It’s a test of balance, strength, endurance and agility. But mostly, it’s a fun way to spend a Saturday on the Colorado River.
It’s the Back of Beyond Paddle Race, and it’s happening on Saturday, May 13. Put on by Paddle Moab, this is the fourth year of this exciting competition. Race-day registration will begin at 10 a.m. at Hittle Bottom Campground, located 23 miles east from the junction of U.S.Highway 191 and state Route 128. Racers will take off at 12:30 p.m. from historic Dewey Bridge and will end at the staging area 7 miles downriver.
“The SUP race follows the Colorado River through the spectacular red rock canyons of southeastern Utah and past some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery – through Moab’s ‘postcard alley’ and into Utah’s own ‘back of beyond,’” race organizer Josh Surkes said.
For those who have never heard of SUP, it is also known as stand-up paddleboarding, and it has caused more than a ripple in the water sports community in recent years. To participate, you need a surf-style board and a long paddle. The sport is like a combination of surfing and canoeing.
“Paddleboarding is fun and everyone can do it,” Surkes said. “Grab your boards, your buddies and your (personal flotation devices), and get on the river.”
Most racers will have their own boards, but if you want to race and do not have a board, you can rent a board. Rental packages are first-come, first-serve, so act fast on race day or during pre-registration on Friday, May 12, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Red River Adventures, 1140 S. Main St.
In addition to paddleboarding, there are many other activities for everyone to enjoy.
“They have hot dogs and hamburgers, energy drinks, paddle boards, beer and all kinds of fun stuff,” said Moab singer-songwriter Gigi Love, who will also be performing at the race.
Starting at 5 p.m. at Hittle Bottom, there will also be a finish line after-party. Representatives from paddle companies will be hanging out and answering questions. There will be demo boards and people can also swim, take a hike and participate in the awards ceremony. Trophies will be given out to winners in each category. Categories are based on the size of your paddleboard, with a special division for youths.
Live music will also be a highlight of the day.
“I’ll invite other musicians to come play with me and we basically have a hoedown with our voices and instruments echoing off the canyon walls,” Love said. “This year, we’ll have Chris Conrad on didgeridoo, guitar and djembe; Peter Nicholson on ukulele; Christopher David on guitar; and me on mandolin, ukulele, guitar and vocals.”
Spectators can enjoy the afternoon on the riverbank as the race is in motion.
“Watching the race is super fun because you never know when someone is going to make some amazing adjustment to get through a rapid or around a whirlpool,” Love said.
This stretch of the Colorado is perfect for all racers because while it is not impossibly challenging, it does require some skill.
“Besides being beautiful, this section has a great variety of water,” Surkes said. “We have whitewater, we have flatwater and everything in between. The one who harnesses the currents wins.”
Racers of all ages and experience levels are encouraged to participate.
“Everyone will be paddling,” Surkes said. “Youth, adults, young adults, elderly men and women, and even the occasional K-9.”
Event organizers and participants say the race will be a great time for all.
“Listen to the music, enjoy the amazing scenery and celebrate life and how it flows like the river,” Love said.
Back of Beyond Paddle Race is happening on May 13
What: The 4th annual Back of Beyond Paddle Race
When: Saturday, May 13, from 12:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Where: Register at Hittle Bottom Campground, located 23 miles east of the junction of U.S. Highway 191 and state Route 128
Cost: $25 to $75
For more information, go to: backofbeyondsup.com.
Besides being beautiful, this section has a great variety of water … We have whitewater, we have flatwater and everything in between.