February 13, 2014
by Christopher Parker (@wheresbossman)

The Ugly, Hidden Side Of SUP Racing: Too Many Events Are Failing To Pay Out Prize Money On Time

Stand Up World Series HuntingtonI wish I didn’t have to write this post. Nobody likes whinging about money. Elite paddlers don’t race to try and get rich, they race because they love paddling, they love exploring new destinations and they love the camaraderie of the paddling community. They love having fun. If anyone was trying to earn a cosy life from being a professional stand up paddler, they’d obviously be in the wrong sport.

And in fact the vast majority of SUP races don’t even offer prize money. They don’t need to. Most races can attract plenty of paddlers simply because the event is going to be a fun time on the water.

However if an event does decide to offer prize money, whether it’s $2,000 or $20,000, then you’d kinda expect that it would be paid to the winners on time. But no, unfortunately that doesn’t always happen…

While the vast majority of race organisers do a great job, there are still far too many events (including some of the biggest races in the world) that are failing to pay on time or, in extreme cases, not paying at all. This is obviously hurting our sport and needs to be resolved, so the SUP Athletes Association have taken a closer look at the issue. Their post set tongues wagging on Facebook this morning, however instead of just banging on drums and complaining, SUPAA has actually come up with some logical, reasonable solutions to the problem, solutions that could help SUP racing become a better and healthier sport.

It’s not exactly breaking news that some events have failed to pay prize money on time (or failed to pay at all in extreme cases). Although it’s often not talked about in public (it’s a bit of a taboo for some reason), the whole prize money payment issue is the worst kept secret in SUP racing. The whole thing has become so common that it’s now a meme for elite paddlers to compare notes at each new event and see how much everyone is owed from the last one.

Again, no paddler races for the money, but if a race wants to advertise prize money in order to attract paddlers, there is a very basic moral (and legal) obligation to pay that prize money on time and in full. On time means paying straight after the race or within the next week. Not the next month. Not six months later.

SUPAA’s article, penned by its President Chase Kosterlitz, is titled “The Ugly Truth About Prize Money” and looks at this growing problem in more detail, before offering a pretty good solution.

READ THE  FULL ARTICLE: “The Ugly Truth About Prize Money”

I recommend you take a look at the whole article, but if you’re a race organiser that wants to put on a professional race with prize money, it’s pretty straightforward what you should do:

1. Pay out the prize money immediately after the event if by cheque or cash, or within seven days if by wire. Paddlers shouldn’t have to wait months to get paid and they definitely shouldn’t have to chase you and constantly remind you pay up what you promised.

2. Advertise the total prize money amount well in advance (like 2-3 months in advance) and don’t change it to a lower amount before, during or after the event.

3. Don’t offer prize money based on how many paying competitors you expect. That’s a recipe for disaster, as you may get a lower turnout than expected.

4. Don’t offer prize money based on “potential” sponsorships, or sponsorship dollars that you’re going to receive several months after an event has finished.

5. If worst comes to worst and you simply cannot pay the race winners on time or in full, don’t leave the paddlers wondering what’s happening. Be honest and up front, admit you made a mistake, and give a firm timeline on when they can expect to be paid (and stick to it). Hopefully this option doesn’t have to be used, but if something goes wrong and you can’t pay, honesty and transparency will go a long way towards saving your event the following year. There have been several cases of race organisers severely testing the patience of paddlers by stringing them along with broken promise after broken promise, or being vague about the reasons why the prize money wasn’t available. That’s unacceptable.

Prize money isn’t necessary at every race. It’s not a necessary element for a fun, exciting, successful event. In fact out of the hundreds of events on the calendar, I’d say about 80% offer no prize money whatsoever. And most of those do just fine without it.

SUPAA and the elite paddlers aren’t saying that prize money is necessary, or that they want more prize money for being full time athletes, or anything like that. All SUPAA is suggesting is that if an event is offering prize money, then it should be paid in full and on time. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Offering prize money can be a great way to grow your event by attracting big name paddlers, who in turn attract hundreds of weekend warriors that are stoked to paddle alongside, learn from and just generally hang out with their heroes. But if you f**k up the prize money, it’ll create negativity and bad feeling around your race, which will hurt you most in 12 months time when you’re trying to attract paddlers to your next event. If you can’t guarantee you’ll be able to pay, don’t offer it in the first place.

I saw a couple of comments on Facebook about how the pro athletes shouldn’t expect big prize money in such a new sport, but those commentators are totally missing the point of SUPAA’s article. This isn’t about expecting or demanding higher prize money amounts, it’s about holding race organisers accountable and ensuring that paddlers get paid what they were promised in a timely matter.

I put “debate” in the slug of this article but really there is no debate. If a race advertises prize money to attract more paddlers to the event, then organisers have a very simple and basic obligation: Pay the winners on time and in full.

Nobody wants to turn this into a witch-hunt and scare race organisers away from offering big prize purses, but nobody wants to travel around the world and then be told they’ve gotta wait months and months to get paid either.

It sucks to see race organisers put on an event out of the love of the sport, only to get messed around by a sponsor and end up having to foot the prize money bill out of their own pocket. But unfortunately that’s the risk of being a race organiser. And if there really is a problem, just remember point 5 above: Be honest and transparent and I guarantee paddlers will be patient & understanding. Treat them like idiots and they won’t be.

Anyway check out the full article on SUPAA’s website and see what you think…

Hopefully the guidelines that SUPAA offers as a solution are picked up by all major races and this whole drama becomes a thing of the past.

Again, most races don’t need to offer prize money. In fact I believe some events are better off without it;

One of the biggest races in California recently asked my opinion about offering prize money – they’d previously offered none but had the chance to put up five figures this year thanks to a big new sponsor. I told them not to go down that route and to stick with having zero prize money, because offering $$ would totally change the grassroots, good-natured vibe of their race. Plus the money from that new sponsor could be better spent elsewhere on the event, which would improve the race for every single competitor, not just the elite few who were in contention to win the cash.

So prize money isn’t necessary. However if you do decide to offer it, please make sure you can afford to pay it out.

Nobody enjoys whinging about money and I’m sure Chase wishes that article didn’t have to be written. But unfortunately it did. The elite guys & girls in the world of SUP racing just wanna go paddle and have fun, but if they paddle hard and win a race, they deserve what you promised them.

READ THE  FULL ARTICLE: “The Ugly Truth About Prize Money”