Why Do We Race a Stand Up Paddleboard?
There are conversations. The ones that the room goes silent and we feel like we are talking to ourselves. We quickly either divert to another more compelling subject. Or just stop talking. As the audience has spoken. With this subject. The response is largely the opposite.
Text message. Phone call. And comments reveal the passion of the audience. Not everyone is in agreement of my statements, which is what I love the most. But everyone wants the sport to thrive once again.
No drafting. Drafting. Prizes. Cash. Podiums. And acknowledgement are at the base of the differences. But as we look at the sport on a whole. These pieces are only individual preferences that ultimately have no affect on the overall development of the sport.
Before you stop reading and start with the social media post chastising me. You may want this information to digest first.
The common link that every person spoke of on my last post and the many I made last year.
We paddle and attend races. For the people. The Camaraderie.
Unfortunately due to a premature shift if the sport. We started to forget about community and became conditioned to paddle for the glory. And the cash and prizes. We focus on the post race podium picture. Thanking our sponsors, even though we have a full time job, buy our products, pay our hotels, entry fees and support our own travels. Boasting about winning the race, when we finished 26th but won our division of 4 people, 3 were new paddlers, who will never return. We drafted the girl on the 12'6 even though we were on the 14' and a bro. We cut off our good friend at the buoy cracking, their new to them board, that they bought from us moments before. As we now have the latest 14' x 16" titanium, carbon, eco friendly model. Then file a protest about said buoy turn. To make sure our 8th place moves up to 7th, all while yelling at the race director that we will never come back. We walk around flexed, with paddle in one hand, protein shake in the other, waiting to see the results online or posted. And once we read the results, even though we watched the 7 other paddlers cross the finish line ahead of us. We leave, stamping our feet like that of a scolded small child. Not saying thank you to the race directors. Bye to our friends. Or having that cold beverage with everyone. All because we shifted the focus on our individual goal, become a pro, even though it may never be attainable and doesn't pay enough to afford the protein shake.
When some say they miss the good ole days. It is still there just not at some the key events. Due to the focus on winning. And not on the building blocks of the sport. We all love paddling and hanging with each other afterwards. We don't care if we received a trophy. Or our name was blasted across Facebook or the loudspeakers. But having a cold beverage with our friends talking about the race and what we did leading up to it. Has always been the prize.
This has revealed itself to me in a multitude of avenues. The Tuesday Night Race League I attended the past two years in Jupiter. Where no awards are given at the end of the night. Just cold beverages and story time. In other adult sports we play, each night is not celebrated. Maybe a season ending celebration ensues but not one with every player receiving a medal or called to the podium.
However I do understand, after spending hundreds of dollars on an entry fee and not receiving much more than a bag filled with stickers we lose before we make it out of the registration line. Is not satisfying. And having a shot at winning something is attractive. If we all received the finish medals would that be enough? Or a few cold drinks?
Before the rants start again, let's remove our own agendas from the discussion. Think back to day 1 of racing. Paying the entry fee. Being nervous to try something new. Then waiting around, alone for hours, while everyone else high fives, takes selfies and receives their trophies and oversized checks, to find out you get nothing. Not even a name mention.
That will send any of us back home, never to return again.
I understand this is not ever done out of malicious intent. But it happens. Many of you have experienced this and told me about the scenarios. Especially at key events. And a main reason why the everyday paddlers no longer attend. More importantly, why the events failed.
If we were all equals. No matter how fast you paddled. How skinny your board was. How many stickers were placed upon your board. A few things would happen.
The gathering after the race would be about why we paddle. Camaraderie.
The race fees would go down. There would be no need to make trophies for 1100 divisions.
It would elevate stress on the race directors.
It would eliminate many of the attitudes that we adopt after we didn't get acknowledged or were edged out of the $200, because we only attended to chase the cash.
We would be much more inclined to talk to everyone and offer them cold beverages and ask how their paddle was. As this would be the focus.
The raffles would contain some great products, encouraging us all to give back and stick around.
There are some cons to this format. And as I started to create a list they did not resonate with me. As I feel strongly it takes away from the goal of why we paddle.
I understand some of us love the competition. And being rewarded for the efforts put in. There are ways to accomplish this goal, without making the most important reason, turning us all agro and making the cost of the events sky rocket. Having a results board or screen is a great option. It will add to the post race discussions, encouraging the community interaction.
We have a chance to learn from our mistakes in the past. And get the sport thriving. We are close to doing this as people across the globe are speaking up about making a change for the better.
The easiest way we can do this. Is to think back to the first day we came to an event. And what it felt like when someone we did not know struck up a conversation about our paddle. Solidifying our return to the next one. Our personal agenda and dedication to our sponsors and training is great. However it didn't matter that first race. Camaraderie did.
By putting the sport first and our personal gains second, we guarantee future events to occur. With increased attendance, non endemic sponsorships will follow bringing more dollars into the sport. But it starts with us making a drastic change.
I'll leave everyone with this stat to think about. We have over one million participants of stand up paddling. And according to SUPRacer's updated World Rankings about 6,100 racers. Meaning we are missing 99.4% of paddlers with our events.
Let's all work together to capture 0.4% more of the market in 2020. That's 4,000 new racers. And all we have to do is each bring 1 new friend.