As the global social and sporting shutdown caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus continues, we’re beginning to see more and more SUP races affected. Europe is increasingly under lockdown, while virtually all countries are enacting draconian restrictions on travel and public gatherings that have made most stand up paddle events impossible to run.
While there’s probably no healthier place to be right now than out on the open ocean away from the crowds, the truth is this is going to get much worse before it gets better, so we need to start planning ahead to ensure our humble little sport doesn’t suffer irreparable damage.
Here are the latest updates as of Monday 17 March. This story is quickly evolving so check back for regular updates…
Previous coverage: “Coronavirus impact on stand up paddle events – updates from 13-15 March“
WEDNESDAY UPDATE: Carolina Cup has been postponed until November
THURSDAY UPDATE: The biennial Yukon 1000 has been postponed until 2021
THURSDAY UPDATE: SUP World Cup in Germany has been cancelled; returns in 2021
Europe is seeing continent-wide travel and event restrictions that have dramatically altered the sporting landscape over the past few days. Here’s the latest…
The Alpine Lakes Tour, home of the famous GlaGla Race, has officially postponed its regional event set for 18 April in the French Alps, the “Canal de Savieres” race.
“La Kelt” ocean race in Finiestere on France’s west coast has also confirmed cancellation. The event was scheduled for 11 April.
Another one of the early European summer events, the big “Azur Paddle Days” in France (3 May), is under pressure as France inches closer to the total-lockdowns we’ve seen first in Italy and now Spain. The event hasn’t been postponed yet but the situation is very fluid right now.
The traditional “European Summer of SUP” is coming under increasing pressure as governments in Europe enact draconian restrictions to stop the spread of the virus. The first stop of the famous EuroTour is just 32 days away – Denmark on 18 April – which may be in doubt considering that country has effectively shut its borders for the next four weeks. An official announcement is expected later this week. Follow The Euro Tour on Facebook for updates.
Looking further ahead, Spain, France, Greece and Germany are set to host major races in May and June. None of these have been cancelled yet, but the combination of international travel restrictions and local event restrictions are forcing organisers to at least consider a “Plan B”.
All races in Spain and Italy in the next 30 days are presumed cancelled (Spain has already postponed five races) as those countries enact extreme social lockdown. Many other countries have banned gatherings of more than 100 people. Austria has restricted any gathering of “five or more people” while Spain and Italy have forced residents indoors. Lockdowns and border closings have become the new norm in Europe over the past 72 hours. The Guardian has an excellent summary of which countries are enforcing what restrictions (basically every country has shut down sporting events).
Events beyond April are taking a “wait and see” approach. But given the increasing severity of restrictions, several SUP events will inevitably be cancelled/postponed. This not only impacts The Euro Tour but also several regional leagues, such as the Alpine Lakes Tour, along with dozens of national titles and local events.
That brings up a critical point: Most European events will look to reschedule in the second half of the year (as opposed to cancelling altogether). This creates both an opportunity and a headache, as we have the option of “postponing” instead of “cancelling” but at the same time run the risk of having several date clashes. Europe needs thorough coordination between the various tours, series, organisations and events across the continent. I’ve reached out to several event and tour organisers to get the ball rolling.
(credit: The Guardian)
One of the biggest cancellations has been the Aloha Spirit Festival in Brazil, which was set to attract nearly 1,000 competitors to the island of Ilhabela next week. Organisers announced today they are already working on alternate dates for later in the year, but like most countries there’s no sign of exactly when life will return to normal, so any re-scheduling at this stage is based more on hope than anything.
All big races in March have been cancelled and that will likely stretch into April as the country grapples with not only the coronavirus but the risk of losing the Olympics in July. The country has effectively shut down all sporting events as it attempts to contain the virus that risks jeopardising the largest sporting event in the world.
The China Paddle League was the first regional league to be hit after the virus started spreading there in January. But China has also been the first nation to begin rebounding in terms of infections, and although life is far from normal right now, my local contacts were confident they’d be able to resume events in the second half of the season so that 2020 doesn’t become a total write-off.
The famous Carolina Cup scheduled for 22-26 April is increasingly in doubt after the state’s Governor ordered all 100-plus-person events cancelled through 13 April. That leaves a very small window for the Cup to run (the Governor’s decree can and likely will be extended).
Compounding the issue, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a major advisory body in the United States, escalated their own recommendation to “No events of 50 or more people anywhere in the U.S. for the next eight weeks.” That is still just an advisory and isn’t mandatory, and I’ve reached out to the Carolina Cup organisers for an update (as of last Friday they were still hopeful of running the event; they’re meeting again today to discuss the situation). Carolina Cup in the half of the season seems increasingly likely.
UPDATE: CAROLINA CUP POSTPONED — the event has officially been pushed back til November.
AUSTRALIA & NEW ZEALAND
The South Pacific has introduced extreme travel restrictions, with Australia and New Zealand both requiring all international arrivals, citizens included, to enter 14 days of self-isolation. Public gatherings of more than 500 have also been banned in most areas while Australia is considering lowering that number to 100. This not only puts events at risk (New Zealand has two international events in April) but will also restrict athletes travelling overseas (though they may not actually have any races to travel to…).
High-performance paddle camps and SUP getaways to exotic destinations are fast becoming a niche industry, with several paddlers supplementing their relatively limited competition income with coaching and hosting gigs across the world. But those are now starting to be pulled as well, with Lincoln Dews’ “Blackfish Performance Camp” in Thailand being pushed back to November, and James Casey’s foiling camp at the Chase Kosterlitz-hosted Blue Zone surf retreat in Costa Rica also cancelled.
Last week’s updates on events in Australia, Canada, China, El Salvador, Hungary, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Thailand, USA, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and Spain can be found here: “Coronavirus impact on stand up paddle events – updates from 13-15 March”
The situation continues to escalate day-by-day. While there’s no real point in cancelling anything beyond the next 30 days right now, we have to begin at least planning for a backup, especially in Europe where I predict a major backlog of races later in the year. While most sports have an actual governing body directing their response, that job has been left to the stand up paddling community. So it’s time to put any differences aside and work together.
On the flipside, this whole saga may have the bonus of pushing more paddlers towards organising and supporting smaller local races. So this whole coronavirus saga may have the unintended consequence of reinforcing the grassroots strength of our sport. Maybe.
Check back regularly for news, and if you know of any other events being cancelled or postponed please leave a comment on Facebook
And finally, on a slightly brighter note: If you’re looking for something to pass the time while you’re stuck in self-isolation, we just released our documentary about the 715km-long Yukon River Quest.
“Chased by the Midnight Sun” is an hour-long journey about the hallucinations and adventures of this extreme race. We dedicated the online premiere to our paddling friends in Italy who’ve been living under lockdown.