By Crispin Jones
Photos: SUPjunkie and Jade Rogers Photography
On the 22nd and 23rd of October, stand-up paddleboarders from the UK and Europe went to Kingsbridge and Salcombe in South Devon for Waterborn’s SUP The Creek race. The two-day event covers both distance style and technical style racing and showcases the beautiful area of the South Hams. If you were in Kingsbridge on Saturday, you might have noticed some of the 150 paddleboarders making their way around the estuary. The weather over the few weeks prior had been highly changeable, but Waterborn were grateful to run the event safely for many different ability levels.
“It has been fantastic to host SUP The Creek again after a three-year absence from the race calendar with the uncertainty of COVID restrictions over that time. My vision for SUP The Creek was also to promote some fantastic businesses that thrive in the area to help promote a longer season for all of us; much of the southwest is heavily tourism-driven. Growing up, the main ‘season’ was July and August and then slower shoulder seasons.
So, in 2015 I set up the event and wanted a part of the event’s focus to show that the area is still fantastic for paddling and being able to see and do lots of other activities and unique shopping opportunities. Sure, the weather can get more challenging in October, but this helps us grow into better and more rounded paddlers. The changing view of the estuary as we pass through the natural seasons is something I truly enjoy.” – Owner Crispin Jones.
There were three distances to choose from for the Saturday race in Kingsbridge:
- 1km, aimed at beginners/juniors.
- 6km, for those wanting to challenge themselves or maybe first-time racers
- 12km route, aimed at those wanting to race or see more of the estuary.
Not surprisingly, the podiums were filled with local paddlers who are skilled with local conditions and weather. The Saturday race had a stiff South Easterly wind to contend with, making for some great battles on the water. In the Men’s 14ft, Blue Ewer from Plymouth took first place, Hector Jessel from Truro in second, and Lucas Buyom came across from Sweden in third. In the Women’s 14ft, Ginnie Betts from Penzance finished first, Marie Buchanan from Salcombe was second and Holly Pye from Plymouth third.
Sunday saw a new set of challenges for the race from South Sands in Salcombe for both competitors and the organisers. The changeable weather meant we had a window to utilise, and we used our Plan C course on our original time scale. It was making a challenging and safe course for all attending, the public and the safety teams overseeing it. A shorter course that avoided crossing the estuary and using the bar was set into practice and still gave everyone from paddlers to spectators plenty to enjoy.
In the Men’s 14, Blue Ewer again took first place, Hector Jessel in second and Kingsbridge Local, Will Keetley in third. In the Women’s 14ft, Ginnie Betts took first place, Marie Buchanan in second and Emily Evans from South Wales in Third.
It might not come as a surprise for some in the SUP community as many of these fantastic paddlers have been competing on the European and World SUP circuits the past month. What stands out, though, is the sense of achievement and camaraderie of the ‘everyday’ paddler and the challenges they undertook to get around the course. So much focus gets placed on the top end that sometimes people forget that just signing up for an event for the first time or overcoming the nerves on a start line, and feeling out of your comfort zone, requires so much courage!
We should all support and admire every single person out there. We take strength from this as we face the challenge of taking our leave from where we have been based for the past eight years. We wish the Crabshell well with their future and thank them wholeheartedly for the opportunity given to let us achieve what we have.
We are still trying to keep the business in Kingsbridge, but we could use your support. We have our licence to operate from the Quay car park but await the results from planning regarding its suitability moving forward; any feedback we can supply to the South Hams to help with our case would be greatly appreciated. You can send any support to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can continue to provide safe, fun, enjoyable activities to all!
Feedback from the SUP community for SUP The Creek has been outstanding, and SUP World Rankings awarded us a 2-star event; the only other UK event to achieve this was the APP World tour in London! If we can deliver this from our new location with just gazebos and a strong will, we know that things will be bright for the future. We would also like to thank this opportunity to thank the many fantastic businesses who helped support the event, as well as St Johns Ambulance and Coast to Coast Water Safety, who helped keep all the competitors safe during the weekend.
See you on the water!