In January of this year, the Dana Point-based World Paddle Association launched a new SUP Race circuit, the World SUP Tour, in a bid to bring together some of the most popular SUP race events on the planet under one single banner. With two races of the World SUP Tour already completed for this year, and the third leg to take place in Columbus (Georgia) next month, head of the WPA and brainchild behind the Tour itself, Byron Kurt, gives us the full low-down.
Can you give a brief overview of the history and the role of the World Paddle Association?
The aim of the WPA is to provide rules and guidelines for the sport of paddling and SUP. This will allow the sport to grow in a fair and safe manner. Along with this, we sanction events around the world, over 1,000 since 2009 and will sanction about 100 in 2017, event insurance, points for competitors for rankings and WPA Certified instruction so that instructors are teaching the proper technique and safety.
Why did the WPA decide to launch a new World circuit what are its ambitions?
It was discussed for years to launch a World tour through the WPA, however we wanted to solidify our international governing bodies first so we could present the best product with the events in the U.S. and our World partners. The difference between what the WPA does compared to others is that we are supporting not only the Elite-Pro competitors, but also the Open/recreational and Kids competitors at all of the World SUP Tour events, just as all of the WPA sanctioned events.
The reason is that this is the best way to grow the sport for the future by supporting the competitors who are purchasing product at retail that only helps all of the manufactures succeed in business for the future. Without this component, you have a short term future. This shows that the WPA cares about the sport and wants the best for the all involved. Basically, if you provide a great experience for everyone, they will want to come back to your event.
On what basis did you select the events for the World SUP Tour? Does the WPA organize any?
We felt it was very important to select the best events to be part of the WST with the venue being spectator friendly, good for competitors and sponsors. If you don’t keep everyone happy that is part of an event and you do not provide a great experience, no one will want to come back.
The WPA runs one event on the WST, the WPA Paddle Championships in Columbus, GA and will help organize the China Paddle Challenge in July. Most of the events that the WPA sanctions are run and run very well by seasoned event directors and their staff. All of the events are run very well and every event has and will always pay the needed staff and the competitors at the completion of the event. The WPA events have a perfect track record and stand behind it.
How does the WST point system work?
The WST points are based on the number of competitors that compete and the also the power of the field in the Elite-Pro divisions with a 4-star, 5-star, 6-star and Finale, with the points increasing as the star rating goes up.
We also wanted the format to be fair for the competitors and be able to pick the events that they could best attend with no contracts and with their best three events counting towards their points total and the WST final event, the Pacific Paddle Games on Sept 30, 2017.
Are the World SUP Tour athletes awarded any prize money?
The top three in Men’s 14’ and the Women’s 12’6 for 2017 will receive the Salt Life bonus money at PPG and that will become the WST rankings going forward. Money will be awarded at each WST event for the Elite-Pro SUP and then other paddle divisions like OC, Surfski and Prone depending on the event and the format.
The WST events will award about $10,000 to $15,000 per event with the Pacific Paddle Games awarding an estimated $60,000 prize money and the Salt Life bonus money.
Who are your current sponsors and partners?
Currently we have Salt Life apparel as the presenting sponsor of the WST, just secured an awards sponsor who will be providing medals for all division winners, PaddleGuru as our event solution (registration & timing) and SUP the MAG/TEN.
Currently we are working on three other sponsors which we hope to finalize very soon and announce. We also have great media sponsors with TotalSUP, Distressed Mullet, PaddleGuru and SUP the MAG/TEN which helps drive information about the WST and the WPA.
We are two races down already. What is your overall assessment of the WST so far and what can we expect for the rest of the tour?
I feel that both events went very well as expected as both the Rincon Beach Boy in Puerto Rico and the Carolina Cup have very good track record as with all of the WST and WPA sanctioned events. With this said, the Rincon Beach Boy event has the largest number of competitors to date, which is a great testament to the job that they did.
Everyone needs to know that with so many events going on in the world every weekend, events are getting diluted and numbers are going down with competitors which is even more reason why the quality of each event is paramount and providing a great experience for everyone. We great venues and new locations this year which will be very exciting to see the feedback. We will evolve and make changes as needed to best meet the needs for everyone involved.
How much support have you received from the athletes?
We frequently meet and talk to many athletes on all levels and I feel most are in favor of what the WST is doing, which is to provide a fair platform and a great experience. While the Elite-Pros would always like more prize money, we need to set the standard first and then hopefully grow from here.