Crowned as one of the world’s five major stand up paddleboard races for 2015 by Australia’s SUPracer.com, the fifth annual Carolina Cup returns to Wrightsville Beach April 22-26.
“Last year’s race was one of the most competitive races in the world with athletes from 31 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, B.V.I., and 11 countries,” said John Beausang, one of the founders and race directors of the Carolina Cup. “This year it’s even bigger. We have 19 of the top 20 paddlers in the world and 30 of the top 40 already committed to the Carolina Cup. It’s possible that we will be the largest race in the world this year, or at least, in the top three.”
Expected to grow from 750 participants last year to well over 1,000 in 2015, the Carolina Cup features a weeklong family friendly festival, including dozens of clinics, exhibits, demonstrations, and special events all culminating with four stand up paddleboard races to meet the spectrum of skills from beginner to world-class Olympians and professionals.
Stand up paddleboard spread first from Hawaii to California to Florida, and then up the East Coast six or seven years ago. The sport in North Carolina has “just exploded,” according to Beausang. “Anywhere there is water access, you’re going to have a paddleboard.
“Wrightsville Beach is unique because it’s so concentrated. We have the ocean side, sound side, Harbor Island, spoil islands, and the Intracoastal Waterway. Blockade Runner Beach Resort [host hotel] is one of the most perfectly situated event venues. One side faces the ocean, while the other side faces the sound with a beach. So you have the best of everything.”
The signature event at the Carolina Cup is the elite “Graveyard Race.” Reigning three-time male champion Danny Ching of California, a multiple Battle of the Paddle winner and world champion OC1 paddler, will defend his title.
“It’s one of the most technical courses on earth and involves 13.2 miles navigating around the island of Wrightsville Beach,” said Beausang. “It’s a very difficult course. You go out through the surf, you encounter ocean, inlets, flat water, current, wind, chop, the waterway, boat traffic, and you finish in the surf.
“In the past three years no one has really come close to touching him,” added Beausang. “This year, I think there are going to be a few people to come out of the woodwork to really give him a challenge.”
On the women’s side of the “Graveyard,” the top ranked paddler in the world, Annabel Anderson of New Zealand, will return to defend her two consecutive titles.
The Money Island 6.5-mile Open Race, designed for intermediate to advanced paddlers, is on the sound side in the inland waterways around Wrightsville Beach, Harbor Island, Masonboro Island, and the spoil islands.
“The Carolina Cup is really the only race we travel to besides Hawaii,” said Jenny Alderman, a four year veteran of the race, who will be competing alongside her family. “The reason we travel to Wrightsville [Beach] is because the whole family has fun. Simple as that. Even though it is a large event with top athletes from around the world, it really does have something for everyone.”
The Harbor Island recreational race is a 3.5-mile flatwater adventure for beginner to intermediate SUP enthusiasts. On Sunday, April 26, the kids race is open to girls and boys ages 7 to 14.
Clinics include WPA certification, beginner to advanced SUP techniques, are all taught by leading experts, with all activities be held at the Blockade Runner.
A portion of proceeds will benefit The Ocean of Hope, paddlers and ocean enthusiasts dedicated to raising awareness and funds for the Sarcoma Alliance to help those fighting cancer. Click here for more information.