News headlines from the world of standup paddling

So nice they named it twice! This past Saturday saw the 22nd annual edition of the Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge in San Diego, California. Typically the most widely attended race in the SoCal Winter Series hosted by regional outrigger canoe clubs, the Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge has consistently been one of the best events to be found anywhere on the planet. With a low entry fee of just $25 each participants receives a great T-shirt, breakfast, a race and the opportunity to mingle with hundreds of paddlers representing SUP, outrigger, surkski, prone paddleboarding and more!

Kind of makes you wonder just what exactly is being done with your money at some of those high-priced events around the country, eh?

The weather is consistently fantastic in San Diego in late January and everyone always has a ton of fun. The start of the SUP race is often full of drama as paddlers line the edge of Bonita Cove, some standing, some kneeling, some already moving, when the starting horn sounds. This year some of the standup paddlers in the lead pack even got confused and took a circuitous route through Mission Bay. The course has been the same for years, so I guess they thought they’d spice it up a bit!

I took a break from the SUP course this time around and took part in the approximately nine mile Long Course out in the ocean, thanks in no small part to Paddle Dojo for loaning me a stellar OC-1 for the occasion. If you’re looking for a fun winter getaway around this time next year I recommend planning a trip out west.

Super Bowl Sunday, aka Training Day! Sticking with the San Diego theme for a bit, Danny Ching will be returning to San Diego this coming weekend to hold a SUP clinic the morning of the Super Bowl. If you’re looking for a phenomenal workout to justify all the beer, wings and dip you plan to consume later in the day there is no better way to burn off a few calories and learn some skills from one of the world’s best paddlers. He’ll even bring you a board to paddle (supplies limited) if you message via Instagram in advance. If you’re curious about his teaching style, read my exclusive interview with Ching for insights into his training methodology. There is no better way to learn than training with a group!

South of the Border with Infinity. Our good friends at Infinity SUP are set to host another edition of the widely acclaimed Infinity Skills Camp in Costa Rica this February. We just received word that a couple of slots have opened up for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Truth be told, Dave Boehne and the gang host the skill camp each winter, but once in a lifetime is what you can expect to experience by attending one of their camps. Don’t delay, book today and get ready to experience a whole New Deal!

Downwind Time at the Gorge. Gorge Downwind Championships is the premier downwind paddling festival at the Columbia River Gorge in Hood River, Oregon. The status of whether or not SUPs would be included in 2018 was temporarily up in the air due to the lack of viable sponsorship. Fortunately for SUPers, the community rallied and slots have been added for standup paddlers to once again compete alongside outrigger and surfski paddlers. Regardless of craft, entries are limited. Start making your plans for July 16 – 21, 2018!

Dragons in Austria! The 2018 Dragon World Championships will be held at scenic Lake Fuschl in Austria this summer. After a successful run in Barbados in 2017 the folks at Red Paddle Co will bring their quirky competition to Europe. Is this the future of standup paddling?  Who cares, it looks like fun!

Another Tour is Announced. The newly formed Paddle League, a collaboration between veteran Australian waterman Kelly Margetts, Brian Meyer of Capital SUP and Chris Parker of SUP Racer, have announced the creation of a new world tour known eponymously as the Paddle League World Tour. My initial reaction conjures up a memory of the classic Tina Turner song “We don’t need another hero”. Just swap out the lyric “hero” for “tour” and that sums up my gut reaction to the initiative. Margetts is a solid individual and gives the Paddle League a significant amount of credibility it otherwise would be lacking. I just hope he hasn’t hitched himself to a train which is already off the rails before it has left the station. There have been various attempts at a “World Tour” over the years, most of which have an air of providing a counterpoint to the established, yet at times struggling, APP World Tour. SUPAA also tried to bring consistency to the SUP racing experience, but has faded from the scene in recent times. Will Paddle League be able to bridge the divide or is this simply an initiative to benefit the 1%ers traveling the world on their sponsor’s dime? Time will tell.

The Paddle League stated its aim is to create a realistic structure for stand up paddling that is honest and sustainable, and which benefits the entire sport. That sounds fantastic, but what is not clear is how a World Tour of races will accomplish that lofty goal. At the best of times, SUP races cater to a small minority of paddlers. Considering the financial resources necessary to attend just one of the events, let along the entire tour, it is difficult to see how such a tour benefits paddlers. It is also notable that no events in California, arguably the birthplace of modern SUP racing, are included in the Paddle League World Tour. The Pacific Paddle Games are mentioned as an “honorary” event, but it is not clear what exactly the honorary designation means in practical terms. Australia is also another glaring omission from the tour despite its strong paddling heritage and litany of great events. Paddle League has stated it will be developing a network of regional races around the world which will form the “core” of Paddle League. It’s not clear what Paddle League will be providing to established regional races or if support from an outside entity is desired or needed. If the regional races are the “core” why not place them ahead of the World Tour.

I’m all for any initiative which advances the sport of standup paddling, but there is already an undue emphasis on SUP racing in many corners of the SUP community. Racing is fun, but it should not be the defining attribute of the sport. I’ve exchanged messages with Margetts and we’re planning to speak soon about the Paddle League’s strategic plan and what it means in practical terms to the everyday paddler attending an event. Stay tuned!

Events on the horizon

Check out the SUP Examiner Calendar for more great events throughout the year. Listings are free and always will be.

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Matt Chebatoris

Matt is a former national security professional and lifelong adventurer. He has published material on a variety of topics in the foreign policy arena and founded SUP Examiner™ as a platform to share his enjoyment of the sport with others. Matt resides in Los Angeles with his wife Karen and their tuxedo cat Maximilian.