A personal challenge can come in many forms; a ‘Race for Life’, a half marathon or perhaps a full marathon. Today we are increasingly seeing SUP as the perfect vehicle for these inspiring challenges, grasping peoples imagination where other sports miserably failed. Earlier this month we heard about how SUP surfer Will Rogers quite unnaturally became inspired by a SUP race challenge. This week Swansea resident Jay Doyle shares the inspirational story of the personal challenge ahead of her.
There is nothing like inertia to scupper ambition. It’s easy to fantasise about doing something a bit out of the ordinary, setting yourself a personal challenge to achieve something remarkable. And while you know the rewards will be worth the effort, finding the motivation and commitment to break from your comfort zone to even get started, can be an achievement in itself.
My challenge – It’s just over a month since I decided to set my own ambitious challenge: to compete in the BSUPA National Championships race at Watergate, Cornwall in October 2013. Over the past few weeks it has gradually become clear that my naive visions of what this challenge would entail, and the reality of it, are starkly different.
A friend of mine, aware of my aim, recently sent me a link to the SUPboarder website and the blog of Will Rogers, who has set himself a similar challenge. This has been a great source of inspiration to me, and it’s comforting to know that my goal maybe isn’t so crazy after all.
I was inspired to set myself the challenge after watching a couple of friends compete in the recent ISA World Championships in Peru. It seemed like such an amazing experience, a once in a lifetime opportunity. They worked so hard to get there, and this made me consider how relatively little effort I put into a sport which I am passionate about. SUP boarding is the only sporting activity I’ve tried which I have actually stuck at. I am a fickle and faddy person by nature, but I can’t imagine ever tiring of the wonderful experience of SUP boarding. That said, I have never really pushed myself to progress beyond a level I think I am capable of, if only I put in the hours. I live in Swansea, South Wales, and even though I have the ocean and some of the best surf breaks in the UK on my doorstep, I can’t seem to capture enough enthusiasm to really go for it and reach a level I feel happy with. So many times I have told myself I am going to push myself to improve. And then I don’t. I am not a lazy person, but I have never been a particularly sporty person, and certainly not competitive. I once feigned an ankle injury in a school sack race because I couldn’t be bothered to finish, and heading for the fairy cakes on the nearby fete stall seemed a much better idea. I was only 7, though.
A dose of reality as with any challenge, it’s wise to set out your expectations based on a reality check of your current state. As a moderately fit SUP boarder, who doesn’t own a race board, whose paddle has seen better days (it has lately started letting in water), and with no real racing experience, the reality check is somewhat unsettling and this challenge has all the hallmarks of a bad ending.
Although I have been SUP boarding for more than 5 years, the racing element of the sport hasn’t really appealed to me that much. It just seems too hard. I have only entered one race, which was more for fun than competition. I came third in the female class. That doesn’t sound so bad, until I mention there were only 3 females in the race.
So based on my past performance, and my current state of fitness, I know that I have an incredible amount of progress to make if I am to stand any chance of achieving a decent performance at Watergate. The personal goal I have set myself is to finish the race in a time that I’m proud of – and preferably not to come last again.
Stamina is a big challenge for me, both in a physical and psychological sense, and this is something I have to confront head-on. Like my counterpart-in-training, Will Rogers, I seem to lack the gene which rewards extreme physical exertion with a buzz. I have painfully endured 10k races and overheard competitors declare elation as the endorphins hit, while I just battled on wondering when the hell mine would kick in. To me, that feeling is a mythical euphoria I’ll never experience.
I don’t particularly like running, or exercise in general for that matter.
A fitness-fanatic friend once told me it’s because I “haven’t yet found the right exercise for me”. And I told her “No – it’s because I don’t like exercise”.
But my determination to buck this trend and compete at Watergate seems to be steadfast. There are basics to overcome and advanced techniques to master: efficient paddle stroke, correct stance, turning, riding a beast of a board through big swell, endurance and stamina – these are all things which I need to get to grips with. And fast. Oh, and I need a race board. And a decent paddle.
Writing about this experience and sharing it with others is also very motivating; I have now declared my challenge to the wider community, and therefore I have to see it through. Unless I feign an injury again like in the school sack race.
The training – I am fortunate to have friends in the local SUP community who are very supportive and encouraging of my ambition. They even lend me their race boards, which is invaluable. One friend in particular is a great race training coach: hardcore and relentless in training sessions, which is exactly what I need. Just when I think I can’t paddle anymore, when my body seems to have turned to jelly and my back feels like it will break in two, he makes me do “just one more lap around that buoy”. In return I throw him a cold stare and paddle off in pain and anger. I just want to stop and eat some chocolate. Maybe some cake…
To help build my cardiac strength I run every other day. My initial idea of running along the flat promenade at a comfortable pace for an hour or so has been thrown out the window. This wouldn’t be enough to achieve the level of strength and stamina I need to compete, so hills, sand dunes and other hellish terrain are now part of the training programme. As for the paddling, I get out on the water and distance-paddle and practice techniques whenever I get the opportunity. I’m lucky to have the beach and also the 48k River Tawe very close, but the extreme weather and high winds have been so bad lately that it’s a real challenge just to get my board down to the water.
One of my main challenges is my upper body strength – or rather lack of it – which I know I need to vastly improve. There are times in race training when I feel so devoid of strength that no matter how much effort I’m putting into the paddle stroke, it seems as though the board hardly moves and I’m not getting anywhere. If you’ve ever had one of those nightmares where you’re trying to run up stairs that turn to gooey marshmallow, you’ll know what I mean. It’s times like these when I panic about racing at Watergate as I’m clearly not cut out for this kind of thing. That’s my despondent, self-pitying side. Thankfully the other side of me is less forgiving and tells me to toughen up – and just paddle…
The gear – Relying on kind friends to lend me equipment is not always practical, so I need to buy my own race board. The savings jar I’ve placed on the kitchen table is not looking very promising (contents currently stand at £7.73 and a Polo mint). I think a second-hand board is the best I can hope to afford, and which one to get is a dilemma. I want to race in the 12’6 class, so the size of the board isn’t much of a debate, but I feel bamboozled by the different specs out there.
My basic wish list is simple: I want a board that’s stable, light – and fast. While I realise that a board will only be as fast as its rider, state-of-the-art equipment is an advantage. I’m trying out different boards to find ‘the one’ for me, and I’ll keep topping up the savings jar and hope that within a couple of months I’ll be training on my new board and feeling a lot fitter, more confident and clued up.
I have recently signed up for the amateur 7 mile race at Paddle Round the Pier in July, as part of a team. This will be a great midway test of performance, and being in a team with good friends who I can train with regularly is a good motivator too.
Looking ahead – For the most part I find this challenge daunting and, at times, terrifying. But it’s also an exciting adventure. For a long time I have felt the urge to do something a bit out of the ordinary, and finally I am doing it. I have considered the very real prospect of doing quite badly at Watergate, despite all my efforts, but I’m over it. No matter how I perform, at the very least I’ll emerge from the experience a much-improved SUP boarder, and that is not a bad place to finish.
I’ll keep you posted…
Want to share your world? SUPboarder is looking for people who want to share their SUP life to inspire, encourage or just simply share. Do you feel like you have what it takes? If so, contact us…