How to Prepare for a SUP Race

So, you’ve gotten sucked into the stand up paddleboarding sport and you’ve bought your first board from SurfStar. What’s next? For many people the next step is getting ready to compete in a SUP race. Even if you’re mostly a casual paddleboarder, SUP races are great fun and a perfect environment to meet other people who are interested in paddleboarding. Read on below to learn everything you’ll need to know to sign up and prepare to compete in your first SUP race!

Sign up for a race!

The first step is obviously to sign up for a race near you! If you’ve never raced on your SUP before it’s a good idea to choose a race on a lake, where the water will be flat and predictable. There are plenty of distances for SUP races, a good distance for beginners is around 6 miles.

One great resource to help you find a SUP race is SUP Connect. This website has a calendar of many SUP events going on, and can help you find their location, difficulty, entry fee, and other details. From there you can navigate to the website of any individual website to register and find more information. You can also simply do a google search for SUP races near you or ask about it in a SUP or watersports store in your area.

Practice general fitness

Training for a SUP race starts with general fitness. Paddleboarding is very intensive for muscles and cardio, so it’s important to be fit before you start training specifically for a race. Spend time running and swimming to get in good cardio shape and get your heart and lungs ready for the strain of competitive paddleboarding. Additionally, lift weights whenever you can, focusing on the triceps and back as these are the muscles used most when paddleboarding quickly.

Practice paddleboarding techniques

Paddleboarding uses different muscles than many other sports, so spending plenty of time actually paddleboarding is crucial to your success in a race. This is the easiest part of the training program, as you get to do what you love to do anyway! Get out on the water as often as you can, and work to hone your technique and figure out a paddling rhythm that works well for you.

To reach the highest speed on your paddleboard, it’s better to take long strokes than fewer short ones. Really dig your paddle into the water, the further the surface of the paddle goes under the water the more power you’ll have to move the board. When you make turns, however, take shorter strokes with the paddle close to the board. This will help you achieve a narrower turn and beat out your competitors. Finally, practice paddling with your whole body, not just your arms. Standing in a stable position and engaging your core when paddling will help keep your arms fresh and maximize your power output.

Get to know your equipment

You want to train with the board and equipment you’ll use on the actual day of the race so when it’s time you’ll feel comfortable and ready. This is why, if you’re planning to compete in paddleboard races, it’s important to own your own board and equipment and not just rent every time. Being familiar with your equipment will pay off and you’ll be able to compete to the best of your ability on race day.

Get used to the shape of your paddle, practice holding your paddle and switching it between sides of the board to get used to moving forward and turning quickly. Most paddleboarding races start by pushing off in shallow water, then jumping up onto the board, so practice doing this as well so you can get used to the feel and balance of your SUP. When practicing, always wear your safety leash and a life jacket so you’re used to them on race day.

Increase the difficulty of your training

As you get closer to the big day of the race, increase the difficulty of your training regimen. It’s best to include some cross-training in your exercise - running and lifting weights can strengthen certain important muscles quicker than paddleboarding. Try to have a few paddleboarding sessions that go further than the distance of the race itself, so that when you compete it doesn’t feel like you’re going too far. It’s also good to do some sessions in short bursts so you can practice getting maximum speed for your intense paddling across the finish line to complete the race.

A week before your race, however, reduce your training routine to save your strength and energy for the race. It’s very important to still train during this week, just don’t go too hard. Additionally, make sure you get plenty of sleep during the week of the race so you have the maximum energy possible when it's time to compete.

Be safe, eat right and drink water

No SUP race is worth compromising your safety or well-being, so make sure you prioritize safe methods first and foremost during your training and during the race. Eat a good meal with plenty of carbohydrates the night before the race, and eat a hearty breakfast on the day of the race. Staying hydrated is vital not only to your health, but to your performance in the race, so make sure you drink plenty of fluids. Drink plenty of water, and consider drinking gatorade or coconut water as well for added electrolytes and energy.

In addition to eating the right food and staying hydrated, it’s important that you take the right safety precautions when out on the water. Wear a personal flotation device while on the water, and use an ankle leash to keep your board close to you in case you fall off. A belt flotation device is the most streamlined and aerodynamic kind, but if you’re a beginner it's best to wear a standard life jacket that you’ll be most comfortable with when you’re just starting.

After a SUP race, take some time to rest and let your body recover, as heavy paddleboarding can be a lot of work. Reward yourself with an awesome post-race dinner, maybe at a restaurant by the water! SUP racing is a perfect way to combine a love of sports and athletic competition with a love of nature and water.

Be properly equipped

No matter how good your training is, you won’t be able to compete in a SUP race at a high level if you don’t have the proper equipment. That’s where SurfStar comes in! SurfStar’s 12’6” Ocean & Blue SUP is the best of the best when it comes to racing. This board is long and wide enough to be stable, but narrow enough to cut through the water with unmatched speed. SurfStar also provides top-quality SUP fins, paddles, and safety leashes.


Whether you’re an experienced veteran paddleboarder or an SUP beginner, SUP races can be a great time. If you train right, take the proper safety precautions, and have a good board and accessories, you might even have a shot at winning! Make sure to tag @surfstarsup_official on social media when you do!

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