Summer is here and we are in the midst of race season, whether you are beginner or season pro we all need to prepare ourselves to race. French SUP race living legend BIC SUP Ambassador Eric Terrien is on hand to give us tips and advice on how to complete a race. Eric Terrien who notched up a serious of impressive wins before becoming loyal to the foil gives TotalSUP 10 important pieces of advice on your choice of equipment, organisation and preparation to get you to the start line in the best possible shape. Advice that will help you avoid wasting energy, help you make the most of this beautiful paddle experience and, you never know you could be in the mix at the finish line!
1. Choose the right board and paddle
I definitely recommend that you don’t try anything new on race day. Use the board and paddle you’ve used most in training. If you’re not sure which board, go for something with more stability rather than less. Any instability is extremely exhausting to control and compensate for. Go for a longer board if possible, they have better glide than short boards. To make the most of the currents, a stable board with good glide is ideal. I can recommend the 12’6 Wing which has a great combination of both.
But remember to position yourself well on the board. A useful guide to where you should place your feet is the position of the carry handle. On the Bic Wing 12’6″ you can see easily see the best position to stand.
Lighter riders should be slightly forward of this point, heavier riders slightly to the rear. If in doubt, ask a rider nearby to tell you if your board is nicely flat on the water or not.
2.Prepare before the race.
Whether you’re aiming for a specific time or placing, or simply completing the course, the correct training before the race will help you make the most of the day. Some jogging/running sessions will be a good addition to your paddle sessions, but if you have limited preparation time, my advice would be to devote it to paddle. In the days leading up to the race, eating sensibly and sleeping well will help you get to the start in top form.
3. Recce the course!
It is invaluable to have a detailed look at the race course on a map. But it can also really help you to manage your strength and energy thoughout the race by knowing exactly where you are on the course. For example in the recent Morbihan Paddle Race, that takes place in the Golfe de Morbihan, Brittany, it is good to get familar with the Golfe and the river Auray, it will help if you learn the names of the islands in the Golfe and identify some of the amazing Bretagne chateaux!
4. Register and collect your race bib in time.
Depending on your time constraints, some people will prefer to go and register/collect their race number on Friday, while others won’t be able to get there ‘til Saturday. Ideally, you should try to allow a decent amount of time to register. It can also be a moment to get together with other racers and a great opportunity for information-sharing ahead of the race.
5. Night before the race.
Check and double-check that you have properly prepared everything (race number, fully charged GPS /electronic gizmo…), camel bag water bags are clean and ready to be filled (there’s nothing worse that the taste of water from a camel bag that hasn’t been properly cleaned since your last race!) and that you’ve got everything laid out and ready, so you won’t forget anything in the morning!
6. Morning before the race.
It’s race day morning, and time itself suddenly seems to be racing along. Eat a light breakfast, then you can supplement this with something else (a banana for instance) an hour before the race.
7. Start the race well.
Mass starts are usually pretty chaotic. Unless you’re aiming for race victory, you need to take it all in the right spirit, with plenty of understanding for your fellow competitors. Everyone wants the same thing, to be moving forwards and to get away from the mass of boards and flailing paddles! Bit by bit the gaps will appear, things will sort themselves out and everyone can breathe easier again!
8. Use the water currents.
An example is the Morbihan Paddle Trophy, at this race there are plenty of currents you can use to advantage. At some points you can easily identify the eddies, at others it’s a bit less well defined. You need to have a certain level of expertise to get the best out of this complex stretch of water. The clues are all there, on the water surface, how the water is moving around the many buoys and beacons anchored out there… The best riders and likely winners are those who manage to calculate the best route between shortest-distance straight lines and the detours that can enable you to accelerate on a current.
9. Keep your body fluids up
Depending on your physical condition and the length of your race, you need to make sure you have sufficient water/liquids on board (you can try energy drinks, but water at the very least!) and a cereal bar/energy gel in case you hit an energy “wall” (it will give you a psychological boost too). 500ml of water per hour should be enough to keep your fluid levels up.
Stress (for instance, at the start) can dry your mouth out and make you feel thirsty, but there’s no point in drinking lots at that moment, you’re better off taking a few small mouthfuls and rinsing them round your mouth for a few seconds to get over that. As for the gels and cereal bars, one of either per hour should be enough, so if you’re going to be racing for two hours, take one of either with you.
10. Choose the right clothing!
Everything depends on the weather forecast. You need to avoid getting cold waiting for the start or if you fall during the race, but likewise you need to avoid over-heating if the sun makes an appearance… Buoyancy jackets are compulsory for all races and, depending on which model you have, they will keep you warm to some degree. If it’s cold, I would advise a thin neoprene “Long John”-type wetsuit that allows free movement of your shoulders. A lycra top and light windcheater will help in case of rain. You should get used to these during your training sessions and adjust the number of layers if necessary.
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