So you’ve got your own board and you’ve been getting better and now you are ready to take your SUP game to the next level. Time to start entering some races! The great thing about the majority of SUP races is they include a recreational class which is a perfect place to start. This type of race will have a range of skill levels involved and it’s a great place to start fine tuning your skills. It will give you a chance to paddle side by side with more experienced paddlers, check their paddle technique and see how you match up time-wise with the rest of the paddle community. Many rec races will have a distance of only a couple miles so it’s a great way to ease into longer races. If you have already been training with rec races, maybe it’s time to step up to the elite class. 

If you are seasoned in the race world then you are probably familiar with the WPA (World Paddle Association). The WPA was started in 2010 when the world of SUP seemed to be exploding and people wanted to see the sport continue to grow in the proper direction. They have set a global standard for all stand up paddle events in an effort to make competing more enjoyable for all. You can access their website here and select your region to check out local SUP races in your area. 

Since we are located in the lovely midwest, we are a part of the Great Lakes Region or Region 10. In this article I will highlight local races first and then hit a couple of the big events that every paddle enthusiast should know about. We highly recommend doing a little training to make sure you can handle a couple miles on your board and then get out there are give racing a try. It will only help you further your paddle skills and who knows, you might end up being really good at it. 

Midwest Stand Up Paddle Festival – July 12 & 13 – Middleton, WI

The Midwest Stand Up Paddle Festival is packed with races, clinics, lectures and even kids events. They offer board rental for those that need it and will be holding a sprint race, rec race and a 6-miler for the big boys (and girls). Larry Cain from Quickblade will be there hosting a clinic on paddle technique and for those in to cross training, there will also be a clinic on SUP fitness. Middleton is located just north of Madison, WI so there is plenty of lodging and other sights to see if you plan on heading up for a long weekend. 

Up North Stand Up Paddle Board Classic – July 20th – Beulah and Frankfort, MI

The Up North Stand Up Paddle Board Classic consists of two separate races taking place the same day – The Crystal Lake SUP Challenge and The Lake Michigan Downwind Duel. The Crystal Lake Challenge takes place in Beulah, MI and offers a 6 mile elite race, 3 mile recreational race and 1.5 mile race that is free for kids age 7-13. Later that afternoon, the attention shifts to the 4.6 mile Downwind Duel that starts at Point Betsie Lighthouse Beach and finish at Frankfort Beach. If you are looking for a perfect reason to escape to the U.P. for a weekend, this is it. 

Skyline SUP Series – July 21 – Chicago, IL

So, I may be slightly partial to Skyline SUP since it’s hosted by yours truly – Windward Boardshop. This race has been in the works for some time and we are very excited for it’s debut this summer. On Sunday, July 21st at gorgeous North Avenue Beach here in Chicago, we will host 3 races, 5 clinics and an entire day of SUP fun. We have some amazing sponsors on board like Naish, Starboard and Riviera Paddlesurf. There will be cash prizes for the winners of the 3 mile rec race, elite 6 mile race and 1.5 mile team relay race. Clinics will include intro to SUP, into to SUP pilates, SUP yoga, SUP race techniques and a SUPFit class hosted by Chicago SUP. This will be a full day packed with great activities. If you are anywhere near Chicago do not miss this event! 

Detroit SUP Festival – July 27 – Milford, MI

Located just northwest of Detroit, the annual Detroit SUP Festival will have a 3 mile rec race, 6 mile elite race and an array of vendors so you can get your shop on. Taking place at beautiful Maple Beach on Kent Lake – a perfectly sized (and perfectly calm) body of water that will be perfect for a SUP racer of any skill level. The festival is promising a bigger and better year than ever with headline sponsor REI on board.

TC Waterman Challenge – August 17 – Traverse City, MI

Known for being the Midwest’s largest SUP event and industry expo, the TC Waterman Challenge is not an event to miss if you are a Midwest SUP fanatic. With a list of sponsors as long as my arm and over 50 booths to browse, this event is not just for the dedicated paddler. But – for those that are, they will hold a 3.5 mile rec race, an 11 mile down-winder that is open to both beginners and elite class and brand new for this year, the 100 meter “Dash For Cash” sprints. Event takes place at Bay Shore Park in Traverse City, MI. 

Great Lakes SUP Classic – September 14 – Holland, MI

Kick off the fall SUP season right with the Great Lakes SUP Classic. The Outpost of Holland teams up with killer brands like Surftech and Quiksilver to bring you a full day of SUP activities that have something for every skill level. The day starts off with a recreational 3 mile race followed up by the 6 mile elite class race. All taking place on beautiful Lake Michigan with the famous “Big Red” lighthouse shining in the background. Holland is just south of Grand Haven and only 2.5 hours from Chicago. 

South Shore Paddle Board Challenge – September 20-23 – Munising, MI

Closing out the Midwest SUP race season, we head way up north to the beautiful shores of Lake Superior. Down Wind Sports, Munising Visitors Bureau, Werner Paddles and C4 Waterman come together for what will be one of the largest Midwest SUP events of the season. The event will include races for both beginner and elite class paddlers, product demonstrations, clinics and tours of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. And the best part of all? Competitors will be fighting for their share of over $10,000 in prize money. 

This about wraps up the local portion of our list. Next we will move on to 3 of the big boy races that if given the opportunity, you should definitely get involved in. 

Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge – August 17 – Hood River, OR

The Mother of all waterways when it comes to water sports, “The Gorge” plays host to this massive event that annually brings out the best the SUP world has to offer. Arguably one of the best events of 2012, the Gorge Paddle Challenge is back with a Distance Downwind Race (8 miles!), course race, relay race and a recreational, non-competetive “Paddle For The Park” race where all the funds will go towards the new Hood River Waterfront Park. Get clinic’d by young legend Kai Lenny and watch the biggest names in the SUP world compete for the number one spot. 

Battle Of The Paddle California – September 28-30 – Dana Point, CA

If you know anything about stand up paddle boarding there is a good chance you’ve heard of The Battle Of The Paddle. Considered the “Super Bowl of SUP” this race brings out the world’s best paddlers and has the largest prize purse of any SUP race. For the sixth year in a row, Rainbow Sandals and Gerry Lopez have put together the King of all events and this year will be no different. With three full days packed with races, clinics, demonstrations, group activities and vendor expo – there is something for the SUP enthusiast of any level. This year they will also work on breaking 2 Guinness World Records so we guarantee this will be a show not to be missed. If you can justify a little weekend getaway to sunny Southern California, this would be the weekend to do it. 

Stand Up Paddle World Series Finals – October 11 – Oahu, HI

All the SUP World Series races around the world come together, sending the best of the best to the grand finale, the Finals of the SUP World Series. The most elite paddlers from every end of the world come together in Oahu for the battle royale of SUP. For our local Chicago readers, the World Series hits Chicago’s own North Avenue Beach on Saturday, August 25th. This event will include a long distance course and the always intense World Series Sprint course. And for the lucky few that move on, they will meet their competition in the Fall in Oahu! 

I hope this gives you a great place to start if you are interested in getting into racing! Again, the place to start is a local recreational race – you can get to know the rest of your local SUP community and will get a chance to push yourself and hopefully realize that you love to race. Now get out there and start training!