For the fourth season in a row, Naish put out the call for 10 lucky paddlers to apply and be part of the Naish N1sco UK Team for this race season. The selected paddlers were given a board to race on in the popular one-design SUP class. These paddlers were: Victoire Binchet, Simon Day, Amy Dunmore, Mark Edwards, Elaine Farquharson, Max Jones, Ben Julian, Anna Little, Stuart Nisbett and Sarah Perkins.
As the sun will soon be setting on the 2017 UK race season, Naish went back to those paddlers to get their views on SUP, what they learned and ask how they felt about the sport…
So, how did your race season go ?
Victoire: It was lots of fun! When I set out to do it, I said I wanted to meet nice people and feel like I was improving with each race. On both counts it’s been a success. People are really nice and welcoming, and everyone is happy to share tips on the day on how to handle the conditions or how to hold your paddle for a sprint vs. longer distance. There are also lots of sub-categories for podiums which I have found really nice and inclusive (for example you get different age groups, and some races do male and female rookie of the race when it’s your first race with them).
Simon: It’s been an awesome season, not because I’ve been particularly successful but because it’s been an amazing experience. From tiptoeing around the courses in my first races at Emsworth, to getting stuck in with close racing and the all too occasional dunk in the water as my confidence and fitness has grown. It’s been brilliant to watch and chat to fellow competitors picking up help and tips as I’ve gone.
Mark: Really great (although the start was a bit dodgy!).
Elaine: Fabulous, I joined a community of friends, shared some great adventures and developed lots of new skills on the water.
Max: Amazing, I have had a great introduction into SUP Racing. I have 2 races left and I will give it my all in these last 2 as I am currently joint 2nd in the N1SCO division with UK SUP. I am gutted this season is already coming to a close but will work hard through the winter ready for next year.
Ben: Racing was always the next step for me and being part of N1SCO made it happen. It’s been a fantastic, action packed year. I was unsure what to expect at first but with the stunning locations and awesome people I soon realised this was going to be a good year. I hadn’t done much training so it was nice to see if could still be competitive and with paddlers with all abilities there was always someone to race against. Finishing mid table is great and I now have my winter training programme sorted ready for next year.
Anna: I have had such a fantastic year racing. I have loved meeting great people, loved training and quite enjoyed getting a few medals! Over all it’s been a great 1st year of racing. This is just the start for me, I hope to continue to race.
Stuart: My racing results have improved steadily. I have been training on the board at every opportunity.
Sarah: It’s still ongoing, but so far I’ve enjoyed travelling to lots of different locations, making new friends, and recently I was lucky enough to join the Welsh team as the distance racer at the ISA world SUP championships in Denmark in early September. I won’t forget four laps around Copenhagen Opera house screamed on by fellow Welsh SUP’ers for a long time.
Amy: Really well. Loved every minute and even got a few medals along the way.
What was the biggest lesson you learnt ?
Victoire: Throughout the season I learnt to just enjoy myself and not focus on the rankings. There is a part of me that can get quite competitive but with stand-up paddle boarding (as opposed to other sports I used to take part in) I wanted to make sure I was first and foremost having a good time, regardless of whether I came near the top or last. I am glad to have managed that, and it’s been awesome to be involved in races alongside some amazing male and female athletes and learn from them along the way.
Simon: I didn’t think SUP racing was ever going to be for me and I didn’t think I’d ever really embrace it but N1SCO has really opened my eyes. Although competitive, it has been so much fun and everyone is so nice. There can’t be many sports where fellow competitors give you genuinely helpful advice leading up to a race, during and following it. So my lesson is I should have done it sooner.
Mark: Drafting, just chase the person in front and draft if you can, don’t worry about how many kilometres you have left (because that plays on your mind) – just chase the draft!
Elaine: Taking part really does count and I’ll never be scared to embrace new challenges after this. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose but it does matter to get off that sofa and throw yourself in to living life.
