A sure sign of spring along the southeast coast is a resurgence in Stand Up Paddleboarding events from Florida north to Virginia. Here are four SUPer events not to miss.
Shark Bite Challenge (Dunedin, Fla.)
Over 350 paddlers are expected to compete in this 12th annual event, originally called the Caladesi Kayak Challenge. The event started as a way to create a friendly, yet competitive atmosphere while raising awareness and funds for Honeymoon Island State Park. The Shark Bite features a 1-, 4- and 8-mile SUP/kayak/canoe race, a 6-person outrigger canoe race, instructional clinics and a kid’s obstacle challenge. New is the paddle fishing tournament hosted by Skinny Water Culture, an aquatic apparel and accessories brand based in Clearwater.
“The Shark Bite is held on the open water of the Gulf of Mexico where conditions are usually flat,” says organizer, Karen Mirlenbrink. “A terrific place to watch the action is at the Honeymoon Island State Park beach. Spectators can also get a bird’s eye view of the race from Bath House #3 in the Park.” For more information, visit www.sharkbite
Bodhi’s Revenge (Folly Beach, S.C.)
Paddlers age 16 and older will feel like the late actor Patrick Swayze in the action surf flick, Point Break, as they take to the Atlantic Ocean waters off Folly Beach for some kick butt paddleboarding action. The World Paddle Association Regional Event attracts competitors far and wide to test their mettle in what is likely the only open ocean race in the region.
“Every year we change the course, but basically it features a slalom surf course with buoy turns, the long course with 4 loops with three beach sprints in between and the short course in 2 loops. Both finish with a 50-yard beach sprint to the finish line. It’s a lot of fun,” explains race director, Janis Fetter.
Spectators can watch the action from the Folly Beach Pier. This 1045-foot long pier is the second longest on the East Coast, and a great vantage point to see the entire course. The event starts at 9 a.m.
Bodhi’s Revenge in held in conjunction with the East Coast Paddlesports and Outdoor Festival, April 17-19. This three-day event offers hands-on workshops for those of all skill levels in paddleboarding as well as kayaking and canoeing. For information on Bodhi’s Revenge, call (843) 881-9472 or visit paddleguru.com/races/BodhisRevenge
Carolina Cup (Wrightsville Beach, N.C)
Nearly 1,000 paddlers from over 40 states and 20 countries are expected for this year’s 5th annual event which features four different races in one. First, the Harbor Island race is like a 5K. It takes place in the Intracoastal Waterway, circumnavigates a small island and is great for beginners. Second, the Money Island Race is more like a 10K, still in the Intracoastal, but with more distance, more challenge and fierce competition from many former Olympic-level athletes who specialize in flat water paddling. Third is the Graveyard Elite Race. It’s a 12- to 13-mile course around the island of Wrightsville Beach. It is one of the most technical races on earth and requires skills ranging from flat-water paddling, to surf, ocean swells, inlets and wind. It is a grueling test of skill and conditioning, but has become a bucket-list type of race for paddlers akin to the New York City Marathon for runners. Finally, there are kid’s races, broken down by age groups.
“New this year we are having a Relay Team on Sunday after the kid’s races that will challenge four people to work together to beat teams from other brands, shops and/or states,” says John Beausang, one of the race directors.
All racing takes place from the Blockade Runner Beach Resort. The south end of Wrightsville Beach is a fantastic spot to watch the Graveyard competitors as they come through Masonboro Inlet. For information, visit wrightsville
Rudee Paddle SUP Sprint Season Opener (Virginia Beach, Va.)
Paddlers of all ages and abilities will find a way to have fun at this second annual event. The competition takes place on the waters surrounding the picturesque seaside village complex at Rudee Inlet. The big challenge is the winds, which can blow up to 25 to 30 miles per hour; yet this big blow doesn’t whip up the waves so flat water conditions prevail. “The Rudee Paddle SUP event is more than a water race, it’s a festival that is full of Aloha spirit,” says Randy Harris, event founder, who owns Rudee Inlet Stand Up Paddle.
Spectators can see the action from the outdoor deck at Rudee’s Restaurant & Cabana Bar and from the docks at the Rudee Inlet Marina. The end of the marina docks is an especially good place to watch the finishes.
Proceeds benefit the Virginia Beach Fallen Heroes, a group of residents and business leaders that provide tragedy assistance for Navy SEALS and their families. For more information, call (787) 343-3560.