Competitors in Missouri’s MR 340 have a reputation for being a friendly bunch, but not all of them were welcoming when they heard the rumor that a standup paddler was going to attempt the world’s longest nonstop river race this year. Before the October 11 start date, that paddler, Shane Perrin, noticed a particularly disparaging comment on the MR 340 forum: "It’s interesting, to say the least, to see folks attracted to a craft that is less comfortable, less maneuverable and slower on purpose.”
Instead of being deterred by his fellow racers' skepticism, 35-year-old Perrin used their barbs as fuel, and became determined to make his mark in this grueling endurance event.
Over the past year, SUP athletes have attempted increasingly long and difficult paddles. Perrin finished the inaugural Kawnivore 100 (held on the Kansas River, aka The Kaw) in just 23:58 and last month, Jan Brabant, 62, became the first SUP racer to finish the Adironack Canoe Classic. Further afield, SUP magazine contributor Shelby Stanger and her team just paddled the Peruvian Amazon.
Contrary to expectations, Perrin not only finished the MR 340, but also came 31st out of 116—beating many of the canoeists and kayakers who had doubted his prowess and choice of craft. I caught up with Perrin after the race to ask him about this experience and the growth of SUP river racing in the Midwest. — Phil White
How did the other competitors respond to you once you were on the water?
The further I paddled the more people started to get SUP fever. All the volunteers were amazingly supportive. The racers I paddled with admitted they were amazed by how fast the board was. At the awards ceremony, I even received a partial standing ovation. I think racers got a glimpse what these boards are capable of.
What equipment did you use and how did it hold up?
I paddled on a Hobie 14-foot E-Series BCXC. At the end of the race it had minimal damage. My paddle was a Hobie carbon hybrid and I carried a back up Hobie EXP stretch. My day pack was not so great—it leaked throughout the race and I ate a few very damp energy bars! My CamelBak SUP vest pack was great though, giving me easy access to water and holding my portable radio, Walkman and some food.
How did you train for the MR 340?
Training for the 340 was difficult to figure out as I didn’t have any resources to go to for guidance. So I ended up with a blend of workouts. P90x was a staple 4:00 a.m. workout. I wore a new butt groove into the Concept2 rower at the gym after work! On weekends I was on the rivers as much as I could be, typically logging six to 10 hours a day. When I couldn't get on the water, I did long cardio session circuits. My best was a three-hour circuit—three sets of 20 minutes on the rower, 20 minutes elliptical and 20 minutes on the tread climber.
How did you deal with obstacles in the river?
During the day, the vantage point on a board allowed me to place myself where I needed to be earlier than if I was in a kayak. At night it was a little more difficult. The moon lit up wing dikes that were above the water line, but as the dikes fell below the water I didn’t see them until I heard them. I had to paddle like mad upstream and across the river at the last minute to avoid ending my race by hitting these.
What physical toll did the race take on you?
In 66 hours and 39 minutes of racing I slept a little over four hours. About 110 miles into the race I had severe stomach issues and couldn’t get enough calories into my body. Between sleep deprivation, near-starvation, and dehydration it beat me up pretty bad. Post-race, my left knee was swollen a bit and my back was like concrete. Four days later and I’m still not 100 percent. But lots of ice and massages are slowly bringing me back to normal. No major damage done. I’m already looking forward to next year!
Missouri isn’t exactly known as an SUP hub. How is the scene growing there?
Shops are starting to carry boards and offer lessons and rentals. In the St. Louis area, St. Louis Sail and Paddle is the first store to offer full SUP services, and in Kansas City, Piddle Paddle is getting people on the water as well. I am partnering with both stores to organize the first Midwest SUP races in 2012 and I might do the Yukon River Quest and the Texas Water Safari.