Celebrating under 17, over 50 paddlers and categories with less than 3 competitors

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Results. Wow. Let me tell you about race results. From a race director’s point of view, they often are the hardest part of running a race—especially when they are trying to tackle timing and results on their own.

Putting race divisions into perspective

Here are 12 common board classes:

  • Surf
  • Inflatable
  • 12’6″
  • 14′
  • Unlimited
  • Tandem
  • Surfski
  • OC-1
  • OC-2
  • Prone Stock
  • Prone 14
  • Prone Unlimited

Multiply this by 3 age groups and the overall (4):

  • Under 17
  • 18-49
  • Over 50
  • Overall

Now multiply this by gender (2):

  • Male
  • Female

That’s 96 board classes in a race with 75 people. Throw in 2 race courses, perhaps a 5K and a 10K and you potentially have 192 board classes and 75 paddlers.  Add a kids race and perhaps a juniors and junior pro category, which is here already, and you increase that number again.

To get a trophy count, now multiply this by 3, one for each top 3 places. The trophies have to be pre-ordered and most racers don’t register early. So race directors most likely have boxes of old trophies laying around, each at $1-$5 or more. Hundreds of dollars (or more) in “what if” trophies.

You can see why paddlers need to give race directors some latitude. There are a million divisions, they are doing their best, and no one is making any money. (Hopefully, they aren’t losing money. They probably are.)

That said, if a race director is going to put on a race, they need to take responsibility for the accuracy and inclusivity of the results. They need to make a concerted effort to treat everyone as guests in their home, as friends, as part of their community.

Sounds like a balancing act. It’s not easy. But we’re water people and in general, we should be nice people.

One of the biggest issues tends to be with competitors under 17 and over 50

Why? Because the current timing systems will often make them choose a division or automatically put them in a division, eliminating them from the overall.

Here’s are two common scenarios:

  1. An over 50 paddler, gets third and is dropped out of the over 50 category. They are a pro, in the elite group and they don’t mind getting overlooked when the over 50 division is announced. And the over 50 crew doesn’t mind getting bumped up a spot. No one says anything. No one is offended. No one feels disrespected or wronged. Happy Facebook posts.
  2. An over 50 paddler, gets third and is dropped out of the overall standings. They are a pro, in the elite group and really mind getting overlooked in the overall standings. They win the over 50, but feel disrespected or wronged. Angry Facebook posts. Angry posts from their friends on Facebook. Bummed paddlers. Bummer race director. Bad mojo.

Just because someone sees a second person on the grassy knoll or a women in a polka-dot dress coming out of the results tent yelling “we got him,” don’t assume SCANDAL! or CONSPIRACY! In reality, it’s a mis-checked box.

I can’t say 100% of the time the race directors have no idea, but it’s close to 100% of the time. Race directors want the results to be correct, take the time to put on a great race, and order trophies or awards specifically to GIVE THEM OUT TO THE WINNERS. Sites such as the Mullet, who show up to these events to give them and the paddling community coverage they get nowhere else—not in any of the magazines or any other sites—want to get it right.

How to solve this for now

Keep the paddlers in both divisions. That way if an over 50 or under 17 places out of the top 3, but win their age group, they are still recognized and celebrated. Everyone wins.

Another issue comes in divisions with less than 3 people

We are seeing this a lot with growth areas such as Outrigger and Prone Paddleboards. Race directors want to include them in their races, but when the first one comes to “test the waters” #punintended, they aren’t recognized because there are less than three in the division.

It’s not because race directors don’t value them or want their divisions to grow—for them to bring friends—but because the system simply eliminates their non-division. To make it worse, OCs, tandem or unlimiteds are often the overall first finishers.

Now imagine this scenario: You are a race director and two of your favorite people—good friends—and their children race in the tandem division and come in first and second overall in a race. They finish in front of EVERYONE else.

“Dad! We’re going to win!”

“Keep paddling! We’re almost there!”

They hop off their board and run across the finish line, holding hands and jumping up and down.

At the awards, not only are they forgotten, but they don’t even have results. No time.

Under the current system, that can and has happened.

Talk about a horrible feeling. I still hold that one in my gut even know it was almost 3 years ago. Sorry Greg and Evan! Evan was even wearing a Mullet hat. Sorry Dana and Craig, I’m still so sorry!


How to solve this for now

Celebrate the overall first paddlers on any craft across the line. Even if a division has less than 3 people, find a way to celebrate them.

Have the results printed out for all divisions with any paddlers in them and read them aloud. Bring all the divisions up and take photos.

If you have extra trophies, hand them out. Find a way. You are throwing a party and you want everyone to have a good time, to be recognized for their effort and accomplishments.

And if that doesn’t work, send us a photo and we’ll post it on the Mullet 😉

Prone Zone! Sorry you weren’t called up! You did great!!!


OC-1s and OC-2s are making their way to the East Coast. Keep Racing!!! You are amazing. I want one!DSCF4278

Suggestions for your sanity

Race Directors: If you are a larger race, say over 100 paddlers, get someone who KNOWS the Paddle Guru system and can get the correct divisions in there. There are 3 people who really kick ass at this: Melia Jacobs, Katie Elzer-Peters and Kim Hillhouse are great resources or potential race directors if you want things to go smoothly.

If you hire a timing company, make sure they are aware of this issue and can address it with the data when they set up registration and when they print out the results. Most of the time, these companies aren’t familiar with paddle races and need direction.

Also, post the results, broken down into the divisions (not just overall), before the awards to give people time to dispute, fix, or adjust them. ANNOUNCE to EVERYONE that you are posting the results and be there to fix the issue and make the changes before anyone gets near a podium. Podium becomes the official and final results (not really, but in practice, they should be). Most likely, you’ll need a printer on site with paper, extra ink cartridges and a wire to connect to the laptop in case bluetooth or wifi doesn’t work. And when someone comes up with an issue, they are trying to help. Be patient. Ask them to wait if you need a second. Get the timing people there and note it. Ask for a second or third person to confirm the result. Usually the people in front and behind them can confirm.

One other idea is to simply ask at the end of the awards, “Did we miss anyone?” Have the awards handy. Let them get photos on the podium.

Paddlers: If you are an elite paddler or your child is competing in the elite or pro division, check with the race director and registration—before the race—to make sure they know and you will be in the right division. If you find a mistake or omission, let the race directors know. Some race directors are super nice and accommodating. They know how to deal with issues. Others aren’t used to dealing with a large number of people pulling them in different directions, but are doing their best.

Believe us, there is no conspiracy. In general, race directors want to get these results right and celebrate with you at the awards. They aren’t playing favorites. Tell the race directors if you were knocked out of the overall. Be patient. Be kind.

We are water people. Think dolphins, not rattlesnakes.