In stand up paddle racing there are two types of competitors, those who lose and those who creep. If you've ever participated in a race with a water start, you know what I'm talking about. For the non-competitors out there, allow me to explain. A typical stand up paddle race begins in the water when the racers line up between two marks waiting patiently, in a straight line, for the starting gun to fire. Sounds like a great idea, right? Problem is, that's never how it actually works out.
The racers have no problem getting out between the two buoys but the longer they wait, the more they begin to slowly move forward, anticipating the starting gun. Creeping. I've seen little creeps, the occasional dab of a paddle slowly moving racers past the starting line. And I've seen big creeps- guys paddling up-tempo, fully aware that the race hasn't started, pulling themselves yards in front of the other racers. Once the creep begins, there's no stopping it- it feeds on itself. Other racers see the creep building and like flesh eating bacteria it grows exponentially and rapidly. Often, once the creep has begun, you can look to your left and right and see racers in a full frenzy and in most cases- the biggest creepers will be the top finishers. They know the dirty racing secret: you either creep or you lose (just like I told you before).
1. Get rid of water starts. Mark out a section of the beach with two flags, line up all the competitors between them and sound the horn. This was how the Elite race was started at last year's Hennessey's International Championships at Mission Bay and at last year's Battle of the Paddle. Those starts were clean and the races fair. It's a central truth, the beach is no place for creeps.
2. Have the racers sit on their boards- nobody is allowed to be standing at the beginning of the race. The Paddle for Humanity, sponsored by Waterman's Applied Science incorporated this creep killing strategy- and it worked. This simple solution drives creeps crazy- more race directors should use it.
These are two simple solutions that would greatly level the playing field for stand up paddle races. I would love to see the WPA incorporate anti-creep strategies directly into their bylaws. Creep sucks and the sooner we kill the creep, the better.