Sarasota offers mangrove tunnels, the Gulf of Mexico and the bay, all with flat calm water on most days. This makes the area the perfect environment for paddle boarding. Rob Alfieri, the founder of the Sarasota Stand Up Paddle Board Series, knows this and wants to share it with others.
“What Waikiki is in Hawaii to surfing, is what Sarasota should be to paddle boarding,” says Alfieri
For the past five months, the competitive paddle boarder has been organizing the SUP Series to showcase Sarasota’s pristine water and ideal paddling conditions; and an added bonus — giving back to the community. To do so, he partnered with Suncoast Charities for Children.
The SUP Series will offer three races for elite paddle boarders and also involves people who are interested in paddling. The first race will be held Saturday, June 22, on Siesta Key Public Beach, to mimic a battle-of-the-paddle-type race held in Dana Point, Cali. During that race, there will be a six-mile elite race; a three-mile open race; and a sprint race that is open to everyone.
Alfieri also decided to make the race more interactive for viewers, so instead of doing a long paddle around the island, paddlers will complete 1.5-mile laps that can be seen from the beach.
“This way the spectators will be able to see the whole course,” Alfieri said. After the sprint race, paddlers can participate in the 100-yard relay-style sprint race alongside elite paddlers. This means the more novice paddlers will have the chance to experience a new caliber of competition.
“It is a way for elite and open racers to be together,” Alfieri said.
And, spectators will have more to do than just watch paddle boarding. Alfieri aims to make the series more of a festival, where families can check out vendors, listen to music and try paddle boarding for free to see what all the hype is about in the growing sport. Even children will get the chance to participate with demos and lessons from professional racers and volunteers during a Kids Paddle session.
The next SUP series event will be held Aug. 24, at Nathan Benderson Park and will show off another prime Sarasota paddle-boarding location. And the third of the series, which launches from the Sarasota Sailing Squadron, Oct. 12, will give paddlers the chance to race underneath a Sarasota landmark, the John Ringling Bridge.
“The advantage Sarasota has over any other place in the world is the ease of access and amount of pristine flat water,” Alfieri said.
The SUP series currently has 35 sponsors and aims to raise at least $5,000 for Suncoast Charities for Children throughout the whole series.