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SUP for Cancer - 5th June 2016

Last time I posted I was going on about paddle boarding and how I was going to get one, well guess what...Santa delivered a very lovely pink one!!

I was lucky to get a Paddle for Hope board, which are made to help raise money for Cancer and every board sold will help one person suffering from Cancer on their way to recovery.  It's vibrant colour and awesome patten is hard to miss on the water.

Only a few weeks after having the board my new year plan was to compete in the Hayling Island race but unfortunately after having a bad start to the new year I did not get the practice in that I wanted to do to be able to compete in March.

My first outing was on a cold, windy Sunday in January (perfect time to try it). I was taken to a spot in Gosport to give my board a go and claim my free lesson. I learned a lot of techniques in my time on the water but never pushing it to much because I had no plan of falling in the icy water!

After first outing
Months went by and the weekends were not spent paddling! Before I knew it, it was May and there was only a couple of weekends before the SUP for Cancer event and I needed to get out on my board and start practicing. The event was a locally organised one to raise awareness and funding for the fight against Cancer, it was the first year this event was running and it was promising to be a good one.

The weekend of the 28th/29th May saw me stand for more than 10 minutes on my board, for the first time, and this was in light conditions on Southampton Water. I was no where near prepared enough for how I wanted to be the weekend before, but I was going to give it a go no matter what because it was for a good cause and a chance to see how I would do against other paddlers.

The event had three different course lengths 3K / 6K / 12K, starting at SWAC (Southampton Water Activities Centre) and the longest going up to Woodmill. I was going to sign up for the 12K course but after much debate I decided that maybe it was best to do the 6K one on my first race (and I only started standing the weekend before!).

Race day arrived, it was a beautiful sunny morning and competitors were gathering at SWAC (Southampton Water Activities Centre) along with all the sponsors of the event. Everyone was preparing. I started seeing lots of people walking around with Camelbaks and wondered to myself why, was there any point...I later found out the reason for them!

Registration opened, people quickly lined up and before you knew it, it was time for the safety briefing and then time to launch for the start. I was getting nervous at this point and watched several people paddle out before I got the courage to put the board on the water. The wind had picked up and it was getting choppy in the river, this was nothing like the conditions the weekend before and I was worried I wasn't going to be able to do this. Luckily the wind and tide was going to be against us on the way up the river, meaning that it would make for an easier paddle back.

11:35 the start gun went for the 6K race and I got off well at the start. I was up with the top 4 guys in the first few meters, I then started to become slightly competitive and managed to stay with them. The more I was keeping up with them the more this was fuelling my competitiveness and the need to keep going and not give up. I said before that it was a beautiful sunny day but this soon started to caused me an issue...water! How was I going to get my bottle of water that were strapped to my board, wrapped in a dry bag? This was when I realised the reason for a Camelbak, and it was going on the shopping list once I got back.

As the race went on I held steady in 5th place and I soon realised there was no way I could catch the guy in front so had to continue as I was and keep in front of the one behind. This become my next do you know where they are behind you? I had not mastered the technique of being able to look behind me and not fall over, so I would have to wait for the turning mark to be able to see where the next person was. To my surprise they were a good couple of minutes behind so I was able to back off slightly.

I approached the top mark for the 3K race on my way back down the river when I came across a support boat. I was dying for a drink at this point and thought I would ask them how far behind the next person was to be able to assess if I could stop quickly for a drink. They confirmed that there should be enough time, so I thought about it, looked at the board where the bottles were, looked at how far I had left and then thought about it again. No! I will keep going, the reason being was if I was to stop for a drink, then I would not get back up again or get going at the same pace.

So I continued and the closer I got the more I pushed because it turns out I was catching the guy in front now. The end was in sight and the thought of jumping in to cool down and having a nice drink of water was pushing me even more and I managed to complete the race in 1:02:54, 24 seconds behind the guy in front and was first female.

At the finish of the race
I was over the moon at this result and the time I managed to complete my first race in, I was buzzing all afternoon and into the next day. Although it didn't take long for the aches to kick in but also the drive to continue paddling was there and has been ever since.

The day ended with a prize giving in the compound and a auction for a Freshwater Bay carbon paddle. It was a wonderfully finished paddle and I am gutted that I did not win the auction but will definitely look to invest in one in the future.

Where do I go from here...well I still have a lot to learn and practice. I need to start getting out in different conditions and not just pick the light wind days, then find the next event to enter. Maybe next year I will make it to the Hayling Island race, who knows!  I will keep you posted.


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