Preparing for Your First Race

So, you’ve been paddling for a couple of years now- you’re comfortable on the water, you know your equipment, you’ve mastered the basics- and now you’re looking to elevate your paddling into the world of racing. But what are the next steps? How do you prepare for a race? Is there anything you can do to feel more comfortable? Yes! Of course!! Let’s get into it:

Choosing a Race

The first, and most important part of paddle board racing is choosing your first race. Most races have different distances to choose from, different types of water to race on, and different starts to the race. However, almost all races are set up to accommodate beginner level paddlers as well as elite. When choosing what do compete in, make sure it is a distance and start that you are comfortable with and can practice before race day. 

A short course- in the 2 to 4 mile range- is best for a beginner to break into racing. Most first timers underestimate how difficult it is to paddle significant distances and are often too eager to jump into a long distance race. This is sometimes a mistake. Of course, if you have routinely paddled 6+ miles, going hard, in heavy winds, then you may be ready for a long distance paddle. But if you haven’t- then the short distance is always a great place to start! 

Also important is to pay attention to what type of body of water the race will be held on- whether it be in the bay, river, or ocean. Each body of water comes with their own characteristics and challenges. For instance, if you have never paddled in the ocean, then steer clear of an ocean race until you put some time on the waves in. Paddling in the ocean is very unstable, extremely difficult, and most races in the ocean require paddlers to enter and exit multiple times- with pushing through the surf and riding waves very difficult for first time racers. It is best to start racing on a surface you are already familiar with. 

Once you have the information for the race you want to participate in, it is time to prepare for race day!

Preparing for Race Day

The best advice we have for a first time racer is to paddle the distance of the race. Unlike marathon runners who don’t necessarily need to run the distance of the race, paddle boarding is a very different feeling, with different mechanics and time spent going the distance. Unlike running, paddling on the water is a foreign motion and feeling, therefore making it imperative to get your body acclimated to what it is going to be doing during the race. 

Once you have the distance dialed in and you feel comfortable paddling consistently for that amount of time- the next step is to practice your starts! Find out what type of start the race you chose is going to be- whether it is a running start from land, a standing start on the board in the water, a sitting down start on the board in the water, or next to your board in the water- practice, practice practice! It is incredibly difficult to gain on your fellow racers once it has begun so your starts become integral. Most races are won and lost in the start. And if you don’t know what type of start it is going to be- practice them all! If you decide to continue with racing, you will face every start there is, so it is best to prepare for all of them!

It is also suggested to implement some cross training into your preparation as well. Whether is be spending time in the gym lifting, or participating in circuit training- there are many different modalities which can help you become stronger, increase your cardio fitness, and prepare you physically for your first race!

Race Day!

Alright, so you’ve picked your race, you’ve trained and now it’s time to finally do it! But before you head out in the morning it is best to get a few things in order first. The night before have your equipment packed and ready. That includes your board, paddle, water pack if you need one, have what you’re going to wear out and ready to be put on, and sunscreen packed if it’s a warm, sunny day. Another smart thing to do the night before is to check the weather forecast- paying attention to how heavy the wind is and the direction it is going to be blowing. By knowing what you’ll be facing when you’re paddling it will better mentally prepare yourself for the challenge ahead. 

Once you have those covered, it is important, as with any physical activity, to get proper rest at night and wake up early, start slow, and have a proper, well-balanced breakfast! This will get your body ready for the physical endurance of the race and make you feel better overall.

Make sure to arrive early the morning of the race in order to insure that you’ll have a good launch spot for your board. And don’t forget to listen to pre-race meeting where the race director will give out essential information about the race- such as the course, the start time, what the starting position will be, and if there are any changes to the pre-planned race course due to weather conditions or other extenuating circumstances. 

Once the race meeting is complete, remain calm, get in the water, and have fun!! Paddle boarding and paddle board racing is all about having fun on the water with the rest of the paddlers. This is a growing community with an emphasis on friendship and comradery. Enjoy the weather, enjoy the water, and enjoy completing your first race- it is a great accomplishment!!

Be sure to check out our race page for upcoming events and our very own Return to Goat Island Race under our race page. We look forward to seeing you on the water!!!


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