Friday, June 3, 2011

Kill the creep.

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.

Creepy guy.
 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). 

Creepy van.
 That's why we've got to kill the creep. If stand up paddle racing is ever going to be standardized and regulated in the manner proposed by organizations like the World Paddle Association (WPA), creep has to be identified and destroyed. I've got a couple of suggestions: 

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.


Hills Local said...

Great post .. The other problem is navigational errors or failure to count laps correctly BOP

Kristin Thomas said...

Interesting thoughts, John! Yes, we need to do something about the ridiculously unfair starts we've been having. Both suggestions are good. It was cool to do the heats and lanes with 'holders' thing at Silver Blade Regatta, but that isn't practical for the majority of races. Let's keep this conversation going!

Anonymous said...

I think beach starts can be unfair too, especially with a large class. The curve of a beach can give some an immediate advantage. I like the idea of going hi-tech like running races where you actually get a chip and the race starts and finishes as you pass between two sensors at the start/finish. Creepers wouldn't want to creep because it would kill there time or you could enforce an over early penalty.

Chris Koerner said...

I love beach starts and beach finishes. So do ding repair shops.

John Ashley said...

Hills: Yep- I had a major navigational error at the Hennessey's World Champs... if you were there, I was the guy on the yellow race board who had to stop, backtrack (letting about fifteen or twenty people go by me) around a mark because I thought I'd get dqed... at BOP I was wondering if that honor system worked out so well... I did MY four laps!

Thanks for checking the blog!

John Ashley said...

Hi Kristin,

I'd keep racing even if they did nothing- but I do think the sitting down idea makes a lot of sense.

You've seen how out of hand the creep gets at some of the races (remember the one- I think it was called Lanikila or Carpet Beach race... man that was some crazy creep on the right side)- sitting us all down until the horn would make a big difference- especially if it's a short race.

Let me know if you come up with some ideas.


John Ashley said...

Hey Anon: Yes, beach starts can be unfair especially if the beach curves- so I'd say mark the limits of the beach with cones and if there is a perceived advantage from one side, let the racers that want it all pile up on each other.

The absolute best idea is to go with the start/finish chip that you mentioned- do they have that for races already- can it be made waterproof?

Lemme know!

John Ashley said...

Ah, Chris- you're a funny guy! Partly because you know how crazy and painful those surf finishes are- where thousands of dollars of carbon fiber will be impacting rocks, sand and skulls.... BUT MOSTLY because we know that you race an ULI- you laugh at dings!

Anonymous said...

Years ago almost all the paddle races started with a beach start and finish except for the Catalina race. Most of the races were around local piers, or out to a buoy, down the beach and then around another buoy and into the beach. Sometimes they were only one lap, sometimes more and many were team events with two or more paddlers doing one lap each. Of course that was before sup. I think the chip idea is best.
Spiders Brother

Renick said...

Gotta say I like the chip idea. I really wonder why it hasn't been done yet. All running races I know of use it. I hate creeps! There are always some in every race. To tell the truth I'd rather race fair than win while cheating.

Anonymous said...

Maybe chips would just become part of the necessary equipment or you could rent them at events:

Kristin Thomas said...

Sorry you missed this last race, John!! They made an extra effort at the Hobies Hennesseys Doheny to have a fair water start...a and did a good job!
1) everyone had to be on knees
2) they were clear with expectation of fair start and waited until everyone was in line between green flags (one on jetty, one on boat)
3)sent everyone off in three waves (ulmt, 14 & 12'6") which I think really helped.

Check out my pics & a short video on Facebook. I got to be on a boat taking pics since I'm out of the water with surf stiches (to my face/not my board ;))