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Essential Guide to SUP Racing: Ready, Set, Go!

Are you looking to get into the fast-paced world of SUP Racing? If so, then you’ve come to the right place. Whether it’s your looking for beginner SUP racing tips or if you’re already an experienced racer – this blog post will have something for everyone.

We’ll cover all things related to SUP Racing, equipment, training tips, race day preparation, and post-race recovery. So let’s dive in and learn more about how we can make our mark on the water with some awesome sup racing skills.

SUP Racing is a fast-growing sport that combines the skills of paddling technique, strength, balance and endurance. It’s a great way to get out on the water, challenge yourself, meet new people and improve your skills.


When it comes to SUP racing, having the right equipment is essential. There are a few key pieces of gear that you’ll need in order to get started.

Paddle Board

Hopefully it’s not a surprise that need a paddle board! The volume of your board will depend on your size, so make sure you get one that fits your body type.

We’ve created a board volume calculator that will help you to estimate the length of board that you will need.

Bear in mind that this is just an estimate though, you should always try the board before you purchase it. You don’t need a race board when you’re starting out, you can always borrow of hire a board before you commit to buying one.

You will also need to decide whether you want a rigid board or an inflatable one. It depends on personal preference, skill level and the conditions in which you’ll be using the board.

Rigid carbon boards are lightweight and offer great speed and performance, but can be less forgiving and less stable than inflatable boards.

Inflatable boards are typically more durable and stable, great for people who are looking for a more comfortable and relaxed paddling experience. They can also be deflated and packed up for easier transportation.

SUP Racing Paddle

You may also want to invest in a race paddle. SUP racing paddles are typically narrower and have a flatter blade, which allows for more efficient strokes and faster speeds. They are also stiffer so that they don’t bend and power is transmitted from the paddler to the water without loss of efficiency.


Some races don’t require you to wear a Buoyancy aid, but they do usually require that you use a leash. Ankle leaches can be fastened just below the knee within easy reach, or consider getting a quick release belt leash for use on rivers or surf.


What you wear will depend on the time of year, weather and the distance of your race. Use your practice sessions to decide on what you will wear. Have a look at our article on what to wear if you’d like some tips. For longer distance races it’s always a good idea to take something warm and windproof in a dry bag.

Buoyancy Aid

Some race organisers will insist that competitors wear Buoyancy Aids. Check the rules for your race and ensure that any PFD you intend to use meets the required standards, for example some organisers require that it is ISO 12402-5 certified.

Certification information will be printed on the Buoyancy Aid, if you are buying online the certification details should be provided.

Water and Food

Energy gels or power bars are also a good idea for longer races. You should be able to work out how much you need to bring with you when you go on your training paddles.

Energy gels can cause an upset stomach, so make sure you test different types before race day!

Depending on the length of your race, you might want to bring water and food. Some racers like to use a Camelback type of water container, but you can just use a normal water bottle, don’t forget to tie it to your board.

Well prepared equipment is
essential for SUP racing

Having the right equipment is essential for successful SUP racing, so make sure you have all the necessary gear before starting your training. Next up, we’ll discuss some tips to help you get in shape and prepare for a race.

Training Tips

There are many different types of SUP racing, from sprints to long distance events.

Training for SUP racing is essential if you want to get the most out of your race day experience. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced paddler, it pays to have a plan in place that will help you build up your strength and endurance. Here are some tips on how to train for SUP racing:


Proper technique is key when it comes to SUP racing. Focus on honing your stroke efficiency by practicing with good form and paying attention to the details like hand placement, body rotation, and paddle angle. Make sure you also practice sprints so that you can increase your speed during races.

Here’s a great video from SUP Boarder on how to paddle like a pro:

Endurance Building

Endurance building exercises should also be part of any training program. Incorporate interval training into your routine by alternating between short bursts of intense paddling followed by short periods of rest or recovery strokes, for example:

30 seconds fast paddling
30 seconds recovery
Repeat x 5

As your fitness improves you can reduce your rest periods and increase your work times.

You can also add in longer distance sessions where you focus on maintaining a steady pace over time while gradually increasing the duration as needed.

Strength Training

Strength training is an important part of improving performance during races and reducing fatigue afterwards. Incorporate weight lifting exercises such as deadlifts, squats, lunges and rows into your weekly routine along with other bodyweight exercises like push-ups and pull-ups which will help build muscle mass throughout the entire body.

Include core exercises such as planks and squats which will strengthen muscles used during paddling and improve overall stability while on the board.

This is beneficial when powering through long distances or choppy water.

SUP Racing Rules

In the UK, SUP racing is governed by British Stand Up Paddleboarding Association (BSUPA). The BSUPA has established rules for SUP races in England, Scotland and Wales. These include race distances, board classes, equipment requirements and safety protocols. Racers must adhere to these rules or risk disqualification from the event.

Here’s an example of a Race Series Competition Rules, it includes details of:

  • Board Restrictions – Board and equipment design restrictions, for example; paddle with 1 blade, single hull board, no sails/baggy clothing, use of electronic equipment.
  • Equipment Restrictions – Event and Series scoring system.
  • Safety – Use of safety equipment such as Leaches and distress procedures.
  • Event Procedure – Briefings, Registration, time limits, Prize Giving etc.
  • Race Procedure – Types of Starts, Starting order, Start process and signals, Course rules, Drafting rules, Finishing.
  • Conduct – Doping, Collisions, Respect etc.

