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Top 10 World’s Largest SUP Events

The Money Island 6.5-mile Race | Photo Courtesy of Emmy Errante and Lumina News The Money Island 6.5-mile Race | Photo Courtesy of Emmy Errante and Lumina News

SAN DIEGO, California - Every year SUP athletes and enthusiasts of all levels travel around the world to compete in some of the biggest and most challenging events in the sport. Whether it's technical courses or endurance races, downwind or surf, there are a handful of major events that have have reigned supreme within the SUP community over the past few years. Taking participation numbers, community engagement, and professional athlete turnout into account, we rounded up the top 10 largest SUP events around the world.

1. Carolina Cup

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Known as the kickoff race event of season, Carolina Cup attracts thousands of paddlers each year to Wrightsville Beach to compete against the world’s fastest SUP racers. Top athletes from around the globe travel to the East Coast to battle in its renowned Graveyard Elite Race, a 13.2 mile ocean and flat water endurance race with surf and downwind elements. Going on its seventh annual event, Carolina Cup has continually grown in participation over the past few years, originally starting as a regional event. As participation numbers have continued to increase with 400 in 2012, over 700 in 2014, and over a thousand paddlers in 2016, Carolina Cup has solidified itself on an international scale as one of the most important SUP events of the season. In 2015, the East Coast event was even recognized as one of the most competitive events on record and the largest SUP event in the world. Yet still amidst the big participation numbers and competition frenzy, the event continues to maintain its grassroots feel and community connection.

  • The Paddle League: 100 points
  • Event Date: April 18-22, 2018

carolina cup predictions 2016 elite startElite competitors at the 1st buoy during the 2016 Graveyard Course. | Photo Courtesy: Carolina Cup

2. Air France Paddle Festival

Papeete, Tahiti

Hosted on the beautiful French Polynesian island, the Air France Paddle Festival is Tahiti's biggest stand up paddle event of the year and one of the most highly anticipated SUP races of the season. Recently announced as the first event of The Paddle League's new World Tour, the event is expected to attract even more competitors than previous years, especially high profile athletes that are gunning for the crown. The event features five different races, including an intermediate 8 km Lagoon Race and an advanced 24 km Elite Race. As one of the earliest events of the year, the Air France Paddle Festival sets the bar for the upcoming race season and allows racers - pro and amateur alike - a chance to compete in one of the world’s most beautiful places. The 2017 edition had approximately 337 registered participants and the event consistently receives lots of praise from attendees for its great organization and hospitality. Now, with its new addition to The Paddle League’s tour, the 2018 event is heating up quickly and looking to be one of the most competitive years yet.

  • The Paddle League: 100 points
  • Event Date: April 7, 2018

air france paddle fest 20162016 Air France Paddle Festival Lagoon Race | Photo courtesy: Va'a News

3. Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge

San Diego, California

The annual Hanohano Huki Ocean Challenge in San Diego, California is the first major local race of the year and sets the tone for the upcoming season. The event is one of the Longest Running Paddlesport Races in California, offering access to all paddle crafts including OC-1 & 2, Surfski, Traditional Paddleboard, Stand Up Paddleboard and Kayak. Every year it has a great mix of top level professional athletes and beginners from ages 7-80, and this year the event saw a total of 670 participants, which includes SUP and OC1 racers. Among several local talents in attendance, this year some of the biggest names in SUP came out to compete including Shae Foudy, Mo Freitas, April Zilg, Danny Ching, Candice Appleby, Jade Howson and others.

  • The Paddle League: n/a
  • Event Date: January 27, 2018

2017 hanohano 6Photos from the 2017 Hanohano. | Photos: Supconnect.com

4. Pacific Paddle Games

Dana Point, California

One of the most anticipated events of the year, The Pacific Paddle Games, brings hundreds of paddlers to Doheny State Beach each fall to compete for a championship title. With one of the largest prize purses in SUP, the Pacific Paddle Games consistently attracts almost all of the top professionals in the world to its Southern California weekend-long event. However more than just pro races, the event hosts several amateur and youth races, as well as a large demo zone where the whole family can test out boards from the industry’s different brands. The 2016 and 2017 events both saw just under 500 participants across a range of disciplines from beginner to expert, making it one of the biggest SUP events in terms of participation.

  • The Paddle League: 100 points
  • Event Date: October 6-7, 2018

ppg 2016 open distance start2016 Pacific Paddle Games. Start of the Men's Open Distance. | Photo Courtesy: Pacific Paddle Games

5. Standup for the Cure

Newport, California

Standup for the Cure is an event unlike any other. A mix of racing, fundraising, and just flat-out fun, this annual event brings together the whole SUP community to encourage healthy lifestyles and raise money for early breast cancer detection, treatment, and education. From pros and amateurs to local ocean athletes, Standup For The Cure unites paddlers and fitness enthusiasts with the breast cancer community in an effort to save lives. Their flagship event takes place at Newport Beach each spring, however due to its major success, it has expanded to host events in Seattle, Miami, and Muskegon as well. Among competitive racing, attendees can expect SUP lessons with world SUP champions, family friendly activities, free breast cancer and melanoma screenings, lunch, happy hour, live music, and so much more.

