Race to the Castle : Cassie Salter’s Quest to Create the Ultimate SUP Experience

Meet Cassie Salter, the visionary organizer behind Nottingham’s groundbreaking SUP event, Race to the Castle. With registrations soaring to over 200 participants within a few weeks, this inaugural event promises to be the largest of its kind in the UK. Set against the backdrop of the scenic River Trent, paddlers will embark on a 40km downriver journey from Nottingham to Newark Castle on April 27. Cassie reveals the event’s inspiration, logistics, and safety measures, while also sharing insights on weather forecasts and international participation. With the excitement building and participant numbers capped at 500, let’s turn Race to the Castle into a truly international spectacle!

Hello Cassie, what’s your sports backgrounds and personal history with SUP?

Hi Mathieu! I’m the founder of SUP Fitness: Adventure & Wellbeing.

In my old “land life” back in 2013, I had an accident at work that led to a full spinal fusion. After a year of recovery with lots of life-pausing moments, I decided to change up my life. I left the corporate world and headed into the great outdoors.

I travelled to Florida to qualify as a yoga teacher, and here is where I first went out on a paddleboard. In that moment (after falling off a million times and getting back on and up), I knew I had found the reason. The reason why my accident had happened, the reason for surgery, my recovery, travelling. It was always about leading me to that moment, my journey to discovering and falling literally head over heels in love with SUP.

During my spinal fusion recovery back in 2013/14, I had personally experienced the positive physical and mental well-being benefits of being outdoors, exercising, learning something new, adventuring, and meeting people. I knew my “new life” would be a creative blend of all this.

In 2015, after qualifying as a SUP Instructor and RLSS Lifeguard, I launched SUP Fitness in Nottingham, UK. Initially it was just me, 2 sessions a week, with 3 boards out of the back of my Peugeot 206. Fast forward to today, and we have a full-time team, with a fleet of boards, paddling in multiple locations in the UK and worldwide. We have a jam-packed daily and weekly schedule of SUP sessions from sunrise to sunset, from mindful paddling to race training and everything in between.

Over the past 9 years, my team and I have created a passionate and dedicated sup club who are focused on creating a fun, all inclusive, and safe environment to welcome people into the wonderful world of SUP.  On our “home waters” of Colwick Park, The River Trent, Beeston Canal and Highfields Boating Lake we have successfully introduced and taught 1000s of people to paddle and enjoy the water through one of our award-winning workshops.

We coach paddlers from their first stroke, to podium placing on the national and international race scene and our club trophy cabinet holds lots of wins for our race team called #TeamSUP.  We support our paddlers to meet their personal paddling goals from taking part in one of our club challenges like Coast To Coast England, Wales 100 to Guinness World Records (hyper link MS total sup)

Along with running the business I am a keen ultra distance paddler. I love the feeling of conquering the mind, body and environment. Of setting a challenge that at first seems impossible, but with focus, training and sheer determination you conquer your challenge. I love the personal journey you take and the person you become when you set goals and you strive to achieve them. My two favourite events that I have completed are the 5 Day SUP 11 City and The Chattajack Race. Both of these events inspired me to create Race To The Castle.

What inspired the creation of the Race To The Castle?

There are very few ultra-distance paddling events in the UK and we wanted to share our beautiful waters with the world along with raising funds for our Wellbeing on Water Initiative.

We are very passionate about this initiative which supports the mental well-being of adults through activities in blue-green spaces.

Race to the Castle (R2TC) is an international paddle board event, that celebrates the strength, strategy and courage a stand up paddler and their crews make when they commit to an ultra-distance paddling challenge.

Our focus is on community, creating an event that brings the world’s paddlers and their crews together, supporting the shared challenge of a 40km downriver event. Starting in Nottingham and finishing at the Castle in Newark paddlers will have spectacular views of the lush, rolling countryside of The Trent Valley.

Paddlers can enter R2TC as an adventurer paddler or a race paddler with all the usual board-length categories. Every paddler and their crew receives a finisher medal and the top 3 fastest times in all categories both female and male are awarded their placements medals.

What prompted the decision to allow only ISUPs (Inflatable Stand-Up Paddleboards) for the event?

A couple of reasons, we wanted to have a dedicated long-distance event that celebrates ISUPs. Each year, as a club, we travel far and wide for events, both in the UK and internationally and we are big fans of ISUPs. They are so easy to travel / fly with. The technology, design and versatility of the boards are fantastic. We knew this event would attract international paddlers and we wanted to encourage as many paddlers to join us. Paddlers can choose any length and width of ISUP but having everyone on the same type of craft, we feel makes the race category a little more even Vs paddling alongside carbon boards.

There are other benefits to having the race as ISUP friendly – logistics are far easier; There are 5 portages during the race – one has a ladder climb. An inflatable board is easier in this regard, for carrying and for portaging the locks and the AtoB logistics is solved. We have vans ready at the end to take everyones deflated boards back to the start. Paddlers can get the train and head back to the party in Nottingham, whilst we transport back the equipment.

Can you tell us more about the route along the River Trent and the challenges participants might face along the way?

The 40km will pass quickly for paddlers as the route is very scenic and varied. Participants will paddle under the iconic Trent Bridge, past the football stadium,  rowing clubs and then quickly out into the lush rolling Nottinghamshire countryside, paddling past quaint villages, pubs, and they have the added excitement at each of the 5 locks. The event will fly by and before you realise you’ll be arriving at the Castle in Newark.

