Clockwise from rear: Becker, McPhillips, Bain, Pope, Viele, Vela, Newkirk, Bostian, Lew, Appleby, Kurt, Beausang, Howard
WRIGHTSVILLE BEACH, North Carolina - The Carolina Cup started in 2011 when six friends came together and decided to start a race that reflected the aquatic diversity of this area and its paddlers. James Bain, John Beausang, Brad Howard, William Pope, Mark Schmidt and myself were all local businessmen, each with a different set of skills and expertise that would be invaluable in organizing this event. This group included industry insiders, local leaders, restaurant owners, logistics/supply experts and financial/marketing professionals.
In 2011, about 175 people raced in the Carolina Cup, with Anthony Vela and Karen Wrenn taking top honors. The first year really established the vibe for the race and reflected the hospitable and welcoming nature of the paddling community here, best illustrated by the story below.
The day before the race we awoke to a clean waist-chest high swell. True to our nature, we blew everything off and hit the surf, even with the biggest race ever held on the East Coast hanging over our heads. So we showed up at the event hotel at 6 AM; rustled Vela, Candice, Matt, Byron and Colin out of bed; loaned them some boards and hit the surf. The picture below is the day that this event really started. The good ole' boys and their new friends from Cali created a bond that still exists to this day.
Photo Courtesy of NCPressRelease.Com
In 2012 the race moved to the Blockade Runner Hotel (pictured below), located in the heart of Wrightsville Beach. Their front yard is the Atlantic Ocean and their backyard is Banks Channel, Wrightsville Beach's version of Turtle Bay. We could surf and beach start out front, while having clinics, flatwater races and family activities out back. The success of the previous year and the new locale helped double the size of the race to 325 paddlers in 2012. Danny Ching and Heather Baus were triumphant that year and established this race as the premier East Coast Event.
William Pope and I left the fold after the 2012 race, but the Bain/Beausang/Howard/Schmidt Team raised the bar again in 2013. Last year's event had 600 racers and over 1,000 total participants. Danny Ching became the first 2 time Carolina Cup Champion (pictured next page) and Annabel Anderson planted her flag in the Carolina Soil, putting everyone on notice that she was a force to be reckoned with. Clinics for everyone from beginners to advanced, combined with the world's finest ocean athletes, made for what some were now rightfully claiming as "one of the Top SUP Events on the planet."
Photo Courtesy of Chris McQuiston - Local Sessions Magazine
2014 - Carolina Cup
This year's event will include the standards that set it apart; 3 races for beginners to pros; clinics to improve your stroke; an idylic setting; and gracious locals. So what's new? How about a Friday Night Dinner with a motivational speech from World Renowned Waterman Dava Kalama. Has prone blown in your area like it has at Wrightsville Beach? Then sign up for Jaime Mitchell's Prone Clinic. How many times are you going to get the chance to receive personal instruction from a 10-time Molokai Champ?
Where else can you be part of an event that caters to everyone from the newbie to the world champ? If you want to experience a real southern vibe and compete against the world's best, then bring your big boy paddle and head to Wrightsville Beach the last weekend in April.
Go to the Carolina Cup website for more race details.
Haywood Newkirk is a 6th generation native of Wilmington, North Carolina and has been surfing since the early 1970's. Haywood got the "SUP Bug" when his wife showed up for Father's Day with a standup board in 2009. He is a Regional Team Rider for Hobie and the Carolina Paddleboard Company. He and his family are very water oriented spending most of their time on their boat the "Haelife', fishing, surfing and paddleboarding. He is also involved in a number of community organizations that are concerned with maintaining public access to area waters, preserving the area's aquatic culture and mentoring the next generation of ocean athletes. Haywood's Motto - "Grow the sport, protect your area waters and give back.
Click here for last year's press on the Carolina Cup.