What’s it like entering a SUP event as a first timer? – A different perspective on Head of the Dart 2017

Words: Sam Robinson

Photos: Charlotte Sams

Sam Robinson, Fatstick Team rider and first time SUP event entrant, reports on his first time experiences paddling in the Head of the Dart SUP Challenge.

The HOTD was my first time entering an event and it was full of anticipation and excitement. We arrived early which helped to secure parking at the race start point. It soon became clear just how popular HOTD is, with 200 eager paddlers arriving throughout the morning.

The event for me was not about racing others, but challenging myself to try and complete the 8 mile course in a personally satisfying time. Information prior to the race was thorough including a briefing and route maps. You needn’t worry necessarily about memorising all information given though as I personal found if I followed closely those in front staying safely on course was easy.   The RNLI, among others, provided safety boats providing constant cover so you felt extremely secure as a first timer throughout.

The seasoned racers set off first in order of different classes and genders: 14’ male kicking us off followed at 2 minute intervals by  the 12’6 male, 14’ and 12’6 women’s and then the Unlimited and Leisure class sharing a start time. I myself was part of the final group to set off competing in a yellow bib as part of the Unlimited class.

Bright sunshine, blue skies and light winds allowed for a first time friendly experience with the tide flowing in our favour. The final 2 miles proved to be the most challenging with the tidal stream effecting all, causing a small amount of lateral drift there was also a medium head wind kicking up a fair amount of swell to be paddled through as we entered Dartmouth. Therefore making the course for people with confidence paddling in slightly challenging conditions. Although there is always the option to drop to ones knees.

Overall the HOTD was a great experience for the first time event entrant. I would strongly recommend it to all and I look very much forward to entering next year.

To conclude I recommend this event your fitness level does not have to be high as there is the leisure class providing the option and challenge yourself without the added pressure of competing.

Everyone I met was welcoming and accommodating and it was even nice to see a few entrants taking their dog along for the ride.

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