By Mark Schmidt (Wrightsville Beach Paddle Club)
West Marine Carolina Cup, the world’s largest gathering of professional and amateur standup paddleboard athletes, has added the World Paddle Association’s World SUP Tour in 2017.
The World SUP Tour is a new international series of 11-races across five nations, binding the sport’s biggest standup paddleboard races. Carolina Cup is the second race on the schedule in 2017, following Rincon in Puerto Rico. Salt Life will sponsor a season-end cash bonus for the top finishers.
Presented by Surftech, the five-day West Marine Carolina Cup returns to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, April 19-23, 2017. All races, clinics, demos, plus the expo and trade show will originate at host hotel Blockade Runner Beach Resort.
A portion of event funds will benefit the North Carolina Coastal Federation, a nonprofit organization with a mission to protect and restore water quality and critically important natural habitats of the North Carolina coast.
The Carolina Cup received more good news last week as its signature event, the 13.2-mile Graveyard Race for the pros, was elevated to 7-Star status — the highest ranking and one of only three races in the world to attain the lucky-7. “This year we’ve got three stand out, standup events,” said Chris Parker of SUP Racer. “The massive Carolina Cup at the start of the season, the epic Gorge Paddle Challenge [OR] in the middle, and the almighty Pacific Paddle Games [CA] towards the end of the year.”
Parker includes the 32-mile Molokai-2-Oahu as an “honorary” fourth major race of the season, “which sets up a ‘Grand Slam’ of four events similar to what we see in the world of tennis.”
Organized by the Wrightsville Beach Paddle Club and sanctioned by the World Paddle Association, the West Marine Carolina Cup attracted most of the top professional paddlers in the world in 2016, as well as amateur and elite racers from practically every state in the nation. Almost 1,000 people participated in last year’s races and clinics, based at Blockade Runner Beach Resort.
The 2017 Carolina Cup itinerary, April 19-23, incorporates the renowned World SUP Tour Graveyard Race, a demanding and grueling 13.2-mile ocean and flatwater race; the 6.5-mile Money Island Open Race; the 3.5-mile Harbor Island Recreational Race; the 9-mile, 6-person Outrigger (OC-6) Blockade Runner Flatwater Race; the new 4-person SUP Dragon World Series; and the popular Kids Race for children 7 to 14. Competitors include Olympians, world-record holders, champions, professionals, amateurs, and first-time paddlers.
Workshops on the agenda include one-on-one clinics, World Paddle Association certifications, paddling techniques, racing preparation, equipment selection, flatwater racing, ocean racing, surfski and kayak technique and racing, pre-race paddle tours of local waters, with more to be finalized in the coming weeks.
Clinic instructors from Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, Hawaii, California, and North Carolina include iconic professional paddlers Annabel Anderson, Connor Baxter, Candice Appleby, Michael Booth, Sonni Honscheid, Travis Grant, Titouan Puyo, Danny Ching, Dan Gavere, Jesse Lishchuk, Zane Schweitzer, April Zilg, and more.
Thursday, April 20, over 50 suppliers will be open to retailers only, re-opening for retailers and the public on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The expo and demos are free of charge.
“The success of the Carolina Cup is our continued focus on all paddlers from professionals to beginners,” said Mark Schmidt, race director. “Paddlers will have a great opportunity to see and try a wide variety of equipment and ask questions directly to the manufacturers and pros.”
Registration and other details may be found at wrightsvillebeachpaddleclub.com/carolina-cup.