Images: World Pictures

For many athletes, participating on this planet championships is the end result of a lifetime of dedication and sacrifice. For me, it has concerned a few hours of light follow within the Caribbean sunshine. The largest sacrifice I’ve made to date has been to delay the time of the day’s first rum and Coke.

The occasion I’m participating in is the inaugural Dragon World Championships, a stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) race organised by board maker Purple Paddle, based in 2008 by former windsurfing champion John Hibbard. Advances in know-how implies that they’ve been in a position to create an inflatable board inflexible sufficient to remain rock-solid with a number of individuals standing on it. That’s why this competitors – going down in Carlisle Bay, off Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados – will see groups from across the globe battle it out on four-person, 22ft (6.7m) Dragon boards, with Hibbard available to supervise proceedings.

The format on day one sees factors allotted in response to the place you end in your warmth. Your rating determines your seeding for the knockout rounds on day two. Till a couple of minutes earlier than the beginning, I’m feeling fairly relaxed about the entire thing as a result of I’m meant to be a part of a ragtag group of journalists for whom the pen is mightier than the paddle. However an damage to a different competitor means I’ve been drafted into The Grand Masters – a group comprising seasoned watersports fanatic and windsurfing teacher Bob, and a pair of Purple Paddle distributors from Germany known as Etienne and Marion. I’m instantly made to really feel a part of the gang but when we had been the Beatles, I’d be our second-best drummer.

Feeling the warmth

The primary spherical is forgiving in that we’re paddling for factors fairly than preventing to remain within the competitors, however the opposition is as stiff because the board I’ll be driving. We’re up towards a group who’ve flown from Russia to be right here (and aren’t precisely exuding an it’s-the-taking-part-that-counts aura) and a neighborhood quartet who could also be new to Dragon board racing however are properly versed within the bay’s swells. 

Our ways are easy. Marion is on the entrance and can name the strokes. I’m buried in second place, with the opposite two guys on the again performing because the engine room. We make a strong begin however I’m so busy concentrating on staying upright that my strokes are extra light pats than highly effective pulls. The course takes us straight out to sea, then right into a left flip after 200m, persevering with till we full the 800m roughly-square route.

The Russians velocity off with decided effectivity, leaving us to battle it out with the locals. They’re in all probability sooner however they’re spending extra time within the water so we edge previous them and float up the shore for a second-place end. We’ve bagged useful factors however I’ll want to tug my paddle out if we’re going to get previous the second spherical.

After watching the remainder of the heats I am going seeking some professional recommendation from the REDSUPLadies group from New York. They’re composed, swish and tactically shrewd and I wish to know the way they do it. “The key to our success is teamwork and understanding how every individual works,” says group captain Jennifer Hung. “We concentrate on synchronicity and communication. You let everybody know what’s developing and what’s occurring so everybody on understands the right way to transfer forwards.”

Her clever phrases give me one thing to consider as I get well, as all aspiring world champions ought to, with a cocktail within the setting solar.

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Board silly

Again on the bay on day two, there are 4 groups in our warmth however the solar (and presumably final evening’s cocktails) have gone to my head so I race off down the seashore too quick, failing to present Marion time to stand up onto the board and leaving us adrift of the competitors. We additionally take a poor line across the first buoy and by the point we hit the again straight we’ve got some severe catching as much as do. Nevertheless, we settle right into a rhythm and begin to reel within the two groups in entrance.

This appears like an actual battle and on the third buoy we take an aggressive inside line in an try and take out the groups forward. The gamble pays off and we’re selecting up velocity simply as we flip parallel to the seashore. A second later all 4 group members, our paddles and the board go flying. In our haste to get previous our opponents we didn’t have a look at what the water was doing and had been worn out by a tsunami (OK, a 2ft tiddler).

Within the residence straight Marion is struggling to search out her steadiness so I compensate by pulling even more durable. I additionally begin to name the strokes, mounting a last-ditch try to provide a quick end. It’s to not be and we drift in to the seashore in final place. Our podium probabilities might have sunk with out hint however I give myself a pat on the again for my heroic efficiency.

Then I give myself a slap across the face after I discuss to somebody who is aware of what they’re doing as a result of it seems my actions ruined our probabilities of progressing. “It’s all about gliding,” says Jason Cole, group captain of Paddle Barbados, a quartet of native SUP instructors who’re favourites to turn out to be champions. “It’s not likely about energy. When you don’t get a glide then the timing will likely be off. If somebody behind you pulls too laborious when you’re adjusting or altering sides you then’re going to fall backwards,” he says, as I nod sheepishly and study my flip-flops.

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Warrior spirit

I spend the following couple of hours watching Cole and his team-mates destroy the competitors and turn out to be the primary ever Dragon World Champions.

Thankfully I’ve bought an opportunity to redeem myself within the Dragon Warrior Dash, a handicap race the place each group within the competitors begins at intervals in response to the place they positioned in the primary occasion. The course snakes round a number of buoys earlier than heading again to the seashore, however there’s a shock in retailer as a result of 25m from the shore we’ll have to tug our board over two different boards within the water manned by Hibbard and his Purple Paddle colleague George Shillito. They’ll intention to halt our progress by prodding us into the water with Gladiator-style pugilist sticks.

Our penultimate place end (the journalists did the career proud by propping up the desk) in the primary occasion means we’re going off second. Having realized from our errors we take it steadily at first and we quickly overtake the journo crew. As we close to the flip for residence we’re nonetheless in first place however there’s a pack of paddlers behind us. Below strain we take a large flip for residence and about half a dozen groups sneak in on the within.

By the point we attain Hibbard and Shillito the ocean is a froth of boards, our bodies and paddles. We drag the Dragon over the boards, going shoulder to shoulder with our previous foes, the Russians, and storm up the seashore for a creditable eighth-place end. We might not have troubled the winners but when your last standing was decided by how a lot enjoyable you had, then I’ve simply conquered the world.

The 2018 Dragon World Championships will likely be held at Lake Fuschl, Austria, from 31st August-2nd September 2018. For particulars, go to dragonworldseries.com.