The start of a SUP race can make or break your day on the water. In elite racing, falling off your board at the start means you’re instantly behind. It’s not much fun seeing the top guns sprint away while you’re clambering to get back on. Unless you’re a very strong paddler, your race could be over quite literally before it begins.
Sometimes a bad start is entirely the paddler’s fault: Too nervous, inexperienced or whatever the reason may be. However far too often it’s not the paddler’s fault at all, which makes things that much more frustrating. I’ve seen quite a few races where, to put it politely, the starts sucked.
Competitors packed together too tightly. Confusing starting sequence. No penalty for false starts. Bad placement of the first buoy. Inaudible horn/gun/guy screaming “Go” … The list is rather long. And I’m not talking about your local beach race either: Some of the most high profile races in the world have screwed this up. Just ask any elite racer and they’ll tell you some horror stories.
I should note that a LOT of events and race directors do a terrific job in what is usually a difficult environment. Remember that SUP racing isn’t exactly the 100 metres at the Olympics; we’re often dealing with variables outside our control, such as wind, water and a shit tonne of eager and excited competitors that just can’t help but creep forward right before the start.
But still, this is a sore point for a lotta paddlers and can have a serious impact on some serious events, so it’s worth taking the time to get it right.
Well anyway now the SUP Athletes Association has an interesting article on the subject. There’s some good reasoning on why a clean, fair start is important. However instead of just whining, they actually also have a few good ideas to solve it.
Check out the full article on the SUPAA website and see what you think.
On a side note: I do believe there’s a fine line between making a race fair and taking away from the spectacle of a tight race. Ideally we could have both: Make the start clean and fair but still keep the race close and exciting.
What do you reckon?