January 11, 2017
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

Let’s Call It The ‘Beach Race’


Action from the 2015 ISA Worlds in Mexico. But what is this race format actually called? (photo: ISA)

You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of paddleboarding than yours truly, yet even I’ll admit ours isn’t always the most exciting sport to watch. Not all races need to be “exciting” – that’s certainly not the sole measure of success¹ – though some events clearly are trying to build showcase spectacles that appeal to mainstream audiences/sponsors and help push our sport to new heights.

And the race format that seems to be the biggest crowd-pleaser these days is the short course tech race², the type of race that involves a beach start and finish, plenty of buoy turns, and a solid test of a paddler’s skill, speed, strategy and fitness. But while these races are often fun to watch, they’re sorely lacking one important thing: A good name.

Apart from the excellent JM Survivor Race and Jacko’s Super Lap, the standard course race goes by a lot of different but very plain names – BOP-style race, elite race, course race, tech race, pro race, sprint race, etc – however the most popular title is Technical Course Race, a name used by some of the biggest international events in the sport along with dozens of local and regional competitions.

Now don’t get me wrong, most of these events do a great job overall, but “technical course race” sounds like something out of a dusty old engineering manual. It’s not exactly the most appealing name, is it? It hardly conjures up images of fun and excitement.

Not only does Technical Course Race sound kinda boring, it doesn’t even describe what the race actually involves. One of our sport’s biggest selling points is its association with the ocean and the beach – sun, surf, sand, and the sea – so why aren’t we emphasising that more?

Sure, a name can only do so much, and a big part of creating more exciting and appealing events is creating better race courses and formats (something our sport could definitely work on³). But marketing and image also play a big role, especially as we try and push our sport further into the mainstream and attract bigger sponsors and audiences. If the event itself is the cake then the name and image it portrays are the icing on top⁴.

So to make things a little bit tastier, let’s come up with a better title for the humble old technical course race. A common standard that can be applied across all events, big and small, and which sounds far more appealing than the vanilla names we’re currently all using.

I think we need something that captures the imagination while conveying a fun and exciting spirit. A name that instantly makes you want to be a part of the event whether by participating, watching or sponsoring. A short, sharp, catchy title that instantly brings to mind those images of sun, surf, sand and the sea.

My vote is for Beach Race.

When I hear “Beach Race” I immediately picture an entertaining day on the water. Straight away it takes you to a fun place. Instantly the event is associated with something cool.

So instead of all these different events using a dozen different (and very boring) names to describe the same type of race format, let’s use ‘Beach Race’ as the common standard, no matter whether it’s at the ISA Worlds or your local club round.

The French have actually been using the name ‘Beach Race’ for years. I think it might have originated at the SUP Race Cup in St. Maxime, one of the longest-running events in the world that began in 2009. There’s even a whole tour in France called the Swell Beach Race Series. Not sure why it never caught on outside France, but perhaps it’s time it did.

“Surf Race” is another name that stirs up images of action and excitement, however it’s kinda limited to certain conditions. Whereas a surf race needs waves, you can apply ‘Beach Race’ equally to a race in the ocean and on a lake. All you need is some water, a ‘beach’ (or something close to it) for the start and finish, and a few buoy turns.

Obviously you can’t just slap on a cool name and expect a race to magically be exciting – you’ve still gotta setup an interesting race format and course alongside running a professional event in general – but I think the name is a symbolic start. The name is also the easiest thing to change.

“The ‘Beach Race’ at the ISA Worlds” certainly sounds a lot more appealing than “The ISA Worlds Technical Course Race,” at least in my opinion.

And either way, I think it would really help our sport if we had a standard name for this one particular (and very popular) type of race format that could be used by all events of all sizes.

So from now, SUP Racer will be using Beach Race as the generic name for any standard short course race that involves a bunch of buoy turns and a ‘beach’ start/finish, and I’d love to see the name officially adopted by some of our sport’s showcase events as well.



‘Beach Race’ is a way cooler name than ‘Technical Course Race’ so let’s just call it that.



¹ For the vast majority of SUP events, organising a professional, safe race that has mass participation, offers athletes a good challenge and gets new paddlers on the water is more than enough to get a gold star. Not every race needs to be “exciting”, and we should celebrate the mass participation distance races just as much as the spectator friendly sprint events.

² I’m only talking about the short course races in this post, not the long distance events. The Carolinas, Lost Mills and Molokais of the world don’t need to change their race names or formats because they’re already winning in other ways. Again; a race doesn’t have to be “exciting” to be a success.

³ Events such as Jamie Mitchell’s Survivor Race, Jacko’s Super Lap and the Pacific Paddle Games have done a great job of creating more exciting formats, however I think it’s something a few other big events, the ISA in particular, need to focus a lot more attention on.

⁴ I’m also starting to think the name of our sport, SUP, could perhaps be improved as well (nobody outside our community knows what ‘SUP’ actually means…) but that’s a whole ‘nother debate.

⁵ TL;DR = “Too long; didn’t read” or in other words: this entire post could have been written in one sentence… I think I’ll be using TL;DR a lot more this year.