Last weekend saw one of the UK’s biggest watersports festivals on Hayling Island. Originally a Windsurf event it’s now branched out to include a separate SUP element, this year covering 3 days of races. Here’s how it went down!
Friday – Extreme SUP Triathlon
This was the first of it’s kind here in the UK. A combination of a 1mile beach run (for sponsored riders with an inflatable board in a bag on your back), a 1 mile (i think slightly longer in reality) bike again with board on your back, then back to the beach, inflate the board & paddle 1 mile.
This was a SERIOUSLY tough event. I’m no runner, my legs were like absolutely jelly after the run up the steep pebble bank to the bike transition. I managed to spin it out on the bike keeping really close to the 1st & 2nd place guys who were far better on the run.
I hit the beach & started pumping like a mo-fo. Sweat pouring off me I seemed to be getting no-where fast, the valve had jammed, I had to dismantle & re-attach everything 7 start over. The other guys were nearly ready to hit the water, I still had to inflate an 11ft board! I smashed it out & got it to 80%, conscious to want to hit the water I called it a day & rushed onto the water knowing I could proably still catch & pass the leaders on the paddle as this was my strongest element. After a few yards I couldn’t work out what was going wrong, the board just wasn’t paddling right, then it hit me sh**t what an idiot I forgot to slot in the fin! Nooooooooooooooo. Now what do I do, swim back, paddle back, keep going? Basically I realised how bad I’d messed up & figured there was only one option, man up, accept your mistake & battle through finless! Possibly the hardest paddle of my life I battled on with 1-2 strokes per side on an under inflated board. I kept 3rd place but was livid I messed up & lost the chance for a better result. Well I’ve learnt & it WON’T happen again!!!
Saturday – BoP beach races
Saturday morning saw a set of 3 BoP style heats. Out around a marked course, back to the beach with a short run. The conditions were perfect, calm, clean hot & sunny.
Race 1 got off to a flying start, 12’6 & 14ft classes were all in it together without separate classification which made it a little tough as I was on 12’6! I was battling with James hardy & Sonny on their 14’s, all of us slightly behind Ryan James. I managed to keep James off for the first part of the course but towards the end his 14 had just that bit more speed and it finished Ryan 14 / Sonny 14 / James 14 / Me 12’6
Race 2 we were all already whacked! This time Ollie Shilston has turned up for battle! This time me, James & Ollie smashed it out chopping / changing clashing & battling round every turn. Ryan & Sonny slightly ahead. On the battle to the finish James & I were neck & neck, Ollie jsut ahead, we hit the beach almost exactly at the same time but Ollie & James just pipped me to the flag.
Race 3 saw the exact same result.
Some really tough, really close, super exciting racing. We all took some chance to rest knowing a few hours later we had a huge distance race to complete.
Because the races weren’t officially classed the 14ft boys took the glory but on the points finishes I took 1st in 12’6 (good job Ollie missed the first race 🙂 )
Saturday avo – Round Hayling 14mile enduro
The afternoon saw the first ever round Hayling Island SUP enduro race. The heat was belting, the sea breeze gentle SW’s & little tide running, the conditions were great on paper! Again there was no classification so I opted for the Naish Javelin 14ft. It’s a super tippy narrow board but a must for this sort of distance. I knew the first part in the side chop would be really challenging but if I could make it to the sheltered part of the island in a good position I’d be ok.
The start got off to a pretty fast pace, Ryan out front trying to get some clear water, Sonny & Ollie drafting right behind. I took a slightly wider line following close. We battled down to the South East corner of the Island. the guys had a slight lead on me & were working the drafting rotation, I was in no-mans-land battling on my own, stuggling in the crazy chop from all the water craft heading out of the harbour. I fell, much needed as it was already so hot. Quickly back on I battled to keep pace. As we headed down the back of the island in shelter the water cleaned up & I could really put the power down, some good splits judging by my GPS. The problem was it was getting really, really hot. I started to really loose the plot, my head was about to explode, sweat pouring off me, this was a problem, I had very limited hydration & a long way still to paddle. I kept sipping a couple of mouthfuls of Nuun (hydro drink) every mile. I was really struggling, starting to hit the wall I stopped, dipped my cap in the water, filled it up & sloshed it over my head, temporary relief! The guys ahead were pulling away with a good 3-4 mins lead. I had pretty much given up chances of catching them.
We got to the bridge at the Northern most point & turned into a lovely cooling headwind. It looked like the guys ahead were struggling into the wind but suddenly I came alive! My temperature came down & I got a great rhythm going, head down I could feel I was catching the guys. I knew it wouldn’t be long until my drink ran out & the dehydration kicked in so I had to work hard while I could. Gradually I crept a bit closer, then they started pulling away again, grrrr.
We were reaching the run out of the West corner & Sonny made a break for it, maybe Ollie was tiring? My drink ran out & I could feel my forearms cramping slightly. head down I pushed hard & before I knew it we were in the run & I was right on Ollies tail. Wow I was in with a podium shot all of a sudden. I decided I’d draft for a minute to get my breath back then charge hard for the last few miles. But as soon as I thought that a huge 3ft boat wake swiped us from the side & I went in the water! Disaster! Both my hamstrings instantly cramped & so did my abs with the effect of the cold water. I could barely pull myself back onto the board. I got to my feet & couldn’t work out what to stretch out first it must have looked hilarious! I managed to get control but Ollie had already pulled a long way ahead again – I had it all to do again!
I dug deep, Ollie seemed tired, head down I slowly closed the gap. this time no chance to draft & rest I could see the finish a mile or so ahead, I was not giving up the chance to get 3rd after this battle. I pulled past & didn’t look back! there was a little bit of swell running our direction so I pulled hard to take advantage of every bump.
Before I knew it the horn sounded, I had passed the finish line in 3rd… I promptly collapsed!
This was possibly the toughest weekend of racing on the UK calendar, a great format, super tough & we were so lucky to see sunshine & light winds.
Huge shout out to Steve West for directing the race, Allan Cross for pulling the whole festival together. next year will be even more epic. Thanks to Chi Drinks for re-hydrating me post race & Nutrichef Flapjacks for restoring some energy, I ate rather a lot after that race!
1st Place – Ryan James
2nd Sonny EZ
Credit Jo Hamilton Vale for most of the photos