Joanne Hamilton-Vale – SUP IN THE UK

Today we are interviewing Joanne Hamilton, the former Head of the UK SUP organisation and a longtime SUP lover. Joanne tells us everything we need to know to understand how Stand Up Paddle works in the UK.

Joanne, could you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your SUP background?

I am a UK female who has been SUP racing for 3 years. I race in the UK and internationally and prefer ultra-distance racing. I am based in the South coast of England, although I come from Scotland. My main job is being the wife of a very busy husband who works in Formula One motor racing. My favourite race every year is the 11 City Tour and last year I competed the 220 km distance non-stop.

What is your role within the UK SUP organisation and what does UK SUP do?

UK SUP facilitates the national SUP race Series, which incorporates Age Group, Junior and Naish One racing. We facilitate 8 races a year across the UK, which include, distance, technical, flat water and ocean racing. This year we hope to hold our first downwind race, weather permitting.

I come from a sailing background, where structure and rules are set. I was surprised to see racing in the UK had no structure, format and very few rules. The racing scene was fragmented and no-one knew where or when races were being held. I believed for the Sport to grow, things had to change. I came up with a plan and chatted with a few SUP clubs and paddlers and between us we set up the first National Race Series in 2014. In 2014 we had 269 racers over the series and we grew that number in 2015. UK SUP is a voluntary and non-profit company.

I was previously the Organisation head and at the end of 2015 I stepped down to an administrative role.

(Photo source: SUPFRENZY.NL)

How is the SUP competition (race and surf) scene structured in the UK?

The UK scene is still very fragmented. UK SUP assists in Club set-up, advises Clubs who are holding races, facilitates and manages the 8 races National Series and informs of all SUP related events held within the UK. We are also working with the Environment Agency in an advisory capacity to produce safe practices for Inland Waters. In the UK over 80% of our paddlers are inland.

BSUPA are a commercial Instructor Training School and assist with Clubs obtaining insurance through becoming a BSUPA member. BSUPA are also holding a 3 event surf series this year. Currently the UK has no National Governing Body for SUP, therefore the only link with ISA in the UK is through Surfing GB. Surfing GB currently hold no SUP activities or events. In my opinion, the back bone of the UK SUP Scene is the SUP Clubs across the country. They are growing the sport, introducing new paddlers, advising on equipment and keeping paddlers safe.

Can you detail the 2016 UK SUP Clubs Series calendar to our readers ?

Our Calendar in 2016 starts with the biggest race in the UK, the Battle of the Thames, which had 169 entries last year and this year we are hoping for 200 entries. This race attracts international paddlers.

7th May – Battle of the Thames (Blue Chip SUP Club), flat water distance race

18th June – Poole (BaySUP Club), ocean technical race.

16th July – Norfolk Broads (Martham SUP Club), flat water distance race

23rd July – Kent, SUP Armada (charity event), flat water technical race

13th August – Lake Windermere (Windermere SUP Club), flat water distance

3rd September – Tamworth (Central SUP), flat water distance

9th October – Cardiff (Puravida SUP Club/WSA), flat water technical

22nd October – Weymouth (Jurassic SUP Club), downwind ocean

We are very excited to start with such a big race and finish our race season in Weymouth and the venue of British Olympic Sailing

Any prize money involved?

We have £800 (1000 Euros) prize money at every race.

Can you name a few favourite places where you paddled or would like to paddle in the UK and tell us why they are special?

Paddling on the Lochs in Scotland is very special, some of the best scenery in the world. I paddled coast to coast in Scotland, through the Lochs and Caledonian Canal and would advise this paddle route to everyone. What makes paddling special is not so much where you are paddling but who you are paddling with. Friends make the best paddle days.

Map of SUP Clubs in the UK

About the Author

Mathieu Astier

Mathieu is the hyper-active founder of TotalSUP and a multilingual online marketing veteran with more than 20 years of experience working for top international internet companies. His love-at-first-sight for Stand Up Paddling in 2013 led him to build one of the leading online media dedicated to SUP in English and French and to turn his family lifestyle towards the ocean.

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