School of Hard Knocks: 8 Tips For First-Time Racers

Photo courtesy of Chris Gragtmans

Photo courtesy of Chris Gragtmans

Phew, my first SUP race is in the bag! I’d been looking forward to competing in my first race for a long time, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Wrightsville Beach and the Blockade Runner Beach Resort provided a spectacular venue for over 100 paddlers to push their limits in the 5th Annual Coastal Urge Cold Stroke Classic.

As I absorb the afterglow of my first race and look forward to the next one, I wanted to share a few things that I learned from the experience. Here are eight nuggets that I will take with me as I compete in more SUP races in the future.

8. Learn from the best. It was awesome jumping in with Dan Gavere’s clinic the day before the race. His concepts really got the juices flowing in my head and got me fired up for the race.

7. If possible, paddle the racecourse before the event. Picking landmarks was definitely very helpful for pacing and gauging how hard to push.

6. After they announce <1 minute, be ready to go. Focus in once you get that warning- the gun could come at any time, and it surprised me a bit.

5. Practice all types of starts. I won’t sugarcoat it- I ATE SHIT at the start. It was a beach start, and I was trying to run as far into the water as I could before jumping on the board. Well, needless to say I tripped and found myself in the drink two seconds after the race started! Hopefully someone got video of it. I will be practicing this maneuver in the future…

4. Bring hydration/sugars for 1+ hour races. I debated bringing my Camelbak or not, but in the end I was glad that I had Gatorade for lap two of the seven mile course.

3. Layer properly. It was cold (35 degrees) the morning of the race, but it was obvious that the sun was quickly warming things up. I passed quite a few paddlers simply because they were fiddling around with shedding wetsuits and other layers. I wore street clothes over my race attire until the last second to stay warm beforehand.

2. Show some modesty. As you can see from the 12’6 Elite podium photo (the first photo in the gallery below), maybe I should have toned down the stoke a bit up there…

1. Enjoy yourself! The SUP community is an extremely welcoming and friendly place, and people were even saying hello as we raced. I can’t wait to meet more of the crew. —Chris Gragtmans



Click here to read Confessions of a Standup Newbie.

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