May 1, 2015
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

Rainbow Sandals Just Cancelled The Battle Of The Paddle: Now What?

Battle of the Paddle has been cancelled

Just minutes ago, Rainbow Sandals head honcho Jay “Sparky” Longley sent the following email to the paddling community, announcing the cancellation of the 2015 Battle of the Paddle and putting the entire future of the iconic race in limbo.

Sparky and his Rainbows Sandals team created the BOP in 2008 and have largely funded it every year since. Literally overnight, the Battle became the biggest race in the sport. It was the sport. The BOP was the one race a year that every elite paddler showed up at. It was the Super Bowl of SUP.

The Battle of the Paddle has been the anchor that gives the entire SUP racing season a foundation, however suddenly that anchor has been raised and the sport cast adrift. Suddenly, there’s a very big hole in the calendar.

UPDATE: Thank You For The Memories, Sparky (a video tribute to the BOP)

You can read the full text below but the reason for this announcement is fairly simple: It costs a LOT of money to host the Battle of the Paddle. There are probably very few paddlers that realise or appreciate just how much the BOP has cost Rainbow Sandals. Sure, it’s been an amazing party and it’s given the brand priceless marketing, but the company has lost a lot of money from this event every single year.

So what now? And is this a blessing in disguise?

I spoke with the organisers moments ago but they asked to wait until next week before we do an official interview. That won’t stop the speculation mounting over the next few days though – this is major news and no doubt every paddler and his dog will have an opinion.

The Battle of the Paddle hasn’t been entirely killed off with this announcement, it’s just that Rainbow Sandals won’t be the ones organising/funding it, at least not this year. There’s a slim hope the event will still go ahead in October under new management, however that’s unlikely at this stage.

Personally I think an outside group will make a bid for the “Battle of the Paddle” naming rights and try to resurrect it from 2016 onwards. And that may actually be a good thing: The BOP has been an amazing race that’s given our sport so much – we should all be eternally grateful to Sparky and his team for what they’ve done for us – but the event was also getting a little stale.

Salt Creek reinvigorated things somewhat but what’s always been missing is a great media package, particularly one that includes a quality live webcast for the interstate/international fans. The BOP had a live stream for a couple of years while the event has also flirted with TV deals from time to time, however it seems media has never been a huge priority for organisers.

Perhaps now someone will step up and fill that role? The potential is certainly there – if the spectacle of Salt Creek can’t get the mainstream excited about our sport, there’s little hope for every other race out there – we just need a group with a bit of cash to burn and the right connections to make it happen.

And perhaps this hole in the calendar will give other great events the chance to shine. The BOP was a grand spectacle but it also overshadowed every other race out there. It was becoming *too* important in some ways. If the Battle takes a year off (and let’s hope it’s no longer than that), it may allow other great races the necessary room to breathe and develop.

But no matter what happens, one thing is for certain: You’re going to hear a lot more about this over the coming days and weeks. This is definitely a developing story…

To the SUP & Paddleboard Community,

After nine amazing Battle of the Paddle events in California and Hawaii we are saddened to announce that the Rainbow Sandals will not be hosting the event for 2015.

The BOP has enjoyed incredible growth since it’s inception, however, the economics of producing the event have become overwhelming and unsustainable for Rainbow Sandals, Inc.

Please know that the BOP has been an amazing journey and experience for everyone involved.

We thank all past competitors, sponsors and exhibitors for the tremendous support and participation. In addition, we want to acknowledge all local permitting agencies and safety personnel for allowing us to have such an event and making it safe for everyone to compete.

And lastly, we want to express genuine gratitude to all volunteers and event staff for your generous service and effort making the BOP one of the greatest water sporting events ever.

We sincerely appreciate everyone’s love and support in this great endeavor and look forward to seeing you out on the water soon.

Much Aloha

Jay “Sparky” Longley and Gerry Lopez