Words and Pics: Rich Heathcote
SUP For Cancer recently took place on the south coast near Southampton and attracted a whole bunch of paddlers ready to do their bit for charity. SUP Mag UK test team member, SUP racer/surfer and all round paddling addict Rich Heathcote reports.
SUP For Cancer is organised by Rich Thoroughgood and his crew at SWAC – Southampton Water Activities Centre. The spot is on the River Itchen near Ocean Village in Southampton. The location offers a great SUP facility with an impressive backdrop. Sitting right underneath the imposing concrete structure of the Itchen Bridge – 28metres above the water – you cannot help be in awe of your surrounds.
The inaugural event SUP For Cancer was well supported with thirty-six paddlers competing and all the proceeds and entry fees going towards Cancer Research. There were lots of prizes donated by Red Paddle and Fanatic, both of whom had stalls with boards laid out and racers competing in the event. The Freshwater Bay SUP Company (a new brand in the UK) also had some demo boards on display and included an adjustable carbon paddle for auction.
Rich decided to have three SUP categories which included board hire from the SWAC center if needed. This gave the option of 3K, 6K and 12K races and all the events on offer were covered by safety boat while Karl Hobbs, donning a very fetching pink wig, dished out advice on the water.
All three events went off really smoothly and were timed to coincide with the double high tide which maintains its level for two hours. The river state was interesting at times, but generally quite flat, although the wake of passing boats and a slight headwind, that seemed to be evident no matter which direction you were paddling, certainly made things interesting.
There were a complete mix of people from first time paddlers to some very well-known faces, such as Andy Joyce, Jo Hamilton-Vale (who is global ambassador for Standup for the Cure) and her husband Pete Vale. Even Jay ‘JSUP’ Manning, fresh from the #SUPBikeRun event in Wales and nursing bruised ribs, made it. The youngest paddler was Lawrie Thoroughgood who is only eight years old!
The 12 KM race went all the way up the River Itchen, turning at the Woodmill Canoe center before heading back down the river. It was interesting to see how the busy industrial scene changed into a quiet, secluded and peaceful setting with overhanging trees and lovely scenery as you progressed further. Although this was not always noticeable as the fatigue with definitely setting in for me by this point. I was very pleased to see the pink wig of Karl Hobbs marking his way with only a couple of kilometers to go and at last the silhouette of the bridge, as the heat, dehydration and lack of fitness was certainly starting to tell.
I spent a large part of the race chasing Pete Vale but never could quite catch him. Even though he was on an inflatable and I was on my home-made race board it never really happened; back to the drawing board on that one I guess! As I crossed the line most of the 3K and 6K racers had finished and were enjoying the sunshine. Andy Joyce was first over the line in the 12K race, finishing in 1hour 17 minutes, a blistering pace. The last 12K racers finished after nearly two and half hours and hats off – particularly to Rod McAlister who toughed out the conditions, persevering and completed the course in two hours thirty-three minutes.
Prize-giving was great fun with spot prizes and raffle. Overall SUP 4 Cancer was a brilliant event with everybody in agreement that it should happen again next year to raise money for such an important cause.