The Carolina Cup Is Now One Of The Most Significant Races On The Calendar
The Carolina Cup, held in humble little Wilmington, North Carolina, is fast becoming not only one of the biggest races on the calendar, but one of the most significant events in the entire world of SUP racing, period.
And I say that not only because I believe the 2014 elite race will be one of the most exciting contests of the year (it will: Danny, Travis, Jamie, Georges, Connor, Slater, etc. will be duking it out – in fact it might just be the second most competitive race in the world this year, after only the BOP), or because luminaries such as Dave Kalama, Jimmy Terrell and Larry Cain will be doing clinics, or because pretty much every major brand will have a presence there, but also because the event will have HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of recreational paddlers competing. And it’s those hundreds of paddlers that are driving this humble little sport of ours.
In just three short years (which, granted, is actually a lifetime in the fledgling sport of stand up paddle racing), the Carolina Cup has quickly grown from a key regional race, to the biggest race on the East Coast, to one of the most important races in the entire United States, to now being on the verge of becoming one of the biggest and most important races in the entire world, period.
Just look at the numbers…
2011 Carolina Cup: 162 competitors
(Harbor Island 3.5 mile: 55 paddlers; Money Island 6.5 mile: 48 paddlers; Graveyard 12.5 mile: 59 paddlers)
2012 Carolina Cup: 287 competitors
(Harbor Island 3.5 mile: 76 paddlers; Money Island 6.5 mile: 123 paddlers; Graveyard 12.5 mile: 88 paddlers)
2013 Carolina Cup: 429 competitors
(Harbor Island 3.5 mile: 118 paddlers; Money Island 6.5 mile: 188 paddlers; Graveyard 12.5 mile: 123 paddlers)
2014 Carolina Cup: ???
So the 2013 Carolina Cup had over 400 competitors. That’s a lot. And these numbers don’t even include all the kids’ races either. Could 2014 break the 500 barrier? Probably (organisers threw up the number 700 last month). But no matter what the final number, we can be pretty sure there are going to be hundreds and hundreds of stand up paddlers descending on Wilmington next month.
Along with events like the Gorge Paddle Challenge in Hood River, Tahoe’s Race The Lake of the Sky (aka the Feel Good Race of the Summer), OluKai, the Hanohano in San Diego and races such as the Lost Mills in Europe, the Carolina Cup has joined the Battle of the Paddle in being considered a “mass participation” event.
And it’s these “mass-participation” events, where elite paddlers race alongside hundreds of rec warriors, where legends of the sport give up their time to help the newbies, where the brands all want to have a tent because they know it’s priceless exposure, that are helping drive the sport.
Because stand up paddle racing is not pro surfing. It’s nowhere near that level yet and quite possibly never will be. This is not some ultra-professional, millions-of-screaming-fans, media-based sport. This is a participation-based sport. Even if you’ve never paddled before, at 90% of SUP races you can hop on a board and paddle the exact same course (or something very similar) as Danny Ching or Annabel Anderson. Try following Kelly Slater out at 15ft Pipe…
While so many other sports are exclusive, in SUP racing you can be a part of the event alongside the world’s best.
In short: What’s currently driving SUP racing as a sport are the hundreds of weekend warriors that turn up to events like the Carolina Cup, to race alongside the big names, to share the stoke and generally have a lot of fun. And so I believe these are the events we need to support.
Which is exactly why I just changed my travel plans for next month, spent two grand on an airfare from Australia and decided to come check out the 2014 Carolina Cup in person for the first time. And I can’t wait.