Ultimate Watersports: A Look at Bliss on the Bay 2014
This past Saturday we hosted our 2nd Annual Bliss on the Bay event. Not familiar with Bliss? Well, it all started two years ago when we realized three things: a surge in popularity of SUP racing in the Mid-Atlantic region; the Chesapeake Bay’s potential to be a fantastic race venue; and a non-profit organization that does incredible work and has the ability to prosper. We decided to put those three things together, and Bliss on the Bay was born.
This year, Bliss on the Bay was hosted on May 31st and comprised of four races. We started with a 5 mile Elite, 2.5 mile Recreational, a modified kid’s, and the very first “BIGSUP” race. Hopewell Cancer Support was our beneficiary for the second year in a row.
Although the Surf Swap at Fager’s Island was the day after our event, we were happy to have 36 racers participate. As racers walked down the hill at Hammerman Beach, they were welcomed at registration and then led to a racer’s village where they had space to set up their boards and get ready for the race. As the Elite racer’s lined up for an “a le mans” start, the wind began to pick up. A countdown, a cheering crowd, a blow of a whistle, and the race had begun. Soon after the Elite racers were hallway through their first lap, the recreational racers were sent out. Everyone on shore began patiently waited for the first finishers to make their way back to the beach. Soon enough, they all began to paddle in. As the race had progressed the wind grew to 18 knots, but all of our racers fought through and made it back. After our awards ceremony, Ultimate Watersport’s 14th annual Paddlefest officially began, where we hosted free demos of our entire fleet of SUP boards and kayaks and short introductory clinics.
We were happy to have some great vendors join us. Two manufacturers, Mistral and NSP, came out to show off their newest and greatest boards. Local retailers StaleFish Board Co. from Bel Air, Maryland, Autumn Outfitters from Street, Maryland, East of Maui from Annapolis, Maryland and corporate retailer REI were present as well to show off their stock.
After the event, we wanted to take a chance to interview some racers and vendors and get their thoughts on our event. Not only did we get some good feedback, but we also received some great insight on SUP in general. We wanted to find out other people’s thoughts on why SUP is becoming increasingly popular, and asked our interviewee’s their opinions on what makes SUP such an attractive sport. Our observations on SUP trends as a company focused on education were echoed by retailers, manufacturers, and racers.
First, anybody can do it. There’s no age limit, no physical requirements and no special skills required. SUP isn’t exclusive to one body of water. Second, it’s a great way to exercise. SUP engages so many parts of the body and creates a unique workout experience. Lastly, the community and lifestyle that surrounds SUP is friendly, relaxed and all about having a good time. SUP racing brings a competitive element, but the friendly environment is still there.
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This year at Bliss, we premiered two unique race events: a kid’s race and a “BIGSUP” race. We only had a few racers register for the Under 13 event and winds had really picked up before the planned start of the race, but we sent the eager kids out on the water for a short sprint and saw lots of enthusiasm from both the kids and spectators. As kids boards continue to be developed, the industry would hope to see an increase in kids’ events in larger races and dedicated junior series, similar to other adventure sports like skiing and rock climbing. As the popularity of the sport grows with parents it should be expected that many children will follow suit.
Afterwards, we premiered the very first BIGSUP race in the U.S. using our two brand new BIGSUP paddleboards from Mistral. Each board held up to eight adults comfortably and they were a big hit with Elite racers and newcomers alike. We hope to build the event for corporate team entries with Bliss on the Bay, and the boards will be used with our camp program, teambuilding activities, and parties.
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While setting up for the event we experienced difficulties in enacting contingencies for extreme wind conditions on the race course, but were happy to see everyone still had a great time on the water. We are still in the early stages of Bliss on the Bay, with lots of space to improve and grow, but stand very proud of our work. We want to thank all of the Bliss racers, vendors and volunteers that made this event happen. See you again next year!
Check the Bliss on the Bay facebook page for event photos and blissonthebay.com to view race results and learn more about the event!
Check the Ultimate Watersports facebook page to learn about our SUP lessons, rentals, and other special events like SUPDog and SUP Yoga!