February 16, 2015

Advice for Race Directors: So you want to host a WPA Sanctioned Race?

As the 2015 SUP racing season gears up, many people get the idea to host a Stand Up Paddleboard Race in their home waters. Stand up paddle races are held for a variety of reasons, some directors want to raise awareness for a business they own, others may be raising money for a charity, some may just doing it for fun, or the reason for the paddleboard race could be a combination of these and other factors.

Whatever reason you may have for hosting a race, there are a few things that people “judge” you on. Paddlers will want certain things in an event, while the WPA will look at additional factors to determine if you should be a WPA Sanctioned Race. The World Paddle Association aims to sanction only the top quality races in each region, and we listen to our member base.

What are Paddlers Looking for?

1. Logistics, Logistics, LOGISTICS: Paddlers want an event that is easy before and after the racing. We’re talking ease of board storage, board drop-off, putting boards in and out of the water, and parking. Organizing an “official” hotel for your event, with board storage for out of town participants is an option for board storage. Paddlers also want easy board drop off. Having a load/unload area with a set traffic pattern if you don’t have close parking is one way to handle what could start out as an unpleasant beginning to your event. Once boards are at the race site, and cars are parked, do you have a safe and easy access to get into the water? Slippery boat ramps, or barnacle covered sea walls aren’t always very appealing to paddlers. Think about how many racers you’re expecting and plan accordingly. Finally, parking is often an issue when your race starts to grow. Having the aforementioned board drop off loop is an excellent way to provide your participants with ease of unloading while sending their cars away where parking is available. However, if you are having them park really far away, consider adding a shuttle service with regular pickups. The last thing paddler want is to walk 2 miles to their car after racing hard! Picking a site with close parking is a huge plus, but not a necessity.

2. Easily and safely navigated course: Paddlers don’t want to show off their orienteering skills. Have your course CLEARLY marked. Consider those coming from out of town that have NEVER paddled your course. They may not know where “the point” is. What if things get foggy, windy, or rainy? Make sure paddlers can see the course even in rough conditions. Also, you want to be sure to run the race with any existing boat traffic, not perpendicular to boats (its just a little bit more difficult!). Another thing is to look at your start, paddler would like to spread out sometimes and avoid the clashing. Not everyone thinks that “rubbing is racing” so try to avoid bottlenecked beach starts.

3. Swag before and after the race: People like stuff. We are material girls (and boys) living in a material world. Even if you’re not material, its not bad to get some swag for your buck, especially with hefty entry fees. People love their race shirts, but paddlers get a lot of them so you want yours to stand out. Distressed Mullet just put together a great post on paddlers’ favorite race t-shirts, and this is something to consider: Another option to keep entry fees low and attract more paddlers is to make the t-shirt optional. After the race, have appropriate swag for the size of your event. For cash or check payouts, pay out in a professional and timely manner. Include trophies and/or prizes for multiple age classes and divisions. Don’t break the bank, be creative. One of my favorite trophies was made out of recycled wine bottles at the Cayuga Lake SUP Cup in Region 8, low cost, and very cool!

4. Food and Water availability A few pre- and post-race snacks as well as plenty of water for your racers is always important. You can’t always control how much water paddlers take with them, all you can do is offer a filling station before and after the race, as well as safety boats with waters on board for emergencies. Better to have and not need than to need and not have.

5. No Indecision. Paddlers like to think Race Directors are in control of their event. Indecisions like changing the course (not for safety reasons), or flip-flopping who starts when, or late awards sometimes are a turn-off. Make your decisions and OWN THEM. You are in charge, Race Director, and no one knows how you *thought your event was *supposed to go. Don’t sweat the small stuff, do what is best and do your best. If you have to, change the race course or direction and keep your paddlers safe. If it takes some time, awards may start late, alert the patrons immediately and keep them entertained. As long as you remain in control and communicate to your paying paddle base what is going on and why, people will be OK.


Still having trouble getting paddlers to your event? Check out some of these other suggestions compiled by race directors:


What is the WPA Looking for?

1. Follow our Guidelines If you haven’t already, check out our Rules/Guidelines and our Racing Rulebook. Are you, Race Director, able to follow the WPA Rules and Guidelines? If so, then you should fill out the sanctioning application for our review. It helps if you’ve held a race before, and we usually recommend that you fill out the application and look into being a “non-points” race for your first year with the WPA. This gives us a chance to look more closely at your event and whether or not it is a good fit as a “points race”

2. PaddleGuru: The WPA asks that you, Race Director, use to keep track of your registrations. This allows the WPA to provide points for rankings for all of your competitors! (one of our awesome benefits). By using PaddleGuru as your registration, payment and timing solution you’re likely to save money and time while ensuring your participants get accurate and timely results. PaddleGuru is an all in one race solution as well as a event website so you can market and track all of your registrations without having to set up another website. Sounds like a win to me.

3. Attendance: Is your event well attended?  Is it a local gem? There’s nothing wrong with having a small, local race. Depending on the number of participants, however, it may not be the best option as a “points” race. When paddlers collect points at regional race, we ask that there are a minimum number of participants in the division they’re seeking points for. If paddlers are collecting points, they need to be earned points, with good, solid competition! Advertising races as points races, and then not filling the major divisions and awarding points may be disappointing to some paddlers. Smaller, local races can still provide participants with trusted guidelines and multiple age-groups and divisions as a non-points race. Race Directors still get coverage and advertising on the WPA site, which may grow the event in years to come at which point you may decide you want to be a points race!

4. Reputation: WPA members go to races. They go to WPA races, they go to non-WPA races. They know which races are fun, and which ones aren’t too fun. They know which races have staff that treat them well, and which ones treat them poorly. Some races are run well, and others appear as if they are just thrown together. The WPA will sanction races with good reputations.

5. Stoke: Are you stoked on paddling? Is your race oozing with excitement? The WPA likes to sanction races that spread the stoke and get people paddling! We’re in this for the growth of the sport, and we hope that you are too. One way to really share the stoke and grow our sport is to consider adding kids races to your event. With the launch of the WPA Kid’s Race Divisions, you young paddlers can keep track of their points and progress too. It’s fun.