In the US, SUP racing is regulated by USA Surfing (USAS). USAS sets out specific guidelines for all aspects of competitive surfing including wave selection criteria and judging criteria for surf competitions. Additionally they have created a set of standards specifically tailored to stand up paddle board racing which includes details such as course designations and time limits per heat or race distance.

Globally there are several organisations responsible for regulating international events such as ISA World Championships or APP World Tour events. Each organisation has its own unique set of rules that apply to their respective events; however most will follow similar guidelines when it comes to safety protocols and equipment requirements such as mandatory buoyancy aids or leashes being worn at all times during competition.

Race Day Preparation

Race day is an exciting time for any paddle boarder, but it can also be a nerve-wracking experience. Preparation is key to keeping nerves under control and ensure that you have the best chance of success. Here are some tips to help you get ready:

Pack Your Gear

Make a list of everything you need on the day to ensure you don’t forget to pack anything. This includes your paddle board, paddle, leash, life jacket, clothing and other items such as sunscreen and water bottles.

Don’t forget to check the weather conditions so that you know what to wear.

Check Your Equipment

The week before the race, make sure all of your equipment is in good condition. Check that your paddle board has no cracks or damage and inspect all parts of it including fins, straps, handles etc., ensuring they are secure and not worn down from use over time. Also make sure that any accessories like leashes or paddles are in good condition too.

Check and double check your equipment

No matter how much preparation you do, race day can still be a nerve-wracking experience. To make sure your race goes as smoothly as possible, it’s important to know what to expect on the day of the event.

What to expect on Race Day

On race day, you’ll want to arrive early and be prepared. Unpacking your board and setting out all of your gear is the first step and can help settle your nerves.

Register for the race, the process will vary depending on the type of competition you’re entering into – some races may require online registration while others may need an in-person signup at the start line.

Read through any instructions carefully so that you know what documents or forms are needed prior to arriving at the race area.

After registering, take some time to familiarise yourself with the course layout and plan out how best to approach each section of water during your run. If possible get out on the water well before the starting, this will give you a better idea of wind, currents or tides throughout the course.

Race Starts

The details of the types of start, sequence of class starts and timings will be published before the race so by the time you get to the start you’ll know what’s happening.

Types of start

Beach Start – Competitors assemble along the length of the start line on the shore, leashes attached and holding boards and paddles. On the Start Signal they will run into the water and mount their boards.

Water Start – Competitors will start on water, standing on their boards along the start line.

Straddle Start – in the event of challenging weather conditions, Competitors can be asked to sit on their boards out on the water with their legs in the water on either side of the board (no kneeling). At the start signals Competitors start taking forward strokes and rise from their sitting position.

Start Warning Sequence

An example of the race warning signals and sequence is shown below, these will vary between events so check the rules for your event and attend the race briefing:

3-10 Minutes
1 Minute
10 Second
Race Start
Verbal Warning
Warning signal
Warning signal
Start signal
Read you Racing Rules and Notice of Race!!

On race day, expect to be surrounded by other passionate paddlers who are all working towards the same goal. After the race is over, it’s important to take time for post-race recovery and refuelling so you can stay healthy and ready for your next challenge.


The most important things are to have fun and stay safe! Don’t over think it and try to enjoy yourself. You can fine tune your technique and buy new equipment over time, you don’t have to win your first race!

FAQs in Relation to SUP Racing

What is a racing SUP?

A racing SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) is a specialized type of paddle board designed for speed and agility. It has a long, narrow shape with a pointed nose to cut through the water more efficiently, and its wider tail provides stability while paddling.

The design also allows racers to stand up higher on the board for better visibility and control when navigating around obstacles or other competitors. Racing SUPs are typically made from lightweight materials such as carbon fiber or epoxy resin to reduce drag in the water and increase performance.

How do you get into SUP racing?

SUP racing is a great way to challenge yourself and have fun on the water. To get started, you’ll need a good quality board that’s designed for racing. You’ll also want to make sure you have the right paddle and safety gear like a life jacket or leash. Once you’ve got your equipment sorted, it’s time to practice.

Start by paddling around in flat water conditions until you feel comfortable with your balance and technique. Then join some local races or SUP clinics to gain experience and build confidence before entering larger competitions. With dedication and determination, anyone can become an expert racer.

How much faster is a racing SUP?

Racing SUPs are designed to be much faster than recreational boards. They have a longer and narrower shape, allowing them to cut through the water more efficiently. The construction of racing SUPs is also lighter and stiffer, providing better performance in terms of speed and manoeuvrability.

Depending on the conditions, an experienced paddler can expect to see speeds up to 10-15% faster than with a recreational board. However, it is important to note that these speeds can vary greatly depending on the paddler’s skill level and the conditions of the water.

Is SUP harder than surfing?

SUP (Stand Up Paddle Boarding) is a relatively new water sport that has grown in popularity over the past decade. It can be argued that SUP is both easier and harder than surfing, depending on the individual’s skill level and experience with each activity. Generally speaking, SUP requires less balance since you are standing up on a board rather than lying down like when surfing.

However, it also requires more upper body strength to propel yourself forward while paddling. Ultimately, whether one activity is harder or easier than the other will depend on your own personal abilities and preferences.

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