Finding a happy place: One Board Class Follow Up

Mullet The Mullet Leave a Comment

The One Board Class Post from last week definitely elicited a variety of responses. The end goal for all of us is a healthy, happy, thriving, sustainable sport. We want new people to enter and engage in the sport and the community. We want existing paddlers enjoy racing, meeting up with friends, and living the water life. We want to be challenged and have competition. And we want to enjoy ourselves in the process.

In that sense, we are all completely on the same page. We are all out for the same end goal. How we get there has to be ironed out. But first, let me make some clarifications:

  1. This isn’t a rule or a regulation. No one is making anyone do anything. We are all independent races free to do whatever we want. And as racers, we are free to go to whatever races we want.
  2. This isn’t something that we are doing for the Carolina Cup. This is a Distressed Mullet discussion. If this leads to changes in the Carolina Cup that work, awesome.
  3. This doesn’t count for Traditional paddleboarding (prone) who’s divisions have been set for a long time. unlimited and stock.
  4. This doesn’t apply to all races. Local and small regional races and the biggest races on Earth have different circumstances and requirements. They can take it or leave it.
  5. There is a distinction between a trophy and a finisher medal/tshirt. Everyone gets a trophy just sucks for everyone. A finisher medal you get when you finish is awesome. Even Catalina has it’s toothpick and shirt waiting for you at the finish. I cherish mine.

Here’s where there is some disagreement:

How do we get to that happy place?

I have no idea. (sigh)

However, here some of the common complaints that I see:

  1. The races are too expensive, especially for families.
  2. My class wasn’t recognized
  3. The race directors are overwhelmed with all the categories both from a results and a reporting standpoint
  4. Competition is diluted
  5. Board classes are unfocused on an olympic future
  6. Sponsors are few and far between and disappearing by the day
  7. Big Corporate Sponsors aren’t breaking down the doors to be a part of the events, yet.
  8. Women are being systematically held back from being fast by men who stuck them in the 12’6″ class and won’t let them draft the men
  9. Women love the 12’6″ class, don’t want to change to the 14 class, and don’t want slow men to draft them.
  10. No one wants to buy another board to accommodate board class changes
  11. Age groups are impossible and meaningless when you have so many board classes
  12. Paddlers rarely register early for an event (sometimes as high s 80% wait until the last week) which makes it impossible to plan and budget for race directors
  13. There are no pros in the US anymore. They go to a few events, but there is no support to have them travel around to regional and local races like they once did
  14. Manufacturers are rarely able to support/afford a stable of pros anymore.

I couldn’t care less if I am right or wrong.

This has nothing to do with the me or the Mullet. Or the Carolina Cup. I just want these events to work, for this sport to grow and THRIVE. Race directors shouldn’t say that the best day of their entire year is the day after their event is over. I hear that a LOT. And people attending shouldn’t say “They took my money and didn’t even give me a time or all I got was a stupid cookie.” There has to be somewhere that doesn’t suck for everyone. Maybe even a happy place.

That’s why over the next few weeks we will have a number of Op Eds on the state of racing in the US. Racers, Race Directors, Pros, Manufacturers. Let’s explore this respectfully and see if we can’t find some commonalities. At very least, maybe we can find a set of options we can each take home to our own races and race series’ that make sense for us.

For instance, if your focus is on the Juniors and their path to the olympics, the route is through standardization. If you’re focus is on age group competition, board classes have to be culled. If you want to pump up the unlimited division, find a way to focus the competition on specific races that cater to that unlimited division. If you want to go pro… well… I don’t know what you’d do. ISAs? Make our races more like theirs? Remember, in triathlons there are people who ride beach cruisers. There can be a place for everyone. Maybe just not on the podium and maybe not with a trophy.

Be respectful and kind to each other. I know we’re all passionate about this. Cross the line and be deleted. At this point, no one is telling anyone what they can or can’t do. Think of these people as the ones who are out there when you get in trouble on the water. They may not agree with you, but if you need a hand, they’re stopping to help. And from our perspective at Distressed Mullet, know we’re listening and hopefully, providing enough varying perspectives on the subject for everyone to see the whole picture.

Finally, as uncomfortable as this may be, it’s a whole bunch of people who really actually give a crap. That’s a blessing. A gift. It shows we’re very much alive. And if in the end we come out stronger as a sport and a community then it was more than worth it. Let’s get our thick skins on and start fixing this thing, evolving into something great and sustainable.

—JB

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