Elite stand-up paddleboard racing has arrived in Midcoast Maine. This August the area will host a two-day, 26-mile stand-up paddleboard (SUP) race, aptly called the “Lobster SUP CUP.” Organizers say it will become an annual event in Penobscot Bay.
This is a new level of racing for the region. The race runs from Rockport Harbor to Lincolnville Beach on August 10 and from Lincolnville Beach to Belfast August 11. Two days of open-water paddling over that distance will be a challenge even for experienced SUP racers. (For those unfamiliar with SUP: If you ever look out at a Maine harbor or lake and see a person standing up and paddling what looks like a large surfboard, that’s it.)
The race features chase boats, prize money and post-race events. Olympic gold-medal canoe paddler Larry Cain, who has become an avid SUP racer, will also conduct a paddling clinic on August 9. The event will benefit Operation Rebound, the nation’s premier sports and fitness program for veterans with disabilities. Details are at www.lobstersupcup.com.
Because of the trajectory of the sport and Midcoast’s unique characteristics, organizers say this annual event could be the beginning of something big for Midcoast. Paddleboarding is the world’s fastest growing water sport; with some industry experts claiming that paddleboarding is now doubling in size every year.
The most rapidly growing part of the SUP world is racing and “touring,” or paddling long distances on lengthy boards, as opposed to paddling and riding waves in surf. Organizers of the August event — including one experienced racer who lives in Camden — point out that Midcoast is essentially ideal for this kind of paddling.
“This is about as good as it gets,” said Thor Emory, a SUP CUP founder and an experienced racer who has traveled widely to compete.
Emory notes that the Penobscot Bay is a world-class venue for a multi-day race and that the area in general has a lot of potential for strong SUP paddlers. In addition to the ocean, close proximity to countless lakes means paddlers can choose from a wide variety of conditions to explore. Paddlers can find their favorite kind of water somewhere along Midcoast. And every location is beautiful.
Emory travels to races up and down the East Coast for races that often lack Midcoast’s stunning beauty and challenge, but that still manage to draw large numbers of paddlers. These races have evolved into something akin to days-long SUP festivals. This leads Emory to believe that the SUP CUP will grow exponentially in a few short years.
Emory says he wants the first event to be comparably small and manageable, featuring 30 to 60 paddlers, but he thinks that will change in a few short years. “I think this thing is going to grow,” he said. “We’ve just got too much of a good thing up here. SUP athletes will be drawn to our area and the Lobster SUP CUP is a race that offers adventure, challenge, and lobster!”