Here’s Why I’ve Been Chatting to the World’s Best Paddlers This Week About Their ‘Season 2017’ Race Schedules

 
Pacific Paddle Games

World’s best. (photo: Andrew Welker/SUP Racer)

One of the many things I love about our sport is that it’s constantly evolving – every year we see new athletes and events revitalising the world of stand up paddleboarding with fresh energy and excitement – but while it’s great to have so much activity around the world, it can be hard to keep track of what’s really happening.

What are the big races? Who are the top athletes? Who’s in form and who’s falling?

That’s why I created the SUP Racer World Rankings and Race Index¹ a few years ago, because in a sport as fragmented as ours, I wanted a way to measure both the best paddlers and the most competitive events. And even though it’s just one part of a much larger ecosystem, I’m pretty happy with the impact the World Rankings have had over the past few years.

But just like the rest of the sport, the rankings system is constantly evolving. Last year I introduced star ratings, and in ‘Season 2017’ I plan on taking things a step further.

The basic idea of the star ratings is to set an accurate Race Index score in advance so that athletes know which events will be worth points and the fans and brands know which events to follow. I think it not only gives the sport a certain bit of structure but also paints an interesting picture of the international race scene for the paddling community.

Of course, these predictions are only possible if I know exactly which races the top athletes are going to be at — there are dozens of big events around the world and even the most travel-happy athletes can’t do them all. So over the past few days, I’ve chatted with every single one of the top 50 ranked guys and asked them to fill in a quick survey² about their season schedule.

(I’m sending the same survey to the top 30 women on Friday.)

The response so far has been awesome: 47 of the top 50 guys responded, including every single one of the top 20 athletes, which gives me a very accurate insight into the coming season. In turn, this makes the star ratings and the whole SUP Racer World Rankings system even more accurate, which hopefully means it’s even more interesting and entertaining for you and others in the community to follow.

I’ll reveal the results of the survey³ and announce the ‘Season 2017’ star ratings next week – after the women have had their say – but a few themes are already emerging.

#1. The ‘Majors’ are as major as ever
#2. The APP World Tour is buzzing
#3. The Euro Tour has momentum

And a fourth theme that’s rather exciting: For the first time, we’re going to see more than three races score higher than 50% on the Race Index in a single season. Last year it was the PPGs, the Gorge and Carolina but this year we should have at least half a dozen BIG events.

There are also a few surprises in the stats, with a couple of races set for much better scores than I anticipated, while a couple of other events will drop off quite significantly (one in particular was a bit of a shock).

I expect around 28 events to secure ‘star ratings’ and form the basis of Season 2017. These races will become the 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 star events, which gives them a guaranteed minimum of 20%, 30%, 40%, 50% or 60% on the Race Index⁴.

Almost all events will be rated solely on the anticipated level of competition (based on results of the athlete survey), while a small handful will be given elevated status due to other important factors such as prestige and challenge (eg. Molokai).

And just like last year, any non-star rated event can still ‘qualify’ for the World Rankings if it attracts enough top talent, though I doubt there will be many (if any) big events popping up that aren’t already on the radar⁵.

Anyway, I’ll save the all the details for the announcement on Tuesday 21st Friday 24th. I might even reveal the list on a fun little Facebook Live session in case you’ve got any questions about how all this works.

One thing’s for sure: It’s going to be a very big, exciting and busy season of racing around the world. Buckle up!

 


 

TL;DR
I’ve been chatting with all the top paddlers about their 2017 race schedules, with the results helping me calculate the ‘star ratings’ that underpin the SUP Racer World Rankings; full announcement next week.

 


 
 

¹ The 2016 Race Index is the unique, algorithmic foundation for the entire World Rankings system; each race in the world is rated from 0-100% based on the level of competition. The more top athletes that are on the start line, the higher the event’s Race Index score and the bigger impact it has on the rankings. The higher an athlete’s ranking, the more weighting they contribute to the Race Index. The top 50 ranked athletes contribute to the men’s Race Index; top 30 contribute to the women’s.

² I tried doing a similar ‘survey’ last year but didn’t implement it very smoothly, so this year I just sent each athlete a simple Google Form that listed 34 races – the ones I already knew were “on the radar” of being international level events – with a YES, NO or MAYBE check box below each one. The whole survey took the guys no more than 2 minutes to fill in, which helps explain the 94% response rate.

³ Some athletes don’t want their race schedules made public, so I’ll only be talking about the overall survey results and not the schedules of any individual athletes.

⁴ The Race Index score, star ratings and points on offer in each race are all aligned, eg. a 5-star event scores a minimum of 50% on the Race Index and therefore awards the winner at least 50.00 ranking points. Keep in mind these are minimums, i.e. if an event attracts a huge lineup of talent it can theoretically go as high as 100% (the PPGs set an all-time record last year at 92.5%).

⁵ The minimum required Race Index score will increase from 15% to 20% so that it’s better aligned with the star ratings.