Max: My biggest lesson aside all the techniques and tactics was to always have fun. Despite the weather conditions, type of event or location, always remember to enjoy it and have fun.
Ben: You don’t have to be an elite paddle to race!!! N1SCO racing makes SUP racing accessible to any paddler, ability etc… Everyone is so supportive and friendly making the events good fun and wanting more.
Anna: A good training programme gets good results.
Stuart: The more you train (and race) the better you’ll become. There is nothing like the racing to check your progress over a season. I’m still learning how to deal with so many paddlers so close at the start and the wake from their boards.
Sarah: Get a good start and know the course. At the ISA worlds in the technical racing the lead group of 10 girls went to the wrong buoy, which could have cost them their medals. Luckily for them a 2nd buoy had drifted meaning a restart was called.
Amy: That it’s good to watch other racers paddle techniques and to experiment with my own to see what works best for me.
What was the most useful skill you learnt ?
Victoire: I learnt lots about adapting to different weather conditions, which was really interesting! Back home I paddle on a canal so usually the water is calm and I am fairly sheltered from strong winds. But when you race in open water that can be a very different ball game – it was great to get tips about how to change your position on the board if it’s windy and how to paddle at a different angle to compensate for strong currents.
Simon: Drafting. I’ve done it in cycling and have seen it used to great effect in motor racing but until this year I hadn’t thought how using it in SUP and how working as a team doing it can really help you out in the longer paddles. It makes such a difference.
Mark: Drafting is great and kind of feels a bit like you are cheating but you’re not!
Elaine: Technical board skills – which has enabled me to enjoy rough water SUP handling in the most amazing places.
Max: Drafting and step back turns. Step back turns especially as they are useful, fun and look cool (except when you fall off)!
Ben: Paddling with other N1SCO paddlers [at the same time].
Anna: Improving my paddle technique. Having a few great lessons and learning from good feedback.
Stuart: After having the lesson with Casper at Swanage, the tips he gave to improve my stroke and trying different positions on the board (depending on the situation) was very helpful. When I fall back to bad habits, I try to remember what Casper was telling me.
Sarah: I’m not sure I’m there yet, but getting a nifty buoy turn sorted would be up there.
Amy: How to adapt my paddling style and position on the board according to the weather and conditions for each race. Also to stay hydrated!
Your favourite event of the year and why ?
Victoire: Very tough question! I enjoyed every event and have been amazed by the amount of work put in by the different organisers, a lot of whom are volunteers and do everything for us to be safe and have a great time. If I had to pick highlights I would say the N1SCO ‘Not So Inland’ Championship in Swanage, which was so much fun and was brilliantly organised and also the UK SUP race in Lake Bala for the amazingly beautiful site (and the fact I won female rookie of the race!).
Simon: This is a tough one but I would probably say the ‘Not So Inland’ championships at Swanage. Firstly until this year I’d never been to Swanage and have discovered a truly lovely part of the world, the locals were really nice and embraced the racing and the N1SCO vibe. Secondly the fact that it was an amazingly well organised event, even though it was supposed to be elsewhere and was moved at the last minute. It was all very light hearted and really quite entertaining but it also showed how open Alex [at Naish] has been to feedback and made the events the best possible for everyone. Lastly ‘Casper Steinfath’. How Alex arranged it is beyond me but to have Casper turn up, chat, paddle out with us and offer paddle clinics (which I jumped at) was amazing. The guy is a legend, a SUP World champion and such a truly nice and approachable person. The world needs more role models like Casper and to me sums up my experience of N1SCO this year, it’s a fantastic community of likeminded individuals.
Mark: Our second trip to Swanage was my favourite event. I was a few races into the season so had a bit of an idea of what was going on and really enjoyed the mass start – 80 of us racing around the 5 kilometre circuit. It was great fun and the weather was perfect with crystal clear water!
