Friendly competition takes to the water
In 2011, Chris Brackett, the owner of South Tahoe Standup Paddle, had an idea to start a series of races.
With no real plan, and with his experiences in competitive snowboarding, Brackett modeled the races after USASA snowboarding competitions and put the word out on Facebook.
The first night, 24 people showed up at Reagan Beach to enjoy a little friendly competition, music and food. On the last night, 13 weeks later, 106 paddlers took to the water.
“It was unbelievable, over the top. People were sad when the season was over,” Brackett said.
In 2012, the races moved to El Dorado Beach, and the new sport was starting to gain popularity.
“Now there’s a paddling community,” Brackett said. “It’s not so much about the competitive side of things, it’s just get out there and participate. Something about the energy with everyone else and you just go out there and do your best.”
The course was designed by Brackett and his team and each year is changed slightly to try and improve it.
“It’s about a 2.5-mile course that we’ve perfected. It’s season four now, so it’s really hard for me to come up with a better course design,” Brackett said.
The 2014 season goes for 14 weeks and started May 28, when the beach was lined with 60 paddlers. The sun was getting ready to set and there was a moderate southwesterly wind that slowed many racers’ times, but the wind didn’t put a damper on the competition as the top field of racers darted out to the first buoy. They continued around each one with hairpin turns for 2 2/3 laps to complete the 2.5-mile course. Spectators can watch from the shore and enjoy the commentary and music from a Red Bull truck.
Registration is $20 per entry and opens at 5:30 p.m. Registration is followed by a riders meeting, the national anthem and then racing at 6:30 p.m. The race is commentated, and food is provided for registered paddlers by the Hard Rock Cafe. Each racer is given a raffle ticket for a chance to win prizes after the race. At the end of the season one racer will win a $2,500 board from Lake Shore Paddle Company.
Racers join from all over the country and are divided into divisions based on age and board size. The top three finishers are each awarded a prize.
On June 25, the series race before the Race of the Lake of the Sky, Brackett expects to have the biggest turnout of the year, including professional stand-up paddleboarders. Athletes like Annabel Anderson, Kai Lenny and Candice Appleby are all expected to attend.
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