All over the world people have been trying Stand Up Paddle surfing, from Pierce Brosnan talking on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart about his love for the sport, to Jennifer Aniston giving the sport a go in Hawaii and Laird Hamilton taking the sport to new levels in monster waves in Hawaii and Tahiti.
The UK has also been gripped by this exciting sport. Last year a group of stand up paddlers, gripped by the sport, set up the British Stand Up Paddle Association, and decided to run a series of competitions to find a national champion, the first organization in the world to represent stand up paddle surfers at a national level.
The first national Stand Up Paddle Championship series in the world, has now come to a close. The British Stand Up Paddle Association (BSUPA) have run four events in Cornwall, Isle of Wight, South Coast and West Wales and now have national champions in distance and surf disciplines.
With a field of over forty competitors which included European surf champions, masters surf champions, national and world cup ranked windsurfers and kite surfers the events have shown how far the sport has come in a very short space of time. There were also Juniors from 6 years old and ladies taking part in their own categories.
The events were run, in surf, on a heat format where the top riders would be judged on surf performance with use of the paddle. Each heat winners would progress through to the next round. The panel of judges would be looking for the highest scoring wave or maneuver combinations and riders would go out in heats of four with the top two progressing through.
The distance was run on a first past the post and each event was slightly different in terms of course, each race generally lasted 25-30 minutes and tended to be a sprint from start to finish.
Simon Bassett (BSUPA Series Director) said: "At the beginning of this year we wrote the rules for this series which is a first of its kind and our aim was to find the British Champion who could perform the best in all conditions. The beauty of SUP riding is that if you do have a small wave, you can generally always ride it.
We were hoping for bigger surf this year, but unfortunately this season it didn’t coincide with our event schedule. I am convinced that results of some of the top four riders will be similar next season when we do get bigger surf. It was also great to see SUP riders who turned up to their first contest and really enjoyed the experience, to see the juniors committed to competing at these events.
What we have leant about this year is the riders who have come to the BSUPA events have all made some good friends at the contests, and there is some really stoke at the events."
BSUPA is proud to announce that the 2008 Champions are:
Stand Up Paddle Surfing Open Mens 1st Neal Gent 2nd John Hibbard 3rd Scott Gardner
Stand Up Paddle Surfing Womens 1st Claire Blacklock
Stand Up Paddle Surfing Juniors 1st Bobby Cooper 2nd Holly Bassett
Stand Up Paddle Distance Mens 1st John Hibbard 2nd Neal Gent 3rd Mark Slater
Stand Up Paddle Distance Womens 1st Claire Blacklock
Stand Up Paddle Distance Juniors 1st Bobby Cooper 2nd Holly Bassett 3rd Connor Griffiths
Neal Gent commented "The one I really wanted to get was the surfing Champion for stand up paddling so I am really pleased, it’s been a really good year battling with John (Hibbard), I hope that next year the events will be bigger and we get better waves!"
John Hibbard added: "it’s really good to be the first National Stand Up Paddle Distance racing champion in the UK, I think that at the start of the year nobody knew if this format would work, but it ended up being an extremely competitive discipline. It's great to do something where the result is black and white!”