Elaine: Swanage N1SCO European Championships, the atmosphere and spirit of the event was world class. It was the biggest challenge as a newbie to complete the 10k in windy seas but it was the best feeling to come into the beach with new friends surrounded by paddlers who came back out on the water to cheer us in and then be greeted on shore, to all the cheering volunteers, racers and supporters. They made us feel like heroes, it’s such a wonderful community.
Max: UK SUP 10k endurance Cardiff. The reason I enjoyed this one most is because it ticked all the boxes – the weather was great, the location and course were awesome, I was feeling my fittest and I just felt a huge sense of accomplishment after finishing.
Ben: By far the Euros [in Swanage] – fantastic two day event. Loads of people from all over the world paddling together. Really sociable and friendly.
Anna: I loved Swanage. It was windy and a long way south but beautiful. I loved the 3 disciplines and enjoyed the challenge of the wind. It was nice being over 2 days as it seemed more relaxed. It was full of competitors and made the racing challenging. I loved all the events for different reasons though and am looking forward to more this year.
Stuart: My favourite event would be at Swanage due to the location, different sea and wind conditions and for the closeness of the racing.
Sarah: Competing at the ISA worlds in Copenhagen and traveling on to ‘Cold Hawaii’ (aka Klitmoller) to support the rest of the Welsh team was a fantastic experience. However, doing the Trent 100 as part of a Naish team was a great adventure.
Amy: The N1SCO European Championship in Swanage was an incredible weekend. It was great to paddle with so many people, the weather was gorgeous and the location was perfect. I also loved the Trent100. Such a good event and I will never forget the feeling of crossing the finishing line after paddling 100k!
If you could pass on any advice to a new paddler, what would you tell them ?
Victoire: Come and join the racing events, it’s not as scary as it sounds! People are friendly, and yes, while there are some amazing paddlers competing for the podium, there are also lots of people from different age groups and coming from all over the country who are just there to have a good time on the water. It’s also a nice way to pick up good tips about paddling technique or find out about nice places to go paddling on holiday. I’d add that you don’t need any prior training for any races up to 5-7k distance – I didn’t do any specific training this year and it was entirely manageable (I even managed a 10k in Cardiff….but would say that distance was a bit tough without training).
Simon: Just give it a go, N1SCO has the friendliest bunch of competitors I’ve encountered in any of the sports I’ve competed in. If you have questions just ask your fellow competitors. I’ve made some great friends this year and hope to continue catching up and racing with them again in the future.
Mark: Just give it a go it really is great fun. You really don’t need any race experience as long as you are happy standing on a board for between 30 mins-1hr, then you’ll be fine.
Elaine: Don’t be nervous or scared to have a go. Join the N1SCO community – you won’t regret it.
Max: Don’t hesitate – just go for it (after all, we all need to start somewhere). You will have a great experience, loads of fun, meet awesome people and gain loads of skills/experience at the same time.
Ben: Despite your ability, nerves or not knowing anyone…… get yourself to a N1SCO event!! They are really welcoming, supportive, your ability will grow without you knowing, people are friendly and at hand to answer any questions.
Anna: Research or get a lesson in good paddle technique that is efficient and won’t get you injured. It’s harder to correct bad habits than start with good habits.
Stuart: If I have learnt anything this season it is to get out there and enjoy the events. I’m looking forward to the future and the racing next year.
Sarah: Don’t wait for the sunny days! Get out in all types of conditions – except offshore winds, of course! If you get into racing the chances are you’ll have a windy, bumpy race one day and you’ll be ready for it.
Amy: Get out paddling as much as you can. Time and experience on the water helps so much in a race. But mostly just enjoy it!
Words : Bryce Dyer
So, if you haven’t yet taken part in a SUP race but fancy giving it a go next year, keep your eye out for the Naish N1SCO race events around the country. They’re the perfect place to get involved in some fun racing and you don’t even need to have your own board.
For more information about Naish N1SCO one design racing check out the other SUPboarder N1SCO articles.