Starboard have been a long-time sponsor of the iconic Head of the Dart SUP Challenge, an event covering a vast range of paddler abilities and providing both serious racers and recreational paddlers an opportunity to paddle the scenic River Dart. It was no surprise the event sold out within three days!
This year the fresh to strong SW breeze on event day, Sunday 15th April, was side-on along the long “Longstream” section of the river, making paddling extremely challenging or perhaps impossible for some of the paddlers so it was decided to implement “Plan B” – a seven mile “down-and-back” paddle starting and finishing in Totnes. Battling the incoming tide and facing mostly headwinds, the first half of the route was particularly challenging, as was the solitary buoy turn, exposed to a stiff breeze and strong current, making for numerous wobbles and falls!
With tidal flow at its peak for the return leg, tiring paddlers were given a welcome boost all the way to the finish. Many of the 200+ paddlers had reservations ahead of the event due to the windy conditions so as many of the leisure fleet crossing the finish-line, emotions were a blend of relief and sense of achievement and for some exhaustion, still (mostly!) smiling.
The bulk of participants simply look to complete the distance or battle friends but at the sharp end of the race fleets positions are keenly contested and our Starboard paddlers enjoyed fantastic success:
- Marie Buchanan won the ladies’ 14ft division (9th overall, under four minutes behind the fastest man!)
- Ryan James won the men’s 14ft division and fastest paddler overall
- Ben Pye (14′ Sprint) was second youth (placing 5th overall)
- Paul Simmons (12’6″ Airline All Star) was second 12’6″ and first inflatable (ahead of the first 14′ inflatable by almost 5 minutes)
A massive thanks to everyone that helped make HOTD SUP the best yet:
- Dart-Totnes Rowing Club and all their safety crews
- Fiona and Allan for running the event (putting in countless hours behind the scenes!)
- All the volunteers who marshalled, helped with registration and spotted on the finish line and braved the elements all day.
- A huge thanks to the fantastic team from Salcombe Gin for stepping up with some superb prizes for this year’s event, with a few of them even taking part!
With the GB SUP national events now encompassing a “challenge” fleet as well as the recognised racing divisions, there has never been a better opportunity to enjoy stand up paddling amongst a bunch of like-minded paddlers.