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On Sunday 14th April, the UK’s best attended stand up paddle board (SUP) event took place in Totnes, South Devon, with 263 paddleboarders registered for the annual Head of the Dart SUP Challenge. This follows on from the rowing event the day prior, both of which for the second year running saw event organisers altering the course last minute for paddler safety due to challenging, windy conditions.

This event is the season’s opener, with paddlers traveling from all around the country and further afield including the USA, Denmark and Australia! Such is the popularity of the event, it sold out within an hour of registration opening in February. For the first time, the event saw 4x World Champion and ISA Vice President Casper Steinfath taking part alongside some of the best paddlers in the UK.

Traditionally the Head of the Dart SUP Challenge sees a large leisure fleet, and this year was no exception with just over a hundred paddlers looking to complete the course as a personal challenge. The event is open to all paddlers aged over 16yrs old, with the oldest competitor this year being 71 years old.

““It was the first event of this kind that I’ve been to and thoroughly enjoyed it.  What I did love was seeing how many people enjoy the sport and the age ranges and abilities of the people participating.  Everybody can enjoy SUP!  I’ve made a few new friends and met some great people!” – Cerez Doyle”

The Head of the Dart event was also the start to the GBSUP National Distance Series which is a series of 5 flat water SUP races around the UK, with the next event being Battle of the Thames taking place on 27th April on the Thames. Paddlers will also be back in Devon in October to take part in SUP the Creek run by local company Waterborn SUP based in Kingsbridge, as well as GBSUP National Series 3rd Technical race taking place at South Sands, Salcombe.


““We’re absolutely delighted to have welcomed Casper to his first GBSUP series start line for what was an exceptional men’s race in our flat water division. We are just as delighted to have had Cazz Lander (who last year set two world rowing records — as a member of first three-person crew to cross the Pacific and the youngest to make the 2,400-mile voyage) in our elite fleet as well taking on the UK’s leading women paddlers. Along with the HoTD organisers, we were blown away to see the race reach capacity within one hour of entries opening! This just shows how quickly our sport is now growing.” - Mark Price / GBSUP Director”

2019’s fastest female Marie Buchanan had a titanic battle and was pushed hard throughout the entire race by runner up Ginnie Odetayo who finished just 15 seconds behind. Fellow Devonian Holly Pye, at just 21, made it a double podium for Starboard in a superb 3rd place, crossing the line over a minute and a half ahead of 4th position.

Through much of the men’s race, Hungarian racer Zoltan Erdelyi was locked in battle with the UK’s Ryan James and Blue Ewer, along with Dane Casper Steinfath. Using the chop to his advantage, Erdelyi surged clear in the home straight leaving youngster Ewer and James in his wake. Steinfath’s fourth position was particularly noteworthy being placed first inflatable board.

Head of the Dart SUP Challenge is not just for individuals or seasoned racers: this year saw five teams of four paddlers complete the course on a Red Paddle Co Dragon, which is 22ft by 34 inches wide. Devon locals the Prawn Stars retained their title with another solid performance ahead of a determined challenge from the Cornish WeSUP team.

““Head of the Dart has always been a special event. It takes in some stunning scenery and for those contesting for a podium or to beat a PB there are plenty of opportunities to make some good tactical decisions along the route using the tidal streams. For me and I think most entrants though the event is more than a race, it’s a fantastic experience for all level of paddlers. Great atmosphere, slick organisation from a passionate team and an excuse for a Party at Red HQ for all entrants. The Red Paddle Co Dragons are always good to watch too and I’d encourage anyone who liked the look of the Dragon boards to check out the Dragon World Champs in Lake Annecy, France that we are running on 15-16th June -” – John Hibbard, Co-Founder of Red Paddle Co.”

For 2019, prizes were provided by sponsors Salcombe Gin and Moorish Humous Dips (based in Totnes) who came on board for the first time.

“Howard Davies Co-Founder Salcombe Distilling Company:“As someone who loves all things water based, and having had some of the best days out on the water on my paddle board exploring new places around the coast,  I am thrilled to have completed the challenge today representing Salcombe Gin.  All of the competitors and the Head of the Dart team have been amazing and Salcombe Gin is very proud to have provided the prizes and presented them to all of today’s worthy winners!””

“Julie Waddell – CEO & Founder of Moorish:Moorish is a nationally popular brand of humous and dips with its head office on the banks of the Dart. So we were delighted to sponsor this event as we believe passionately in the sheer delight that adventure can bring; be that adventure through food, nature, sport or travel and the HOTD event is definitely all about adventure!””


  • 14’ Elite Men’s
    • 1st Place – Zoltan Erdelyi, Light Corp, 01h 08m 05s (fastest paddler)
    • 2nd Place – Blue Ewer, JP, 01h 08m 09s
    • 3rd Place – Ryan James, Starboard, 01h 08m 40s
  • 14’ Elite Women’s
    • 1st Place – Marie Buchanan, Starboard, 01h 15m 23s
    • 2nd Place – Ginnie Odetayo, SIC, 01h 15m 38s
    • 3rd Place – Holly Pye, Starboard 01h 20m 20s
  • 12’6 Men’s
    • 1st Place (tie) – Duncan Slater, Red Paddle Co, Mark Salter, RRD
    • 3rd Place – Alistair Hughes, Red Paddle Co
  • 12’6 Women’s
    • 1st Place – Emily King, Starboard
    • 2nd Place – Annabel Ewer, Naish
    • 3rd Place – Rachael Ince, Starboard
  • Leisure Fleet
    • 1st Place Women’s – Sarah Spooner
    • 1st Place Men’s – Jon Stuart
  • 1st Place Dragon Team – Prawn Stars (Waterborn SUP)

GBSUP National Series’s media team were able to stream live footage of the action as well as interview a number of paddlers. Check out these videos over on their Facebook page:

With the wider focus on the effect’s that plastic has on our waterways, the event organisers were keen to ensure as little as possible was used and encouraged paddlers to do the same by avoiding single use plastics. In addition, event sponsor Starboard SUP agreed to offset the carbon footprint of the event by planting multiple mangrove trees in accordance to the travel time and distance of all the paddlers.  Each mangrove tree absorbing up to one ton of CO2 over twenty years.

Photo Credits:  Jade Rogers / Geoff Mather / Allan Cross

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Emily king
Emily king
5 years ago

Hey guys, the 12’6 and Naish are super competitive… we have to paddle harder on theses boards too!! Why don’t they seem to have the same coverage?

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