. You get up and eat breakfast. You workout. You stretch. You eat a good lunch. You have snacks. You take breaks at work to walk and stretch. You sleep like a f@cking champ! Every. Single. Day. You treat yourself like an olympic caliber athlete with rest, recovery, nutrition, and training. You have a schedule, and discipline. I promise, doctor bills will decrease and your life expectancy will improve. Training gives you structure around which you build the best you, both mentally and physically. A good training plan should include off days, and recovery weeks. Times for you to just get out and float in tranquility, and times for you to push and sweat, both of these will help with mental clarity. You should talk to your friends that paddle about what races scare them, what would challenge them? I have a friend that switches off picking the "bucket-list" race each year with another friend. Last year her friend picked Chattajack, and this year she got to pick, and she picked the Gorge. That's a fun way of doing things!
Moral of the story:
You can have your cake and eat it too, just don't bite off more than you can chew.