Stand-up paddleboard racing came to town this week, with the first leg of a trifecta of SUP races and meets taking place here in town, to be followed by races in Ixtapa and Manzanillo, down the coast, in the next few weeks. Sponsored by Stand UP Paddle Mexico and called Costa Pacifica 2013, these mixed pro-am races were ideally scheduled, as it turns out, since there was little surf to speak of.
Instead, the paddleboard action gave all the locals and tourists alike something to watch and participate in on another perfectly warm November Saturday. We like to emphasize warm right now—though we have had scant surf of late, we do have perfect weather: warm days, nights just cool enough to cool off, while up north…we’re hearing reports of 13 degrees F in San Francisco, and 11 degrees F in Seattle. Brrrr!
Down here in the land of warm water SUP competitions, we have witnessed this past year or so the evolution of these SUP contests into a workable, somewhat standardized format. There are surfing events if the contests take place at a surfing break; if not, or if the waves are flat, the events consist of a series of races—marathons and technical races for the “serious” or “professional” male and female paddlers, interspersed with a number of amateur races staged most for fun.
The program on Saturday followed this pattern. First the professional or serious 10k marathoners took off at 10 am on their charge up towards San Pancho, with a few “amateurs trailing along just to test themselves against the distance. They were fighting some wind chop so it was a hard slog, but, as is usual in these distance races in this part of the world, in the end it came down to a fight to the finish between Fernando Stalla and Javier Hernandez. This time, Nando held off Javier, and took the win by a comfortable margin.
While that race was still underway, the Amateur men’s and women’s 4k race was staged, and proved to be an exciting one, as did the kids’ race that followed.
Not long after the 10k guys finished up, they were back on stage—several of them, anyway, for the 2.5k technical race, which is a tricky one requiring maneuvers in and out of the surf and around a series of buoys, at least one of which was positioned close to shore in the middle of the Sayulita surfing break. Though the waves were small, there were definitely waves out there, and the racers lucky enough to grab one on the way in picked up considerable yardage.
In fact, Fernando Stalla was in yet another fairly close race with Javier Hernandez when he paddled into a couple of long rides on waves, opening up a lot of space between them, and he ended up with an easy victory in the technical. Nando is definitely becoming the man to beat in SUP racing, in Mexico, and pretty much all over the world, where he ranks consistently among the elite, the top five or ten SUP racers internationally.
Aside from the competition, what’s great about the SUP craze is it gives people something to do when there is little or no surf; it brings the community together; it provides another reason for people to come to visit Sayulita, which can pretty much claim the title of Mexico’s SUP City these days, what with all the boards available to rent and buy, and all the paddlers in the water. It’s wonderful to see all the locals from ages 5 to 65 who have taken up this endlessly entertaining sport, one that gets you onto the water, provides a great workout, and provides a new way to test your skills in the Pacific surf, be it big or small.