Choppy waters stoke enthusiasm at first SUP Series race

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Amid choppy waters and windy conditions, participants brought much enthusiasm to the first race of the Blockade Runner Beach Resort’s Sunset SUP Series Thursday, June 5.

“It’s great because a lot of families and kids come together for the races,” said participant Eric Carter. “It really helps get people stoked on standup paddleboarding.”

The night marked the beginning of the first series, which will have races every Thursday evening through July 10. The second series will be held each Thursday from July 17 to Aug. 28.

The night began with a free short lesson from April Zilg, Blockade Runner paddleboard instructor and event organizer. Participants were then driven to the south end of Wrightsville Beach at 6:30 p.m. for a downwind race due to the day’s strong current.

“Conditions were very windy,” said paddler Scott Werstlein. “It’s fun to catch the swells racing downwind, though.”

In less severe weather conditions, multiple courses are set. There would be an advanced course and a less strenuous community course. In case of stormy weather, the race is cancelled for the week. Every other Thursday, there is a kids’ course.

Due to the strong winds and current, the kids’ race scheduled for the night was rescheduled for June 12. It was a safety issue to have kids out on boards with the level of wind, explained Payton Collier, Blockade Runner employee.

Each week, participants receive points based on their placement in the night’s race. At the end of each series, points are tallied and grand prizes are given to the winners of the different divisions. Additionally, prizes are awarded after each race to participants at random through a raffle.

Prizes include gift certificates, free lessons, free rentals, paddleboarding equipment and clothing, all of which have been donated by local sponsors, Zilg said.

Carter finished first in the night’s run. He participates in paddleboarding competitions and fundraisers around the coast and took second place at the 2013 Colonial Cup in New Bern, N.C.

Anyone in the community interested in paddleboarding is encouraged to come to the series, Zilg said. People should bring their own boards if they have them, but there are rentals available at the Blockade Runner for anyone who wants to race.

“I’ve seen huge growth in the sport,” Zilg said.“Standup paddleboarding is really taking off in a good way. I want to see even more people get involved in the races.”

The next event in the series is Thursday, June 12, at 6 p.m. at the Blockade Runner Beach Resort.

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