Beginner SUP Tips: Taking on Your First Race

Beginner SUP Tips: Taking on Your First Race

By Rebecca Parsons

Signing up for your first SUP race can be a daunting task. What type of race should you sign up for? Do you have the correct equipment? Are you ready?

The short answer: probably not. After all, how can you be “ready” for something that’s inherently unpredictable? But the good news is, with proper training, focus and strategy, you can be well prepared. Our suggestion? Bite the bullet of anxious anticipation and just sign yourself up. To make it easier, we’ve rounded up some tips to help you get started. And remember, nothing is as scary as you make it out to be.


Signing up for a race when you’ve never set foot on a paddleboard might not be your best bet, but if you’re up for it, more power to you. The more time you spend on the water, the higher your confidence level will be.

Test out a few boards, try a few starts and practice your buoy turns so that when it comes to race time, you’ll feel ready. Also, make sure to complete a few paddles that are longer than the distance you plan to race. This ensures your fitness level is on par and that you won’t burn out before the finish line.

Race Selection

For your first go, try a shorter flatwater race on a calm lake or in a harbor. Select a distance you feel comfortable with; something in the two- to three-mile range is probably optimal as it gives you a chance to push yourself while still being a manageable distance. If entry fees are of particular worry, there are plenty of free races out there which allow you to test out the racing scene at no cost (visit to find upcoming races in your area).

Set Goals

Set realistic goals for yourself. Winning your first race may be a stretch, but crossing the finish line is an accomplishment any first-timer should feel proud of. After testing the waters, set goals to improve your times, race further distances, and once you feel ready, try an open ocean race.


Before dropping a couple grand on a race board, make sure racing is something you truly want to pursue. Most races offer rentals or demos, allowing you to test different models before investing in a board of your own. If your race doesn’t have boards available, borrow from a friend, or paddle whatever craft you do have, even if it’s an old clunker. Most races require you wear a PFD, but even if they don’t, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Have Fun

If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong. Don’t worry about looking silly or your results. Just go out, try your best, and you’ll only improve from there.

to select the right board and gear for first-time paddlers.

Tips on how to from our 2016 Skills Guide.

The article was originally published on Standup Paddling

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