“Are narrow race boards nuts?” Race Dr Bryce Dyer

“Are narrow race boards nuts?” Race Dr Bryce Dyer

Our race doctor Bryce Dyer has an informal chat asking the question which many are asking ”Are narrow race boards nuts?!!” Bryce has been borrowing a 21.5” wide Starboard Sprit race board from top SUP athlete Ryan James to help him answer the question. Race boards have been getting narrower for the past few years as Bryce has told us in his previous videos. But are narrow race boards something for only the high performance racer or are they something that an average racer can and should be looking at too? As a taller paddler at 6’3” and 88kg Bryce is the perfect person to answer this.

Apologies about the wind and background noise. This is a very informal chat with Bryce and as always very interesting stuff.

Feature image Josh Sampiero

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2 thoughts on ““Are narrow race boards nuts?” Race Dr Bryce Dyer”

  1. It is an interesting discussion; do we want the best for the sport or do we want to see how fast the best paddlers can really go? In the same way that the lengths of boards are controlled by race categories, the governing bodies could choose to limit the minimum width of a board to prevent an elite few who can balance the narrowest boards from having an advantage and to keep racing competitive and accessible to more participants… Other sports do this all the time, limiting technological advances within the competitive classes to make racing more about the participant and less about the choice of equipment.

    1. It’s an interesting point you make (and one that has plagued sport frequently over the last 100 years). From an academic theory point of view, its really about having a governing body that has a clearly defined philosophy of what a sport is and then to have a set of rules that then broadly support that. As you might have read, SUP’s governance is currently a bit unresolved and (in my view) poorly managed generally and it does not have control of how the sport is unfolding in my view. Your observations are spot on.

      However, it was an interesting way you phrased it (i.e. ‘the elite few having an advantage’) as this suggests that you or many people are unhappy with the way it is going. There is a counter argument that could suggest that this is merely a natural evolution (or natural selection) of a sport (in the same way that basketball players are tall or horse jockeys are small and lithe). Or, it raises the question about whether SUP is about the best athlete winning or the best paddler (and that’s not quite the same thing). My opinion is that its the latter (it’s been proven in many other sports that its impossible to limit technology or to truly create ‘a level playing field’). Either way though, its ultimately a tug of war between performance and a sports broader inclusivity. However, I would agree with you that I feel that as sport we should really be focusing on access, not elitism at this point in time. C1 canoeing went the wrong way and now you have a sport there that is very fast, really great to watch….. and nobody does it in great numbers. SUP on the other hand has real potential to avoid such pitfalls but there are no currently no brakes to stop this from happening.

      The bottom line from my point of view is that a board like the Starboard Sprint is going to make me faster but its not suddenly going to turn me into a prolific race winner. I won’t be able to beat a Marie Buchanan or a Ryan James purely because I’m using a narrower board. Being ‘fast’ at SUP is a much more complex equation than board width alone. However, the reality is also that if (at 43, 89kg and 6ft 3) I could go out for 2-3 days and eventually (tentatively) get to grips with a 21.5 width board (and my balance is not great at all), then its inevitable that there will be new boards developed shortly for the elite athletes that will go far below this in width. At which point many of us keen to race may feel they are on the losing side of an arms race and ultimately think ‘what’s the point ?’ …….and quit the sport. I also think that the rate of technological development is moving faster than the rate of the sports growth in general. Left unchecked, I feel this will destroy the used board market (and therefore the new board market indirectly) and make SUP racing an incredibly niche thing to do by a very few people. Whether this is right, appropriate or relevant needs to be tackled ….. and soon.



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