Race starts, is it simply a trust thing?

on Jun 25 in Races, Racing, Surfski by


640 x 360The hot potato of race starts in Surfski racing. Everyone has an opinion on what should work and what doesn’t, and most have a tale of grievance after being hard done by at one event or another. But why do we find ourselves in a situation where so many races are recounted for their poor starts?

For the majority of paddlers, they train hard, and they want that training reflected in their race results. Racing can be for the personal achievement of simply finishing a race, or getting bragging rights up over a paddling partner, or winning several thousands of dollars by taking out a prestigious event. Everyone has their own reasons for showing up and putting themselves through the pain and effort on race day. And with that, each paddler on the water wants to get the best, and fairest start possible. But race after race we are seeing start lines pushed forward, guys breaking the start, others missing the start completely. The stories are long and varied, and cover small local races right through to some of the biggest races on the international calender. So what is the solution you may ask? Maybe we need to look to other sports to see how they handle starts, and the first one which springs to mind is sailing. How can big super maxi yachts not have the same issues we have in much smaller surfski racing craft? They have strictly enforced exclusion zones, you pass a line and you’re in trouble. We’ve seen several ideas tried in surfski, such as making guys jump on and off their skis, being threatened with time penalties and/or disqualification, driving motor boats across the start line to keep people back etc. But they don’t appear to work too well in a lot of cases. Personally, I believe it’s a simple matter of trust. Trust between the paddlers and the race starter. If rules are in place for exclusion zones and strict start protocols, paddlers need to trust the starter that he will enforce the outlined penalties. In turn, the starter then needs to trust the paddlers that they won’t force his hand on mass and make it almost impossible to enforce the rules. I don’t envy any race starter at the bigger events where there are a few hundred paddlers all vying for position on the start line and looking for any advantage they can get. But if paddlers know the starter will do the right thing and enforce the rules, as we see in sailing, then the creep and breaks should stop. With race entry fees being so high these days, a few DQ’s will go a long way to letting paddlers know that starters are serious and will ram home that breaks won’t be tolerated.

So to all the paddlers out there, trust your starter, work with them and help make their day easier. To the race starters, get ruthless. If guys creep and break, punish them, you have the option to do so. I believe that the issue of race starts can be sorted out very quickly if we all work together to get it right.

See you on the line, race hard!


Stewart O’Regan

Think Kayak Australia

Mob:     0404 236 638
Web:     www.thinkkayak.com.au
Skype:  stewieor