Ching on the SUP Champions Tour

Photo: Van Swae/Zaleski

Photo: Van Swae/Zaleski

Danny Ching on the SUP Champions Tour

Nearly a decade after the SUP boom started, there are more races sprouting up around the world than ever. While this growth in racing is awesome for the sport, professional competitors are voicing their many concerns over the current state of SUP racing and the lack of a truly unified racing tour. So, a handful of professional SUP racers joined together to create a tour that celebrates some of SUP's most established races, the SUP Champions Tour.

The SUP Champions Tour includes said high-profile events as well as an international ranking system for all racers competing in the elite division at each event on the Tour. Races like the upcoming Carolina Cup, BOP, and Germany’s Lost Mills will rank elite competitors on a leaderboard, based on their finishes in elite divisions. Males and females will be ranked in separate classes with each athlete's bottom two finishes dropped from the overall rankings. Because of the smaller competitive classes on the female side, only four events will be scored. And, there will not be any changes to each race's individual regulations, unless decided otherwise by each race's event director.

"Basically what happened is, a bunch of elite paddlers sat down with wish lists and schedules to try and layout a more unified tour with events we all wanted to be a part of," says professional paddler and World Champion Danny Ching. "Right now, racing is split. The SUPAA is trying to enforce their regulations, the World [Series] Tour and Tristan are doing their events, and the WPA has their thing, but the SUP Champions Tour is different: we're not trying to impose any regulations or restrictions—we just want to give back to the events we enjoy being at, and those that grow the sport."

Photo: Jennifer Gulizia, Gorge-Us Photography

Photo: Jennifer Gulizia, Gorge-Us Photography

Some of the grievances that spurred the SUP Champions Tour include athletes' sponsors pushing them to compete in events they sponsor or promote, rather than allowing the athletes choose where to compete, as well as event directors competing to pay athletes for appearances at their events, and some event directors failing to pay up the promised prize money, post-race.

"This is just racers coming together because we don't want to be bought. We don't want to be promised money to race at or be at a certain event, and we don't want to be expected to 'eat it' on the travel expenses when we aren't paid the prize money we're promised," says Ching. "That's not sustainable pay."

Ching also questions why, typically, divisions other than the elite don't have cash prize payouts when the entry-level and kids divisions are where the most growth is seen: "It limits the sport—why not spread some of that money to the open and kids divisions, so that the sport continues to grow? The sport will be bigger, the events will continue to grow, and the sponsors will see it in their business. We'd like to possibly work with race directors to better their events in the future, but overall, it should be about allowing athletes to do what they do." —SC

Here’s a list of events included in the SUP Champions Tour:
Carolina Cup: Elite 14' Graveyard Course
OluKai’s Ho'olaule'a
Lost Mills
The Ultimate SUP Showdown
Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge
Battle of the Paddle: Elite Sprints and Elite Long Distance

Click here for more Features.