Why I’m going to Kyiv, not Carolina…

 

Travis Grant doing his best Travis Grant impression at last year’s Carolina Cup (photo: @georgiasphoto for The Paddle League)

It’s race day in Carolina. In just a few hours, many of the world’s top athletes and hundreds of weekend warriors will hit the water for a major celebration of the sport in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina.

The Carolina Cup is a classic race filled with classic performances that have produced countless classic stories. But while I’ve enjoyed writing many of those stories over the years, for the first time in half a decade I’m going to be following the event from afar.

Carolina has been one of my favourite stops on the international circuit. I raced the Graveyard in 2014 before returning to live stream the main event in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. I’ve had a lot of fun, met a lot of cool people and made a lot of fond memories in Wrightsville.

Now it’s time to move on.

After I got burnt out from doing too much of the same thing for seven years, I decided to find new events in new frontiers this year. If variety is the spice of life, it’s a critical ingredient in the future of SUP Racer.

(Even though I wasn’t feeling as motivated as previous years, I still offered the organisers to come and cover Carolina live because I believe the race deserves good coverage. In the end, the WPA/APP elite series offered to do a big-budget live stream for free, which is something I simply can’t afford and which made my decision to skip the event fairly easy.)⁣

So instead of booking a room at the Blockade Runner and table at Tower 7, soon I’ll be heading far away to promote a new frontier in our sport.⁣

Next week I’ll be on a plane to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv to help support, promote (and possibly even compete in!) the Kyiv Open.

Kyiv (also known as Kiev) is home to a small but very passionate stand up paddling community. And it’s growing.

I was invited there last year after meeting some of its core community leaders at the GlaGla Race. They’d driven 2,500kms from Ukraine to the French Alps just to participate in that one race, so I figured the least I could do was jump on a plane and return the favour (a roundtrip of 5000kms is just over 3000 miles; it took them three days of driving each way).

I’ve only ever visited Ukraine in the winter though, so I’m pretty excited to explore the city without wearing 18 layers of thermal clothing. It’ll also be nice to go paddling there without having to wear 6mm booties, gloves and a beanie.

This trip is going to be an awesome adventure in a beautiful (and very under-rated) city. But more than that, it’s a chance to promote a new frontier of our sport, which is something I want to focus on a whole lot more with SUP Racer (The Paddle League has a similar mission this year).

The “Kyiv Open” is happening on May 12th. It’s the biggest event of the year in Ukraine and is also a regional stop on The Paddle League.

It won’t feature an epic arm-wrestle between Titou, Travis and Boothy. Sonni and Fiona won’t be on the start line, either. But what it will showcase is dozens and dozens of passionate paddlers who are just as much a part of this great sport as anyone else. And I think that’s something worth supporting.

So good luck to everyone competing in Carolina today, and to everyone in Kyiv: Побачимось!