September 30, 2014
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

The SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS: A New Way To Follow, Analyse And Cheer On This Great Sport Of Ours

stand up paddle formula

UPDATE: The first ever SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS have just been revealed…


So I’ve been working on a secret project for the past two years that I’d like to tell you about… It’s something I believe could have a big impact on the world of stand up paddle racing and I’m really excited to see what you think.

In a couple of days I’m going to reveal the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS: A new way to follow, analyse and cheer on this great sport of ours. And I hope it’s going to become the most in-depth, accurate and fair ranking of the world’s best stand up paddlers.

Ever since I was a little kid I’ve been obsessed with the numbers of sport. From a young age I started memorising all kinds of records, rankings and leaderboards. I could list the surfing world champ from every year. I could tell you how many weeks each tennis player had spent ranked number one in the world. I knew every gold medalist in the 100 metres. I was a total stats geek.

In short, I’ve always loved sport and I’ve always loved numbers. Combine the two and I’m in heaven (it’s probably bordering on OCD actually).

However, since I turned my obsession to SUP racing a few years ago I’ve found one thing severely lacking in this sport: There are no legitimate world rankings to follow…

When it comes to ranking the world’s best paddlers, up until now it’s pretty much just been “Who won the Battle?”

I tried to bring some order to the chaos with the Top 11/12/13 annual lists, but those were based just as much on my gut feeling as actual numbers. The Stand Up World Series and Champions Tour got halfway there, but their respective leaderboards both ignore the results from a dozen or so major races.

Carolina Cup photos

What I’ve really wanted to see is a legit world rankings system, one that uses an unbiased formula to rank all the top paddlers, across ALL the big SUP races, to see who ranks where. Because numbers don’t lie.

Who’s world number one? Who’s rising? Who’s falling? How many points does this paddler need to leapfrog that paddler? I want a legit world rankings to follow, to analyse, to cheer on.

This is the kind of thing I love about other sports and I want the SUP racing community to have that same opportunity.

Apparently I’m not the only one: After chatting with hundreds of paddlers – from the elite guys and girls to weekend warriors to team managers and sponsors to armchair fans of the sport – one thing has become clear: SUP racing really needs a proper world ranking system. It would add a small but significant piece of clarity to such a young and disorganised sport.

So I decided that with my love of SUP racing, my obsession with stats and this unique view of the sport I’m lucky enough to have, I might as well give it a shot.

Though a quick disclaimer: I’m not trying to replace any existing tours or crown any new world champions or anything like that at all. I simply want to create an independent, unbiased, unified world ranking of the best paddlers based on the biggest and best events.

Gorge Paddle Challenge men's elite race

I’ve actually been working on this project behind the scenes for over two years: I first hinted at the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS on New Year’s Day, 2013. Yes, I was planning to reveal these rankings over 18 months ago, however I wasn’t satisfied that the formula and the results were accurate enough at the time. So at the last second I pulled the pin, went back to the drawing board and started all over again.

Because I don’t want this to be just another points table, I want the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS to be THE most definitive, accurate, unbiased and fair ranking of the world’s elite guys and girls we can possibly get.

I want these world rankings to truly reflect who the fastest paddlers are, who’s in form, who’s rising and who’s falling. I want the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS to be next level. Not just compared to what currently exists in the world of stand up paddling, but compared to the world ranking systems that exist in major, professional sports as well.

That’s why, after closely studying a dozen different professional sports and their respective world rankings, I’ve come up with a complete formula from scratch. The SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS system includes points tables, event weightings, race indexes and more, all of which have been tailor made for the unique world of SUP racing.

Lost Mills SUP race Germany

It’s been a monumental project that I’ve spent hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours refining and perfecting. I’ve stared at endless spreadsheets listing virtually every single paddler that’s ever participated in any major race around the world. This has been far and away the most intensive part of the journey. At times I felt like I was looking up at one of those giant chalk boards covered in numbers and formulas…

But now, finally, it’s ready.

The SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS will be revealed at 11am on Thursday, October 2nd. Two days before the biggest race of the year.

Rainbow Sandals Battle of the Paddle

So how does it work?

I could literally write an essay on the formula and theory behind the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS, but the basic idea is this: Paddlers score points at every major race and then add up their best results from the past twelve months to get their total ranking points. The more points you have, the higher your world ranking.

Pretty simple.

At least on the surface…

Behind the scenes there’s a virtual machine that takes into account all sorts of different factors and variables, with the goal of making the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS the most in-depth, accurate and fair world ranking system possible.

Digging a little deeper there are a few key points:

– The SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS is a rolling, 12-month system, so any race from the previous 365 days will count. Like what you’d find in the tennis world rankings. After an event is more than a year old, it’s dropped from the rankings entirely.

– Only a paddler’s best handful of results will count, so you don’t have to travel the world every month to be competitive in the rankings.

– Only the two dozen or so biggest races will qualify for this system. There are over 700 races every year – scoring every one of them would seriously dilute the rankings (and give me a rather large headache as well). A race will need to have a minimum level-of-competition (see the ‘Race Index’ below) in order to qualify for the rankings.

– If you finish top 50 at a major race, you’ll score points towards the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS, so this isn’t just reserved for super elite paddlers.

– The harder a race is to win, the more points you get for winning.

And it’s this last point that is the key here… It’s what makes this whole system unique and, at least in my opinion, extremely fair and accurate.


There are two parts to the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS:

We start with a standard points table, like you’d expect from any world rankings system.

A win is worth 100 points, 50th place is worth 1 point. Everything else fits somewhere in between, with a sliding scale that gives a significant reward to those who finish near the front.

But that’s only half of the equation…

Next comes the ‘Race Index’ that determines how competitive (and therefore how difficult) each individual event is. The more competitive the field, and therefore the harder the race is to win, the more points that will be on offer.

This Race Index score is based on how many of the current Top 50 ranked paddlers are competing. If every one of the top 50 is racing, that event scores a Race Index of 100%. The higher a paddlers’s current ranking, the heavier weighting they lend to an event. So for example the current world #1 will contribute significantly more to an event’s ‘Race Index’ score than the paddler who’s ranked 50th.

Every race will probably be worth a unique amount of points and you’ll get significantly more points for placing Top 50 in the big races (Battle of the Paddle, Carolina Cup, Gorge Paddle Challenge, etc) than your average, second-tier event. Every single race in the world will get a ‘Race Index’ percentage score from 0-100, however only those above a certain threshold (currently set at 20%) will count towards the WORLD RANKINGS.

This ‘Race Index’ percentage gets multiplied with the basic points table to determine how many WORLD RANKING points each paddler receives at each different event. So for example: If the ‘Race Index’ is 80%, then the winner receives 80 points (100 base points x 80% Race Index) towards the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS, while 50th place receives 0.8 points (1 point x 80%).

Carolina Cup (8)

Yes, it’s a bit of a mind bender. However I assure you that you don’t actually need to know any of this in order to follow the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS. I’m just explaining all this up front in order to highlight how in-depth (and hopefully accurate) my methodology is.

On the surface, the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS will be very straight forward and easy to follow: A simple ranking leaderboard of the top paddlers in the world, showing how many points they’ve scored over the past 12 months.

And you’ll get to see the very first edition of the SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS on Thursday at 11am California time.

After that, the rankings will be updated directly following every major race, starting this Sunday night following the Battle of the Paddle. And because it’s a rolling 12 month system, the world rankings will never end. They’ll be continually updated and paddlers will continually move up and down the order.

As I said, we’re not trying to crown a world champion or create a new tour or anything like that. I just want this to be a fun, interesting and very accurate way to follow the sport and to rank the awesome paddlers that train hard and go fast.

The SUP RACER WORLD RANKINGS – stay tuned on Thursday for the grand unveiling. I hope you’re even half as excited about this as I am…