A dozen stand-up paddleboarders lined up on the Blockade Runner Beach Resort’s sound-side beach the evening of Thursday, July 30. At April Zilg’s signal, they plunged into the glowing water and clambered on their boards to start one of the final races of the summer-long Sunset SUP series.
The free races were held every Thursday from June 4 through Aug. 6. Shelby Moyer, Blockade Runner Beach Resort paddleboard and kayak instructor, said the same people typically returned week after week, with a few exceptions.
“I know hotel guests like to rent boards from us and go race,” she said. “Last week we had a first timer that came and he had a lot of fun.”
Zilg, who runs the series, posted the race results online each week so those who participated multiple times could chart their progress. The courses varied throughout the series. Every Thursday afternoon, Zilg set a course based on weather conditions and special requests from participants.
“Sometimes we incorporate the ocean,” racer Sharna Tolfree said. “If it’s really windy we’ll do a down-winder. We’re not set on any one thing, we always switch it so it’s more enjoyable.”
Zilg chose a sprint race for the July 30 participants. They paddled a few hundred yards into Banks Channel, rounded a marker and returned to the sand. The challenge division completed five sprints with one minute of rest in between and the community division raced three heats.
The multiple divisions made the event accessible for entire families. Nicki Bloomer said she brought her children to race a few times, and she herself preferred the easier community division.
“I’m a total beginner, so I like the smallest course possible,” she said.
Meanwhile, more experienced competitors like Tolfree, who recently completed a 32-mile race, and sisters Anna and Jenna Blackburn, used the series as a fun exercise to incorporate into their training.
“It’s just another way to get out on the water,” Tolfree said. “It’s not necessarily strategic training, but you’re out there paddling.”