I finally got to do a SUP race this summer, and I finally got my race board. Actually, I got it on Friday. It’s a 22-inch board, which is the most narrow I have ever ridden, by four inches. I don’t know anyone who rides a 22, except me!
I chose the 22 because I have great balance and it’s a board I am aiming to grow into. a 26-inch board felt so HUGE to me and I was looking for a good fast board… that’s a bit beyond my ability….. because I like to try to grow my skill set, and grow my skill set I will be needing to do!
The board arrived on Friday to the shipping place. Curt and I ripped it open right there, and secured it to the top of the car. “You are racing this thing tomorrow?” Curt asked. I confirmed. “And this is the most narrow board you’ve been on by four inches?” I smiled. This isn’t new behavior for me, I tend to do things like this!
I arrived at the race site and the first person I see is my longtime friend Eileen. We have known one another for YEARS, competing in triathlon together for decades. She’s also an avid Kayaker and Sup’er and I knew she’d be there, I wish I could do every race with her! This year she was Kayaking and she told me right away, the lake is angry.
A quick walk down to the beach confirmed that. The lake was angry. I have been to oceans all over the world. California, Hawaii, Florida, Maine….. and these were some big waves. To have whitecaps THAT bar out meant rough conditions. So I grabbed my board and headed out to see if I could even STAND on this thing.
Hell, I could barely kneel!
My little board and I were not acquainted at all. It felt so light and so fast and yes, this was not my best idea. But I was doing it anyways.
As the morning wore on it was clear there was no calming of the lake going to happen. Other athletes started to arrive and there was this amazing mix of SUP, Kayak, outrigger canoe, canoe…. and I don’t know what else. I love the variety in sports. I love that people can find what they really love and what resonates with them and fits with them, and we can all come to events like this and have a ton of fun while striving for our own personal bests.
In all of the boating athletes I have met in the past two years, I have only run into two people who mock out SUPers. One asked me recently if I needed a loan to buy a Kayak because…. apparently you SUP if you can’t afford one?
I don’t get caught up in that kind of stuff. It exists everywhere. In triathlon, in running, in cycling, in sking. Heck, I am sure it exists between rollerbladers and rollerskaters. The constant “My sport is better than your sport” attitude.
Here is my view: I SUP….. because I LOVE IT. I ned no other statement than that. It’s the closest I can come to surfing in Upstate New York. It was born in Hawaii in the early 2000 era, and it’s captured the hell out of me. It’s close to swimming for me (you will see why in a few minutes)…. and in case I didn’t mention it…… I LOVE IT. Find what you LOVE to do. And do it. Have no excuses for doing it. Do it with all that you are. And don’t worry what anyone else says. That’s their issue, not yours.
I personally feel that getting to do this….. is such an incredible privilege in my life. I am well aware not everyone has the opportunity or ability to do this. So I won’t ever…. ever …. try to put someone down for doing what they love. So kayakers, canoers, SUP’ers……. it’s all such incredible fun and it was more than a privilege to get to share the water with SO many incredible athletes on Saturday!
Back to the race! As we drew near to the start time, I was becoming a little worried about how this was going to work out. Speaking of kayak…. it was a better day to be a kayaker….. but then again, still crazy!!! There is a lot to kayaking than paddling in a boat!
My big plan for racing a board I have never been on was not working out so well! Imagine that.
The race director informed me that I could prone on my board. I had no idea that was “legal” in a SUP race. To prone, you lay on your stomach on the board and on the paddle (this is NOT real comfortable by the way) and you paddle! Being a swimmer, this spoke to me, and I soon realized this was my only option. I couldn’t even kneel on this board yet!
So the race began and I went prone! The waves were crazy and I loved every second. My narrow board is PERFECT for it! It was just like swimming but on a board. There is this incredible rhythm I find when SUPing (or now proning) that I can’t seem to find anywhere else. I can’t quite describe it.
It’s this feeling of rhythm with the waves and the paddle and the wind and ….. you. It’s silent and you are disconnected from everything around you. In a race, you are with people who seem to feel the same way too. The phrase I keep hearing at these races is “It’s all good.” and while that is cliche it is so incredibly true.
I crossed the line first, and I felt like I had cheated. A few other people had gone prone as well, but it didn’t feel right. The race director assured me it was part of the rules. My fellow competitors also assured me it was part of the rules. But it still felt weird.
I loved the event. I loved the vibe. I loved the atmosphere. I loved seeing all of the different types of boats and athletes who came. I love to see the cast of characters sport can bring together. Sport is a place where you can lose yourself and find yourself, it’s a place you can reach new heights and has new lessons every single time. I have been a competitive athlete my entire life. Competition has developed new and different meanings and importance for me through the years but it still…. it still ignites me in my core.
In the one week, I have had the board I have been out on it daily. I have so much to learn on this and summer is fleeting. God willing I can be out on it daily for another month. Right now I can use it to replace swimming (I went through a big swimming burnout this past year and I am being really careful about it).
I have spent more time on my knees, prone, falling and getting back up…. but it’s coming. Yesterday I was able to stay up in the wake of some boats! It’s a lot of learning to feel the water. Feeling….. will always take you further than force ever will.
So don’t be afraid to branch out and try something new, whatever that may be. Find what speaks to you. Find what ignites you. There will always be someone who tries to knock your enthusiasm down, I have been dealing with that my entire life. It hasn’t made a dent on me and never will. Understand that it has 100% to do with them, and ZERO percent to do with you. Find what you love and go after it. Never be afraid to follow your crazy dreams. My crazy dream? Click here.
My father always told me “What other people think of you… is none of your business”. That applies in so many other places aside from sport. At the end of the day….. this is a gift and a privilege I will never stop appreciating.