March 17, 2020
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)


Carolina Cup postponed (photo: @georgiasphoto/@paddleleague)

Organisers of the Carolina Cup have postponed the iconic event until early November due to health concerns and restrictions caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

The 10th annual edition of the famous Carolina Cup will now be held 4-8 November in its usual home of Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. The event was originally scheduled for 22-26 April, however the state – like much of the world – has seen a virtual ban on sporting events over the past week, and a postponement for next month’s event was seen as increasingly inevitable as things escalated over the past 72 hours.

North Carolina’s Governor enacted a decree on Saturday banning any gathering of 100 or more people. Those restrictions only last through 13 April but appear likely to be extended as the coronavirus pandemic intensifies, while the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has since advised against any gatherings of 50+ for the next eight weeks.

To compound the event restrictions, travel restrictions would have made it virtually impossible for the hundreds of U.S. and international paddlers that fly in for the event every year. There’s also the small matter of the general health and safety of everyone involved in the event, from participants to organisers to volunteers and local residents — the Carolina Cup usually attracts more than 500 paddlers of all ages.

The official announcement:

In light of the recommendation of the US Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention that no gatherings with 50 or more people take place for the next eight weeks to slow the spread of this novel coronavirus, we have decided to postpone the April 25th, 2020 Carolina Cup race day to November 7th, 2020.

We were hoping to keep our event stable on the calendar to show our human resiliency and fortitude, but feel the CDC guidance is the prudent direction for the greater good of the human race.

Carolina has long been one of the biggest and most prestigious races in the sport, regularly ranking as one of the most competitive races for international athletes while also attracting hundreds of amateurs and weekend warriors to the sleepy hollow of Wrightsville Beach. Past winners on the infamous “Graveyard” long-distance course include Sonni Honscheid, Michael Booth, Travis Grant, Danny Ching and Titouan Puyo, while Annabel Anderson famously won five-straight Carolina titles that helped seal her as the “Paddler of the Decade“.

The postponement of the Carolina Cup joins other major announcements over the past week, including the big Air France Paddle Festival in Tahiti (originally set for April 4th) and the massive Aloha Spirit Festival in Ilhabela, Brazil, which was originally scheduled for this weekend.

Virtually all upcoming races in Japan and Europe have also been cancelled, while the China Paddle League has been on ice since January. The beginning of the “European Summer of SUP,” including the traditional Euro Tour series, looks increasingly unlikely. The first stop of the EuroTour is scheduled in just 32 days in Denmark, a nation that has joined much of Europe in closing its borders. An official announcement from the EuroTour is expected later this week.

The remainder of the European summer, including several regional leagues and dozens of national championship events, are also up in the air as major paddling nations such as Italy, Spain and increasingly France have not only cancelled all upcoming sporting events but also enacted society-wide lockdowns that have forced residents to remain indoors. The next stop of the beloved Alpine Lakes Tour in France on 18 April has already been postponed until July at the earliest.

(SUP Racer has been tracking the impact of the coronavirus on stand up paddling events around the world)

While stand up is just a simple sport, and the impacts of the coronavirus on SUP pale in comparison to the massive implications for the health and wellbeing of society in general, this is still a pretty staggering hit for paddling to contend with. We may soon have to consider the prospect that “Season 2020” will be just a few months long as many nations have started signalling their restrictions could remain in place until after the northern summer.

In the best-case scenario, we’re likely to see a backlog of big races trying to run in the second half of the season, which is both a good thing (most events have been “postponed” not “cancelled”) and a potential problem (we’ll have to work hard to avoid major date clashes).

One bright note: Perhaps we’ll see a reinvigoration of small local events, which could reinforce the grassroots base of paddling. We should also see creativity blossom through necessity — who else wants to help create a “virtual paddle league” and set up a leaderboard for a set course such as a 5km flat water time trial?

When life does return to “normal,” the SUP community will also need to come together and support the events and brands that have been hardest-hit by the coronavirus. So for now, pencil 7 November in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina into your calendars for the 10th annual Carolina Cup.

On a side note – well done to the Carolina Cup organising team. It’s never an easy decision to cancel an event so close, but they’ve taken the initiative and given everyone as much notice as possible. In a sport that has as little organised leadership as ours, it’s good to see the community actively working together.