  • The Paddle League: n/a
  • Event Date: May 5, 2018

sup4cure 2016Standup for the Cure event in 2016. | Photo courtesy of Dale and Karen Photography

6. Chattajack31

Chattanooga, Tennessee

Thirty one miles through the heart of the Tennessee River Gorge, the Chattajack31 is one of the most grueling and awe inspiring endurance races in the country. Fueled by passion and a steadfast desire to test personal limits, paddlers put it all on the line to compete against their fellow racers, themselves, and Mother Nature herself in this unique long distance course. It draws paddle board and kayak athletes from around the world that are eager to challenge themselves physically and mentally. Both a celebration and testament to the noble pursuit of distance endurance, the Chattajack displays the immense strength and willpower that paddle sports demand. In 2017, over 500 racers came out to compete, but with the near freezing temperatures and brutal wind, only 372 people were able to finish.

  • The Paddle League: n/a
  • Event Date: October 27, 2018

chattajack 2016 video2016 look from above at the Chattajack. | Photo via video from Charles Coleman

7. Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge

Hood River, Oregon

The Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge (CGPC) is a celebratory SUP festival and one of the most dominant downwind events of the race season. The weekend long event features both a course race and a widely popular downwind race, with elite, open, and grom divisions. In the downwind race, coined the Downwind Double Down, elite paddlers have the chance to compete against the world’s top SUP athletes in back-to-back 8-mile downwind legs from Viento State Park to the Waterfront Park where they battle upriver elements, rough water, heavy winds, and large swells. With a large prize purse, beautiful location, and awesome atmosphere, CGPC brings in the world’s top athletes each year and is consistently one of the most exciting events of the race season. In 2017, approximately 318 competitors took to the water. And now for the first time in history, all Elite Women are allowed to race on boards up to 14’ in all CGPC races, including both the Course and Double Downwind races.

  • The Paddle League: 100 points
  • Event Date: August 18-19, 2018

gorge paddle challenge 2017 preview 4Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge 2016. | Photos by Gore US Photography

8. ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championships

Wanning, China

One of the most well known and internationally diverse events within the elite SUP community is the ISA World SUP and Paddleboard Championship (WSUPPC). The ISA has been the organizer of the sole World Championship for SUP and Paddleboard since 2012. WSUPPC combines both race and surf divisions and has SUP racers, SUP surfers, and paddle boarders from countries all over the world participating. At the 2017 edition, over 250 athletes from as many as 40 countries descended upon the coastal port of Copenhagen, Denmark, surpassing the 2016 event record of 126 athletes and 27 countries that took place in Fiji. Looking forward, ISA announced that the 2018 WSUPPC will head to Wanning, China. 

  • The Paddle League: n/a
  • Event Date: November 23 - December 1, 2018

Womens Distance Start Race Sean EvansStart of the women's Distance Race at the 2017 ISA WSUPPC. | Photos: ISA / Sean Evans  

9. Nautic SUP Paris Crossing

Paris, France

Following a huge 2017 turnout, the Nautic SUP Paris Crossing has claimed the title as the world’s largest SUP race. Each year, hundreds of paddlers flock to Paris to take part in one of the most beautiful, feel-good races of the year. Entry is highly competitive, partially due to the fact the crossing takes place on idyllic River Seine, an opportunity that is limited the remainder of the year. The 10km course takes racers along the River Seine, passing several Parisian landmarks including the Eiffel Tower and the Notre Dame Cathedral. With truly breathtaking sights and a buzzing crowd, the event continues to bring together the international paddling community - pros, beginners, and enthusiasts alike - through a shared passion of being on the water. 2017 saw approximately 700 competitors from all over the world, cementing its title as the world’s biggest SUP race. The organizers continue to increase the event’s participation each year and have high hopes of reaching 1000 participants in 2020.

  • The Paddle League: n/a
  • Event Date: December 9, 2018

nautic paris sup crossing 2015 videoEarly morning start at the 6th Annual Nautic SUP Crossing in Paris. | Photo via: Nautic SUP Crossing.com

10. Moloka'i to O'ahu

Moloka'i, Hawaii

In July 1997, the very first Moloka'i to O'ahu race was successfully completed. Now, two decades later, it has grown to be one of largest and most challenging races in SUP. The race is 32-mile journey across the 2,300 foot deep Ka’iwi Channel, which translates to “Channel of Bones” and connects the Islands of Molokai and O'ahu. Infamous as one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water, the M2O has a reputation for being one of the most grueling and rigorous races in SUP and continues to attract the world’s greatest ocean athletes ready to challenge themselves beyond measure. The race is open to prone and stand up paddleboarders in both solo and team divisions and draws racers from around the globe, with up to 30 countries represented in previous years. 2016 had over 175 registered competitors, a combination of individual racers and teams, and 2017 was witness to several broken records on the elite front.

  • The Paddle League: n/a
  • Event Date: July 29, 2018

m2o 2016 event previewPaddle Boarding's elite will go head-to-head at the 2016 Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard Championships. | Photo Courtesy: M2O

And these are just 10 of the many awesome SUP events throughout the year. Considering participation numbers and community engagement, these events are some of the largest around the world. Think we missed one? Let us know in the comments below which event you think should have made the list!

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Last modified onTuesday, 24 July 2018 11:59
Marissa Scheid

Born and raised in the Golden State, Marissa Scheid is a true California girl through and through. She grew up in Livermore, a Northern California city in the suburbs of San Francisco's Easy Bay Area, where she developed a passion for writing and a love for competitive sports, especially soccer. After finishing high school, she moved down the coast to San Diego, California to study World Literature at UCSD and play for the university's collegiate soccer team. Transplanted from a town in the wine country to one of California's most beautiful coastal cities, she quickly grew an affinity for the water and all aspects of the ocean lifestyle.

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