What does it take to build a successful SUP racing scene? “It’s about growing the community around it and being able to involve companies to sponsor events and athletes,” says Tommy Dee Packendorff, Director of the Skrea Strand Paddlerace who has teamed up with Baltic Lifejacket Sweden, Swedish watersport brand specialising in designing and manufacturing premium lifejackets, buoyancy aids and floatation clothing, to organise an outstanding SUP racing event in Falkenberg, Sweden on the 13 & 14 August 2022, bringing elite riders and SUP enthusiasts together.
TotalSUP caught up with Tommy, a driven waterman himself and promoter of the sport of stand-up paddleboarding in Sweden, to chat about the Swedish SUP racing scene and the partnership with Baltic.
Hi Tommy, welcome to TotalSUP! Let’s get straight to the question – Can Sweden be the next SUP powerhouse?
Sweden has a lot of nature and waterways so it is for sure a very SUP-friendly place, offering some adventurous paddling on rivers and lakes, but also in through the archipelago. The inflatable SUP scene has grown tremendously here in Sweden the last three years and you can find people paddling everywhere. However, with the Winter being fairly cold, most people are paddling during the warmer seasons of the year. Some people paddle all year round which I find amazing, me and my friends paddled the Kattegatt Sea when it was -13 Celsius outside, it was one of my top paddles for sure.
Tommy Dee Packendorff, Director of the Skrea Strand Paddelrace
Cross-country skiing is big in Sweden and we are hoping to see more people moving onto SUP as the basic movements are very similar and it would also be great training during Summer for them. As with most new sports, in order for it to grow, it needs to become more mainstream to attract more people into the sport. It’s about growing the community around it and being able to involve companies to sponsor events and athletes. Sweden has a system for sports clubs allowing to get a lot of funding and you need to be successful with this in order to get a well working and a financially strong club.
You’re the Director of the Skrea Strand Paddlerace. Could you tell us more about this event and the Swedish SUP Championships? Can paddlers from other countries take part?
I have always been a big fan of beach races such as the classic Battle of The Paddle & PPG which consist of intense racing and action starting already on the sand. You need to be a skilled paddler to manage a beach race with everything from starting running on the beach, getting up on the board, taking buoy-turns, catching bumps, drafting others and sprinting to the finish line. These types of races are rarely organized in Sweden and in Falkenberg we have a perfect beach and scenery to run it. So we are pretty much aiming for a Swedish version of BOP/PPG, where there is a lot of racing, but also to be a place where we gather the SUP community in Scandinavia to have fun and talk all things SUP.
Even though these are the Swedish Championships, this race is an international event and we’re inviting all paddlers to join the fun. Anyone can win the race but the Swedish SUP Champion title can only be given to a Swedish citizen. Last year we had several paddlers from Denmark (Casper Steinfath for example bagged the Mens Champion 2021 title) and this year we have paddlers from other countries such as UK and Norway already signed up. Website is available in several different languages and all info for this year’s race is already up!
What is the SUP scene like in Sweden?
I think I did my first SUP race in 2007-ish and there weren’t many races around back then. It has taken a few years before more races starting popping up. It wasn’t until the SUP racing pioneers in Sweden founded the Cup series in 2014 and the SUP racing kicked off. An even though the amount of paddlers has been shifting through the years, it is now bigger than ever. It’s called ”Svenska SUPrace serien” and consists of several locally organized races with a united ranking system. It’s a lot of fun with different types of races. One of the challenges for the SUP community to grow in Sweden are the geographically long distances between the event locations.
Most races are being held on the southwest coast with a few more races spread over the mid-south part of the country which often requires at least one sleepover if you want to travel to a race from the other side of the country. A lot of SUP racers from the South, regularly compete in the Danish SUP tour as well.
If I’m honest most riders in Sweden who compete are middle-aged like myself, haha, but we also have a few younger, stronger athletes starting to prove themselves on international level which is great fun to see!
There has been a lot of talks about SUP safety…
Some paddlers are watermen and waterwomen who have been growing up near the water, training, swimming, paddling, surfing, diving. And even for them, water can be dangerous and accident can happen. But most people have very little experience with water, especially with open, ocean waters. They do not understand water, waves, currents, wind, tides, temperature and fast-changing conditions. As SUP is now accessible to many people, regardless of their previous experience allowing to enter to water without the necessary skills and understanding of how it works. And that can be very dangerous. I will always promote wearing a water safety aid but it may vary in type depending on the situation, conditions and the person wearing it. The design of new buoyancy aids made specifically for stand-up paddleboarding, will be more user-friendly which is the first big step towards safer paddling.
Together with Baltic Lifejackets Sweden we’re aiming to make a great event for SUP in Sweden, not only for elite paddlers but also for newcomers, kids, spectators SUP brands and suppliers. It will be a great gathering for the community with an after-party and dinner held at the beautiful hotel of Falkenbergs Strandbad. It’s a professional sports event with a total of 20.000SEK in price money and a great happening on the beach for spectators that has not seen SUP in this format before.
Could you tell us more about Baltic SUP-specific range of buoyancy aids?
Baltic is a very strong brand offering a range of lifejackets, buoyancy aid and floatation apparel. I have known them and their products for a very long time. One of the important things for me as an athlete is that I want products to be genuine and made for purpose. Baltic has developed these ”floating vests” (as we call them in Sweden), together with my friend Pontus Ny, who not only is a super skilled paddler and a top SUP instructor himself, but also an expert in biomechanics and design. With that, I really trust these products to be just that: genuine and fit for purpose.
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What are your Baltic products of choice?
Although I like both vests since they give me freedom to move to paddle as I normally do, the SUP-Elite vest is my favourite and is perfect for long-distance paddling on the ocean.
Photo credit: Baltic Lifejackets Sweden
I bring along a waterpouch on the back and smaller stuff and my phone in the chest-pocket. It also has a place where you can attach a light, which is very smart if you want to paddle when its dark, which is very often during winter here in Sweden!
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The Ifloat SUP Buoyancy Aid is perfect during shorter and harder training session where you push really hard, but still want to have a bit of safety just in case.
You have built and impressive SUP community around the Falkenberg SUP Club…
It’s important to understand that people paddle with a different purpose but whatever it is, it’s by far more fun to paddle together with like-minded people. A hard training session or a cruise to a remote island to watch the seals play is more fun with friends. You can share paddle routes with each other, practice technique, test various boards and paddles and also paddling becomes safer. I paddle with my closest neighbours, Daniel and Dennis, and we wanted more friends to join in so we set up Falkenberg Stand Up Paddle Club. It has been set up for all paddlers and not only the ones who like to race. Today, we are the biggest SUP-only club in Sweden, with over 60 members, mostly adults. I would say 90% paddle on inflatable boards, but many of them are crossing over to hard boards if they want to go into racing a bit more. This year we are starting up our SUP kid groups and we are hoping this will grow from here and be successful.
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What’s next? What’s in the pipeline?
I think 2022 will be a huge year for SUP worldwide. There are more events and races than ever before, the sport has grown and become more professional and as the days are getting warmer and brighter, there will be more paddling done! We are busy in planning the event, but I’m also really looking forward to attending The Red Bull Midsummer Vikings Challenge with my team. Last year was great fun and it sure will be this year!
Thank you very much for your time and good luck with the 2022 Season!
To find out more about Baltic, visit Baltic Lifejacket Sweden www.baltic.se and follow the brand on Instagram and Facebook.
Connect with Tommy on Instagram and check out Skrea Strand Paddelrace and Falkenberg SUP Club Instagram.