Stand up paddleboarding hit the main stage this year at Brightons annual Paddle Round the Pier Festival in a big way. Wind, waves and hundreds of spectators.
The SUP Races
This year we had 2 days of competition for stand up paddleboarding including a team race and the sprint race.
Teams from Fanatic, Starboard and the newly formed Jimmy Lewis UK and Ireland crew were lined up alongside teams of independent paddlers looking to grab the prize money.
On the saturday we were met by winds gusting between 20-25 mph with the infamous Brighton shore dump rearing its ugly head. Waves over head-high and a strong rip meant this wasn’t going to be a normal race. We were in for some truly epic action.
The course was originally going to be a 7 mile team slipstream race but due to conditions it was decided to change the game to a 400m relay. Once out round the buoy/boat and back to shore for the changeover.
The race brief covered the new format and highlighted the serious conditions. Those not racing or waiting for change over on the beach were to keep an eye out for anyone struggling to launch or land and offer help where necessary.
The launch was chaos and saw lots of paddlers being hammered by the waves. A strong lead was gained by the Fanatic team and ultimately everyone made it out past the shorebreak.
Seeing 14ft raceboards surfing back in was a real sight but due to the wind direction it often meant a run back up the beach was necessary to relaunch.
The race heated up with the 2 leaders going head to head on the waves to gain valuable position and it became a surf race more than paddle skills.
The vibe on the beach was electric and hundreds of spectators lined the beach and prom to watch the race.
Boards going airborn and paddlers being thrown skyward added to the excitement but ultimately it was a finish people wanted to see.
Fanatic team grabbed a solid 1st place having put in a really strong performance. All teams and riders finished the race with a few cuts and bruises but people were too stoked to care.
The Sprint Races
On the Sunday a sprint race was planned covering 3km. A simple triangle course and beach start was laid out. A single start line was set where both men and women lined up for the mixed event.
The horn sounds and the lineup sprints for the water. Diving onto their boards for a running start, with some slipping into the pebbles and deep water this was a super fun start with plenty of spills.
Phil Plume took an immediate lead for Fanatic with Mark Slater close behind followed by Paolo Marconi, the Italian sup racer for Jimmy Lewis.
The race stretched out quickly as many of the lesser experienced paddlers made their way out.
Heading up to the first buoy and Jimmy Lewis team rider, Paolo Marconi was opening up a convincing lead on the Jimmy Lewis UBoat. Having rounded the buoy he put the power down on the downwind leg and was now in clear water whilst Mark Slater and Phil Plume were battling it out behind. Further back in the field Emily King was holding her own in 1st place for the ladies class.
Finishing the first lap meant a sprint up the beach with board in hand before heading back out for the final lap.
The final lap saw some hard paddling from everyone trying to beat their closest rivals. The short distance meant people had plenty left in the tank to give it a blast at the end which was great to see.
A strong performance was given by Paolo Marconi on his final lap right to the end, with Mark Slater and Phil Plume fighting for 2nd. Emily King held onto her 1st place in the ladies race.
The race format was a huge success with plenty of spectators taking it all in. We need more of this in places like Brighton to get everyone involved. An awesome spectacle.
Paolo Marconi, 1st overall and recent sup racer at Lost Mills said “I have been really impressed by what I have seen in the UK SUP race scene. A great vibe. This is an event I will be coming back to next year.”
If you would like to find out more about the Jimmy Lewis team Paolo races for and how you could become a team rider please check us out at sup boards uk.
Also check out www.paddleroundthepier.com and make sure you get hooked up for next year as it will be bigger and better.
Words and pictures : Ian Phillips