What is a SUP Sprint Race?

Better yet: Why do we even have to ask this question?

As I am having my morning coffee, I was very excited to see Connor & Co racing the APP SUP Sprint Race. I was looking forward to short and fast sprint races . Instead I saw the athletes paddling around buoys, three of them to be exact.

I was rather surprised and somewhat confused as the commentators and all the written announcements about this race called it a “Sprint Race”. Where have I gone wrong? Did I miss something over the winter? If this was a sprint race, then I wonder what a Tech. Race would be?

Lets examine what at Technical Race is

Per the word “Technical” a technical race features something that requires the athletes to use their technical skills. The term came up back in the day, the racers had to turn on buoys or go trough a gate on land. For example, we remember the Battle of the Paddle where paddlers had to do a run-around on the beach after a buoy course in the waves. We called these races “Surf Races” or “Technical Races”. The length of Tech. Races has also been discussed in previous articles, for example during the ISA Worlds in Puerto Rico when heats were half an hour long or more. Many of us felt that was too long. However the length of a race is not entirely the deciding factor of what it should be.

For now lets stay with the features a Tech. Race should have. We can all agree, a race without buoy turns is not a technical SUP Race.

What is a sprint race?

This question should be answered very easy because we can look at other sports. The most popular one would be sprints in track and field. The distance is 100 meters in a straight line. What about paddle sports: The ICF, the international authority for paddle sports, at least for the ones that sit down defines sprint races as follows:

The distances recognized by the ICF for international canoe sprint races are 200m, 500m, and 1000m. These races take place on straight courses with each boat paddling in its own designated lane.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Sprint races have one thing in common: They are in a straight line from A to B and they are on short courses. The excitement about sprints is that the athlete is going at full speed from start to finish. For this reason a straight line makes the most sense as any kind of obstacle or enforced turns would slow the athlete down. As soon as you slow down you are not sprinting anymore.

To make the set complete, lets ask our selves also what long-distance race is and then ask some follow up questions.

As it says “long distance”, such a race would mostly be longer than 10K and take over an hour to complete. However I don’t think there is a rule on how long a race course must be and what is too long? Most long-distance races are at least 10K long and take over an hour to complete. For example at the EUOR TOUR in Spain it took about 1 hour 30 minutes to complete and Michael Booth finished the Graveyard Race at the Carolina Cup in just over 2 hours.

Race course or race time?

Say you are a race organizer at a small body of water. You like to hold a long-distance race but your lake is only 3K long and 500m wide. You are now forced to set a buoy course to make a race course 10K long. It this now a Tech. Race, just longer? We will answer this later below.

In contraire to the long-distance, the answer to Tech. Races should be a bit easier. A Tech. Race definitely has buoy turns and the course is mostly set as an “M” or “W”. The race has most of the time 2 – 3 laps and it should take no longer than 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

Now lets say you are a race organizer and you set your buoy course really tight, run only one lap that takes about 2.5 minutes. Is this still a Tech. Race? Evidently this is where the entire question stems from, because this was exactly the scenario last Sunday in Spain. It took the athletes about 2 minutes 36 seconds to complete the course set by the APP.

It is my understanding that a race course should determine what kind of race we are in. Of course there are exceptions to the rule. Lets go back to the long distance race on the lake. If you are forced to hold a long distance race in a tight space and must set buoys you should then at least not be setting tight turns. The course should be as wide as possible with easy turns so the racer does not loose the rhythm.

Is it OK for a sprint race to have buoy turns? We remember the EURO SUP in Denmark where the sprint course had one buoy turn and I guess we all accepted this as a sprint race because the paddlers went in a straight line to the buoy and back. However this race had a technical element.

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Race definitions per the non existing Stand Up Magazin rule book:

Sprint: 100 – 200m straight line. Beach or water start, based on location and organizer discretion. No technical elements.

Tech. Race: Race course minimum 1000m. Must have buoy turns / technical feature. Beach or water start, based on location and organizer discretion.

Long distance race: Minimum 10 kilometers. Natural turns. If buoy course must be implemented turns should not be tighter than 135 degrees. Beach or water start, based on location and organizer discretion.

Conclusion: It is pretty save to say that after my findings the APP Alicante Open was not a sprint race, it was an ultra short technical race. Maybe the APP is on to something here and soon enough we might have a new class: Tech. Sprint.