Trying a new sport can be intimidating and signing up for a race in that new sport is something many people would never attempt. Yet mud runs, century bike races, marathons adventure races with fire and electrical shocks are growing in popularity every year.
I see people signing up for mud runs, adventure races, and half marathons but they never think to enter a paddleboard race. And when I ask them why, they say “That’s only for professionals” or they don’t think they can paddle well enough to participate. I am here to remind you that can you can join a paddleboard race.
The key is to remember that you paddleboard for fun, just like a 10K or mud run. You do these things for fun, exercise, and to get that cool T-shirt that gives you bragging rights. Oh, yeah and you get some vitamin D! Most paddlers are actually not out there to win – they are just trying to get some exercise and better their time from their last race or do better in the turns than they did in the previous race.
Our races at PaddleSplash are designed with beginners in mind. You race on a flat course that is restricted to 5 MPH so you don’t have to worry about any boats. And the last time I checked, there are no sharks! Emergency Medical Services (EMS) is on the water with you at all times making it a safe activity for all, especially kids. The worst thing that can happen to you is falling into the water, and in Sacramento in the summer, that’s a pretty good idea.
Convinced? Well here are some things that I think are important for you to consider if this is your first race.
The Race Course.
A protected body of water with minimal boat traffic is ideal for first time racing. Keep in mind that water conditions can change due to wind, and for rivers and larger bodies of water, you also have to think about the current. When dealing with water, you can’t always just go with the flow and make the best of the situation – you need to be prepared by understanding your conditions so choosing a race course that has fewer chances of dramatic changes in the conditions is your best bet. I recommend picking a race where there are fewer things to worry about when it comes to water conditions – smaller bodies of water, slow moving water, and stable wind conditions. When you advance in your paddling skills, you may opt for the opposite, but to start, focus on your paddle technique and not worry about the conditions during your race, if possible.
As a racer, all races should have proper water safety staff on the water, but unfortunately, this is often not the case. You should choose a race that has the proper safety staff at the race and on the water – this is an indicator of a well run race and a race organization that is thinking about the safety of the racers. In addition, a safety meeting with all participants before the event is a must. This meeting ensures that everyone understands the course and who/ where safety personnel will be posted.
You are probably expecting me to tell you about what board or paddle to bring. Instead, I am here to let you know that Personal Flotation Devices (pdfs) and leashes are required equipment. We aren’t the only ones that want to keep you safe – the Division of Boating and Waterways agency in California thinks these are a must. In fact, they are so passionate about this that they are giving away FREE life vests to any child that participates in the safety demonstrations that are being held at the July PaddleSplash events.
Sunscreen. Is this really equipment – I say, “Yes.” My best friend is a dermatologist and she is always reminding me that we need to protect our skin when in the sun. Our friends at Zinka provide us with lots of fun sunscreen to use for our events – so there is no excuse! Use it! We like sunscreen that is free of weird chemicals and recommend generously putting it on all exposed body part! You can even partner this with a great hat and sunglasses. You will look like you really are a pro!
The final equipment that you need to bring is your water bottle. Too often, people forget to stay hydrated on a body of water. We always have water stations available for you to fill up your water bottles, hydration packs, and bladder packs – and if you ever forget them – just ask us, and we will provide you with water for your race.
And Finally – Just Have Fun.
Guess what?! Everyone who joins the race gets that same t-shirt! So, just do it and have fun. Your time at this race is really only needed for you to try to do better the next time. Do you remember what place you came in at the last mud run you ran? Probably not. But you remember all the fun you had trying to get the mud out of your shoes!
You having fun will help the kids who join have fun – and this is important because our goal is to promote a kids (Groms) paddle boarding program in Northern California.