The section of the River Trent river has good depth, it’s fully navigable by boats and we expect the flow to be somewhere between 1.5-4kmph, so this makes life easy for paddlers who haven’t quite paddled that distance before.

There’s a lunch resting point, where paddlers must stop for a mandatory minimum of 10 minutes to refuel. This is a great place to catch up and share stories of the journey so far.

We’d suggest if you can paddle 25km on the flat (with no assistance) then this would be a comparable effort level. We have cut-off times but these are very achievable and our aim is to cheer everyone in at the castle. There will be many spectators and teams of volunteers at all of the locks and along the route. Expect plenty of cheer, music and team friendliness.

Could you elaborate on the safety measures in place, particularly regarding the locks and portages along the route?

Race to the Castle is fully licensed, insured and permitted event. We continue to work alongside all local authorities (Canal and River Trust & Local Councils) to ensure we host a safe, fun and inclusive event for all.  On our website is a detailed map highlighting all check points, locks, first aid points and any hazards to be aware of.

The route is very familiar to us. It’s our home waters. We have paddled this route many many times and clocked up the km’s in a variety of conditions. We have the skills and experience to let all participants know what to expect out on the route regarding weather and conditions and we will share this information with everyone, 1 week before, 1 day before and at briefing on the day of.

Along the route of Race To The Castle, you will need to prepare for the “Great Portages”. We have 5 locks you will need to navigate across, all with their own unique characteristics. We have prepared a detailed guide on our website so you can plan your strategy.

Our crew will be manning the locks, to show you where you need to exit and re-enter, to cheer you in, give you words of wisdom, encouragement, welfare check ins. These locations are also a great place for your support crew to meet you, feed you and help with your portage strategy.

There will be water supply, food and and dedicated first open water lifeguards at the locks.

The wave start time will help ease congestion at the locks, but we do ask of the support of the full R2TC Community of all paddlers to ensure the smooth and respectful exit & re – entries onto the River. Use these known points in your event strategy, take a rest, stretch, take something to eat. All paddlers must portage around all locks. Going through the locks is not permitted. You will then “portage” and walk, no running with your board to the downriver side and re – enter the water.

A reminder that we will be sharing the waterway and tow path at the start, finish and locks with members of the public and to follow all event directional signage. All portages will be keep right on the tow path and no running with boards. This will allow a safe shared space.

What weather conditions do you anticipate for the end of April? Additionally, could you shed light on any contingency plans in place should adverse weather conditions arise during the event?

End of April in Nottingham, we expect spring like temperatures. Mild, blue skies, sunshine and the prevailing wind is usually a tail, but who knows. The Race Director of SUP 11 City always says “there will be weather” and that’s what makes paddling exciting.

We’ll be weather-watching and updating all participants via the WhatsApp group and email 1 week, 1 day before the event, and advising on clothing etc and will react with the known weather to adjust any start/cut off times.

The water is a very even temperature at this time of the year. Paddlers will need footwear for the portages but we’re not expecting it to be too cold. It’s advisable for paddlers to bring a change of clothes for the end of the race to travel back in and some may want to carry contingency/emergency clothing on their board. It is mandatory to carry a buoyancy aid and safety blanket on their person.

In the unlikely event of any extreme weather (such as flooding) then we would cancel the event.

With Race To The Castle set to become one of the largest SUP events in the UK, attracting over 200 registrants within a few weeks, what’s your expectation regarding the total number of avid SUP enthusiasts participating? Additionally, do you have insights on any international participants joining the event?

We’ve been delighted by the fast uptake of paddlers for this event. It’s a demonstration of the hunger for long-distance events, which we see overseas at events like the 11 City Sup Tour, Chattajack and Last Paddler Standing. It’s great to see that we already have paddlers signed up from across Europe and even as far away as the USA. Closing date is April 1st.

What transportation options do you recommend for reaching the ‘Race To The Castle’ venue most efficiently?

If flying to the race, then we’d recommend looking at East Midlands Airport (15 mins drive), Birmingham (1 hour drive), Luton (1.5 hour drive), Heathrow or Manchester (2 hours drive). Most trains run to Nottingham as it’s a major city and that station is within walking distance to the event. Parking is also easy with plenty of spaces near the registration. Paddlers can buddy up to leave a car at the end of the race (a 30-minute drive to the start). There’s also a train back from Newark to the beginning of the race which costs around £7 and takes only about 20 minutes.

What do you hope participants will take away from the experience?

We wanted to host a party on our waters. A 40km downriver party that everyone could take part in. We aim to show paddlers and their crews that they can achieve paddling distances far beyond their expectations. We want people to have fun, to feel supported and included.

This is the first annual R2TC and we think it’s going to be the start of something special. When you sign up, you’ll be joining like-minded folks who want to endurance paddle, to test themselves, to battle the elements, who want to race to the castle and then share and trade stories. These people will become your new friends.

Every paddler and their crew is invited to the afterparty. Here we will all celebrate together with a disco, awards ceremony and dancing.

Is there any advice or encouragement you would like to share with our readers regarding their participation or attendance at the event?

Over these next weeks, spend as much time as you can getting used to your board. Think about your kit and how you will carry your board. You can sign up to our training plans here, which will really give you an edge and make you feel confident on the day. Join the discussion on the Facebook event page so you can meet other paddlers and share the build-up and excitement.

We can’t wait to see you and welcome you to our city and cheer you in at the castle. You’re going to love it!

Register now!

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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