The inaugural Back of Beyond Stand Up Paddle (SUP) Race heads downstream Saturday, May 17. All levels are invited to join the open-class SUP race from Dewey Bridge to the Hittle Bottom Campground, where the event will celebrate with music, food and fun for racers and spectators alike.
“Open-class means everyone,” said Josh Surkes, the event organizer. “If you have paddled before and want to paddle down-river with other paddlers, come on down.”
The race covers 7 miles of scenic, flat water on the Colorado.
“The worst thing that’s going to happen is you’re going to swim a bunch,” Surkes said. “There are definitely going to be beginners out there, people who have paddle-boarded a handful of times.”
“I’m totally doing this for fun, not for racing,” said Moab local Shelly Kasprick, who paddle-boarded for the first time just a couple of years ago and gets out a couple of times a season. “I have paddle-boarded on the ocean, but this will be my first river experience.”
Stand-up paddle-boarding is a variant of surfing, where the rider stands on the board and uses a paddle to move through the water. Unlike surfing, though, no wave is required. With this freedom, people have moved the SUP from its ocean origins to reservoirs, lakes, streams, and rivers – even white-water.
“Part of what’s so unique about paddle-board racing is it could be 7 miles down the Colorado River, it can be 10 miles on the Jordanelle Reservoir, it can be through rapids on the Weber River, it can be through the surf in California,” Salt Lake City SUP racer Trent Hickman said.
Given some of the extremes people push with this new sport, it might be easy to feel lulled by this race’s flat water and friendly atmosphere.
“It’s still very competitive,” Hickman said. “Racing on flat water is definitely intense in the way that running a marathon is intense. Your feet are connected to the board and your hands are connected to the paddle and you’re really pushing yourself with a high cadence, if you’ve got a good paddle-stroke technique. This sport will pick on a weak-link between your hands and your feet. I suffer physically in every race that I do.”
The Colorado Basin River Forecast Center predicts the river-flow to be about 13,500 cfs (cubic feet per second) on the day of the race. That volume of water will make the section of river between Dewey Bridge and Hittle Bottom deep, consistent and fast. Obstacles like sandbars and shallow, rocky sections are unlikely, though paddlers may have to dodge some flood debris.
“Even a race straight down the river is going to present challenges,” Hickman said. “If you’re really pushing yourself down the river and you fall off, you’ve got to reconnect with your board and get back to your feet and there’s no pause button on the river, it’s going to keep going.”
The racers themselves can also create challenges, Hickman said.
“When there are lots of other racers around you, the water gets choppy, you’re banging paddles into each other’s board.”
Hickman, who has owned a paddle-board business in Park City for nine years and hosts the area’s annual Paddle/Peddle/Paddle SUP and mountain-bike race, said he has heard a lot of buzz about the Back of Beyond SUP race.
“I think northern Utah loves Moab,” Hickman said. “It’s such a fun town. There’s so much to do.”
The race will begin at 2:30 p.m. at Dewey Bridge. Racers start on land with a sprint to the water, paddle to the opposite shore, around a buoy then head 6.6 miles down-river. Near the finish line at Hittle Bottom, the course will be on river-right and make a left-hand buoy-turn to the shore. Once on shore, racers will have a 50-yard dash to the finish line.
A race for kids up to age 14 will also take place on the bottom half of the course earlier in the day, meeting at Hittle Bottom at 12:30 for the shuttle to their starting line.
Hittle Bottom, the staging area for the race, will have food and music starting at noon. There, people can browse vendor booths, demo boards and, if not in the event, cheer the racers to the finish.
The 5 p.m. awards ceremony will be followed by live music, fire spinning, and beverages provided by Salt Lake City’s Bohemian Brewery.
“Most of the camping sites will be used by the race, so revelers don’t have to drive back to town,” Surkes said.
Sites are limited, though, so those who want to camp should arrive early.
Inaugural paddle-boarding race takes revelers down the river
“Even a race straight down the river is going to present challenges. If you’re really pushing yourself down the river and you fall off, you’ve got to reconnect with your board and get back to your feet and there’s no pause button on the river, it’s going to keep going.”
For more information about the race, go to backofbeyondsup.com
Hittle Bottom Campground is 23 miles east from the junction of U.S. Hwy 191 on state Route 128
Dewey Bridge is 29.8 miles east on state Route 128