Carolina Cup Graveyard: 14 and Under Class for Women and Men

Carolina CUP  Single 14 and Under class for Elite SUP Women and Men

Here’s the official announcement from the Carolina Cup race directors.  14 and under, Graveyard ladies.  There you go. And OC and Surf ski paddlers, there’s some news for you, too. Read on:

Dear Paddle Family,

After years of planning and consideration, the 2018 Carolina Cup will be moving toward a single, 14-and-under board class in its elite Graveyard race for both women and men.
There are three paddleboard courses at the Carolina Cup: The 13.2-mile Graveyard elite race, the 10K Money Island Race and the 5K Harbor Island Race. This change ONLY affects the 13.2-mile Graveyard elite race and does not affect traditional (prone) paddleboards.
This means, in the elite Graveyard Race, women and men can race any board they feel will make them the most competitive in the battle for the podium or most comfortable in their quest to complete the all-conditions course within the 4.5 hour cutoff. It’s up to the individual to decide which size board will give them the best result or experience. Just like in a triathlon, you can ride a cruiser bike if that’s what you feel most comfortable on and can finish on within the time constraints. Paddlers can make their own decision as to which board they wish to compete on: be it a 11’0” fun shape, a 12’6”, a 13’2” or a 14.


This decision was anything but arbitrary. For years, top women paddlers have asked us to make this move as the Graveyard is considered pound-for-pound one of the most challenging paddle courses on the calendar. In the past year, there has been a general sentiment that women have been unfairly forced on slower crafts and that their progression should have paralleled the men’s move to 14’ boards long ago. We recognize and miss the BOP which kicked this all off, but it was such a specialized in-and-out-of-the-surf race, and that board length was the result a complicated confluence of factors that shaped an entire sport, but wasn’t designed for the long term.
We respect and understand the heritage of the 12’6” class, but considered five main issues in our decision: (1) the desire by women to be treated equally in competition and equipment as stated by many in the recent #IPaddleForEquality movement; (2) the focusing of competition into a consolidated race; (3) the logistical and operational burden put upon race directors to carry literally hundreds of potential board, age, and gender classes in a single event; (4) the success of the 14’ and under board division in Europe; and (5) the future direction of the sport as being dictated by the ISA.
We asked everyone we could: paddlers (open racers and pros) race directors, manufacturers, industry professionals and media outlets. We weighed the benefits and issues. We called on our own experiences and feedback we have received over the years.
First, SUPracer and the Paddler Collective were instrumental in helping us poll the top 20 women. No race change for women can be made with out their voice. The response wasn’t unanimous, but was overall in favor of the move. We were able to get responses from 18 of the top 20 paddlers. We also privately asked many top regional women paddlers their thoughts and again had an overwhelmingly positive response toward the change.
We took into consideration the move to 14’ and under boards by the ISA and races in Europe and our possible olympic future.
Then, we looked at what this would do for everyone who had or manufactured 12’6” boards. We think our solution will not make 12’6” boards obsolete. For in-and-out-of-the-surf races, the 12’6” will most likely be the board of choice. We addressed concerns by 12’6” board owners and manufacturers by maintaining both 14 and 12’6” and under board classes in the 5K and 10K races, and focusing the Juniors on boards 12’6” and under. The lets open racers train and compete on their boards.
As elite women paddlers migrate to the 14’ board class, the secondary used market will provide a lower barrier of entry for new racers and junior paddlers for which the cost of race boards can be a limiting factor in their entry into the sport. For the industry, much like in the very beginning, it opens the doors to a jump in custom boards maximized for women, which in turn will lead to product line extensions and new purchases of production boards.


Graveyard Race: We will be sending off the elite men approximately three minutes before the elite women in separate waves. As soon as the men pass the first buoy, we will start the women. This will lead many of you to the obvious question of the need for drafting rules, which we are still debating internally with feedback from the professional paddlers. Juniors Pros who are at the elite level and who wish to race in the Graveyard race can enter in 14’ and under and be considered in both the overall and the Graveyard Juniors (U17) divisions. Paddlers can win in both their age groups and the overall. They will not be knocked out of one for the other.
In the Graveyard Race, we will be awarding the overall women and men 14 and under and then recognizing age groups for men and women in the U17, 18-49, 50-59, and 60+ divisions. The 60+ division is a new addition. Again, this does not affect traditional (prone) paddleboards. There will not be a OC or Surfski division in the Saturday Graveyard Race. (See below)
The 5K Harbor Island: Our Juniors will be competing on boards 12’6” and under and the Junior race will be in the 5K Harbor Island course where we will be breaking down age groups in 2-year increments for both girls and boys. We will be highlighting the Juniors in this race and celebrating their victories with an opportunity to interact with their idols on Sunday. More details to come.
The 10K Money Island Race and the 5K Harbor Island Race will have two divisions in each. Despite some confusion, the Money Island Race is not the race with prize money, nor is money hidden on the island. It is a 10K race that bridges the gap between the flatwater 5K and the all-condition Graveyard. The 12’6″ to 14’ division and the 12’6” and under division which includes any paddleboard 12’6” and under—displacement, planing and/or inflatable. We will have U17, 18-49, 50-59, and 60+ in the Money Island and Harbor Island will have the same, except we will be expanding the Juniors as this is our juniors championships.


We know many racers and manufacturers are planning for the trip to Wrightsville Beach, NC in April, so making this announcement now will give much-needed time to produce and ship boards, perhaps make slight tweaks to productions schedules and designs for 2019 and 2020.


We are temporarily taking down registration to make changes to reflect this change and the age divisions.
We have also had time to reflect on the resources necessary to plan for an event of this scale and from logistics and safety standpoints, we will be limiting the number of paddlers in each race this year. And we will be rewarding those who register with a unique opportunity to challenge yourself and be celebrated for that participation.


Graveyard: We want to celebrate the OC and Surfski divisions and allow for people to race on both days in multiple crafts. To that end, the Graveyard for Outrigger (OC-1, OC-2) and Surfski Graveyard will be on Sunday and will compete on the same Graveyard Course. We will be starting and finishing on the sound side with a flatwater start and beach finish.

We are listening. We care. We paddle.

We love this sport and the people who paddle. We are four race directors who run family businesses and truly do this for the love. We are obviously willing to make tough decisions to make this sport stronger and better for everyone. As race directors of large event, any change can make a break-even scenario into an out-of-pocket disaster, so we assure you, we have talked and debated and asked to make sure this is right for the paddlers and the sport.
For those of you who are not in favor of this change, we hope you can at least get a glimpse into what went into the decision and hope you’ll climb aboard, come to Carolina and enjoy the week of clinics, demos, expo, racing and water family reunions.
We appreciate everyone who’s input went into this decision. Thank you Chris at SUP Racer. Thank you top 20 women and our regional advisors for their feedback. Thank you to Danny Ching who talks more sense than just about anyone in the room at times. Thank you to everyone who has helped make the Carolina Cup something special. We look forward to seeing you in Wrightsville Beach on April 18-22.
We will re-open registration soon and provide more updates on the OC races, category, logistics, safety, the juniors race and more. Look for the announcements.
The Carolina Cup Race Directors and our volunteers, dogs, kids, and families