Sidney to ride big wave of thrills at standup paddleboarding championship

Sidney by the Sea will play host to the National Standup Paddleboarding Championship in late May. The event, sponsored by Surf Canada, will take place May 26 to 28 at the Port Sidney Marina.

“Sidney couldn’t be a better venue,” said Surf Canada director Dan Tarnow.

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“Everyone in the community will be able to see the races and get a feel of what it’s like.”

Standup paddleboarding is a cross between canoeing and surfing. Paddlers stand on a surf-style board and use a long paddle to propel themselves. The sport has become increasingly popular on southern Vancouver Island in recent years, and is thought to be the fastest-growing water sport in the world.

The races will take place along the waterfront in Sidney.

“It’s just the greatest platform to be able to host these kind of races,” Tarnow said, noting that the 200-metre sprint will be held in front of the boardwalk.

“They are 30-second races, high energy, lots of guys and girls going as hard as they can.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, you’re going to get excited.”

There will also be a 12-kilometre race and a flatwater technical competition, which Tarnow compares to a demolition derby or a motocross race.

“The racers are all lined up. People come whipping around the buoys. Race officials are there to make sure everyone behaves themselves,” he said.

“It’s really exciting. Someone who is in last place in the race can win it in the last 20 seconds.”

National championships decide who will represent Canada in the Pan Am Games and the world championships, Tarnow said. He and other organizers are hoping standup paddleboarding will become an Olympic event in 2024 and that Canada’s Olympic team trials will eventually be held in Sidney.

The event could attract up to 120 athletes, Tarnow said. “It’s a matter of getting the word out that this is actually a go.”

It’s also a chance to introduce new people to the sport and help it grow. Tarnow said there might be a chance for people to try out boards and take lessons.

The Mill Bay Marine Group is a sponsor of Surf Canada, said president Duane Shaw, but the group wanted to be more than a financial sponsor. He reached out to find out what kind of events would help them grow their athletes and their programs and ended up giving Surf Canada a tour of several marinas, ending up at Port Sidney Marina.

“They really liked the facility and the layout and the proximity for people to view the sport,” Shaw said.

“It’s also a good location to attract athletes from the Lower Mainland. They could walk on the ferry and we’ll send a shuttle to get them.”

Shaw reached out to the Sidney Business Improvement Association last fall about support for the event, and the group immediately jumped on board, he said. The association is providing funding for a short-term event contractor to work with the organizers and will also assist with marketing and promotion.

Race announcements will be made from Beacon Park. Vendor tents will line the footpaths.

A couple of food trucks will be brought in, maybe even a beer garden. Shaw said there also plans to showcase local musical acts and entertainment at the Mary Winspear Centre.

“I think Sidney is excited about the demographic. They’re excited about the age of the people who would come,” he said.

“The adventure sport itself is exciting. I think year one is going to be a ‘holy smoke’ event. By year two or three, things will be really exciting. It’s going to take on a life of its own.”

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