Standup paddling has a new league and a new championship tour for 2018. Meet The Paddle League, an organization who’s mission is to “build a better, brighter and more sustainable future for standup paddling that benefits all of the sport's stakeholders.” Rather than trying to reinvent the sport or create new events, The Paddle League World Tour will, “collaborate with top independent events that have helped build the sport.”

The Tour will feature an international series consisting of nine races, plus several “Regional Tours” that will include about two dozen grassroots events. The points system will be interlinked, with the goal of making SUP racing as inclusive as possible

Bilbao is the first stop of the European leg of the tour. Photo: Paddle League

The League is the brainchild of veteran paddler Kelly Margetts, Capital SUP’s Brian Meyer and SUP Racer’s Chris Parker, who have all worked in collaboration with both independent events and the Paddlers' Collective–a group of top athletes—aligned to help grow the sport. 

The organizers are hoping to not only provide a more unified tour for both pro and amateur paddlers, but also to help each race grow with new sponsorship and added media exposure.

The points system for the Paddle League will be based on SUP Racer’s current World Rankings. This system ranks paddlers based on how they perform in races, with high-profile events such as the Carolina Cup and the Gorge Paddle Challenge having more weight (and points) than smaller or lesser-known events.

In addition to the eight major events that will be worth 100 points, the World Tour will also feature two “Specialty Events”—the Olukai Ho’olaule’a and 11-City Tour, worth 60 points each—which were chosen for their extreme or unique attributes (the use of unlimited boards at OluKai Ho’o and the sheer physical challenge of the 11-City Tour). And although the Pacific Paddle Games presented by Salt Life will not be part of the Tour and remain an independently managed event, the Paddle League will apply a points ranking to the race.

The Olukai Ho’olaule’a will be one of the two “specialty events” in the 2018 season. Photo: Paddle League

At this early stage, the Paddle League is already gaining initial support from the SUP industry. 64 of the world's best paddlers have voiced their support and many have worked closely with organizers to help formulate this new international series.

For those hoping to watch the World Tour races unfold from the comfort of their couch, you’re in luck. Each of the events on the World Tour (except OluKai and 11 Cities) will feature a full live webcast hosted by Chris Parker along with regular special guests that will include Dave Kalama and other SUP experts. 

For more information, check out the complete 2018 Paddle League World Tour schedule below.

Photo courtesy of the Paddle League

Event #1: Air France Paddle Festival, Tahiti, April 7 (100 points) 

The largest and most well-established race in arguably the strongest paddling nation on the planet. The Air France race offers a huge challenge: not only do the international athletes have to compete against the local warriors, they have to overcome the elements in a long distance race that includes everything from downwind to flatwater to waves.

The Paddle League will be live streaming the race via Facebook on April 7.

Photo courtesy of the Paddle League

Event #2: Carolina Cup, North Carolina, April 21 (100 points)

The Carolina Cup has been one of the true pillars in our sport for many years. Attracting everyone from international superstars, weekend warriors and first-timers to the sleepy surfside town of Wrightsville Beach, Carolina has been a permanent fixture on the calendar.

The Paddle League will be live streaming the race via Facebook on April 21.

Photo courtesy of the Paddle League

Event #3: OluKai Ho'olaule'a, Maui, Hawaii, April 28 (60 points)

Held on Maui's famed Maliko downwind run, the OluKai Ho is one of the most classic races on the calendar. The 10th Annual edition will be the first "Specialty Event" of the 2018 season.

Photo courtesy of the Paddle League

Event #4: Kerama Blue Cup in Zamami, Japan, May 12 (100 points)

One of the newest races on the calendar, the 2nd Annual Kerama Blue Cup will take paddlers to the exotic, clear blue waters of southern Japan. Zamami Island is located 1600 kilometres (1000 miles) south of Tokyo in the archipelago near Okinawa. It will offer competitors a stunning experience while also supporting the Japanese paddling community–arguably one of the most vibrant and stoked paddling nations on earth.

The Paddle League will be live streaming the race via Facebook on May 12.

Photo courtesy of the Paddle League

Event #5: Iberdrola Bilbao World Paddle Challenge, Basque Country, June 16 (100 points)

One of the most well-established races in Europe, Bilbao offers both a world-class event and some world-class culture. Located in the "Basque Country" of north-western Spain, the race itself sees paddlers wind their way through the center of the old city. 

Bilbao is the first of three, back-to-back major races in Europe that is being presented in partnership with the long-running EuroTour.

The Paddle League will be live streaming the race via Facebook on June 16.

Photo courtesy of the Paddle League

Event #6: Hossegor Paddle Games, France, June 23 (100 points)

Hossegor is one of the world's most iconic surf towns and this event offers one of the most exciting races of the season as the world's best and Europe's finest battle it out in the waves of southwest France.

The Paddle League will be live streaming the race via Facebook on June 23.

Photo courtesy of the Paddle League

Event #7: Mercedes-Benz SUP World Cup, Germany, June 30-July 30 (100 points)

The Mercedes World Cup in the northern, seaside village of Scharbeutz is the headline act of the Paddle League's "European Summer of SUP" and another major collaboration with the EuroTour. With the incredible "amphitheatre" setup of a long pier next to a shallow beach, the World Cup is one of the most spectator-friendly stops of the Paddle League. 

The Paddle League will be live streaming the race via Facebook on June 16.

Photo courtesy of the Paddle League

Event #8: Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge, Oregon, August 18-19 (100 points)

Hood River is one of the true meccas in the world of paddling. An inland downwind paradise, the sleepy hollow attracts paddling fanatics from around the world every August to enjoy some of the biggest bumps around.

Paddle League points will be solely based on the iconic Double Downwind race, while the traditional course race will be reserved as a showcase for the amateurs and juniors.

The Paddle League will be live streaming the race via Facebook on August 18/19.

Photo courtesy of the Paddle League

Event #9: SUP 11-City Tour, Netherlands, September 5-9 (60 points) 

Known as the "Tour de France of SUP," the 11-Cities has earned a near-mythical place in our sport as the ultimate challenge both physically and mentally. Competitors race 40 to 50 kilometers per day across five stages in five days. Meanwhile, the weather can be everything from sunshine and blue skies to pouring rain and freezing cold winds.

This will be the second and final "Specialty Event" of the 2018 season.

Honorary Points Race: Pacific Paddle Games presented by Salt Life, Doheny State Beach, October 6-7 (100 points)

While not officially part of the Tour, the PPGs have long been known as the "season-ending" showdown. The two-day race in sunny Southern California always brings out the world’s top paddlers and is the most-anticipated race of the year.

SUP Magazine will provide live coverage of the action on the weekend of October 6-7. 

Related

APP World Tour announces their 2018 schedule.

Euro Tour announces their 2018 schedule.