Park City SUP festival racers embrace a chilly competition
The Jordanelle Reservoir was not exactly an enticing place for paddle boarding on Saturday morning. Dark clouds loomed overhead and the wind chill didn’t help with a temperature that hovered around the mid-50s.
Nonetheless, a small group of dedicated paddle boarders gathered at a beach at the Hailstone exit for the eighth-annual Park City SUP Festival.
“I would say the likelihood of snow today is 50-50,” said organizer Trent Hickman. “Rumor has it that it’s snowing at Solitude and I think it was 30 (degrees Fahrenheit) when I got up to come down here to the reservoir.”
A weather station at the Park City Library listed that morning’s low at 35.
Hickman said he didn’t blame anyone who observed rather than participate in the races he had set up for that day.
“But we’re still bringing the ‘aloha’ and surf vibes to Park City,” he added.
The Stand Up Paddle Board Festival hosted a series of races around buoys inside a swimming area at the beach, which sits on the opposite side of the peninsula from the state park’s marina. With a storm approaching, Hickman decided to combine the two planned adult races into one before the worst of the weather arrived.
Bill Fowler, a competitor from Lehi, was undaunted by the conditions.
“That’s racing,” he said. “You can’t predict the weather, you just have to show up.”
He had participated in the festival several times before, and said coming up to Park City was a chance to reconnect with old friends in the paddleboard community.
“We are from all parts of Utah and it’s just fun to see each other,” he said.
His game plan for the two-mile race was to not fall in the water, but he said that other than losing the race, the stakes were low.
“You have enough adrenaline (to stay warm),” he said. “It’s like you’re running, so if you get in real quick and you jump out, you’re fine.”
Another competitor, Chris Knoles, from Salt Lake City, said he and other SUPers regularly go out in much colder conditions.
“In the wintertime we train a lot on the Great Salt Lake,” Knoles said. “We’ll go out when every other body of water is frozen. The water temperature is like 28 (degrees Fahrenheit) but the Great Salt Lake never freezes, so we will put in a lot of miles out there. You just don’t fall in.”
He said he and a group of people have gone out onto the Great Salt Lake on Christmas Day for the last five years.
“The air temperature is cold, but, you see runners on the side of the road in the wintertime,” he said. “They’re bundled up, and we bundle up the same way.”
At around 11 a.m. the racers gathered near a buoy just off the beach from the finish area, and at the sound of a race official’s megaphone siren, they started the two-mile race.
What appeared to be a column of snow fell about a mile to the south on the east side of Deer Valley’s hills as the racers made four laps around the course.
In the end, Fowler was first to cross the line. He performed a headstand on his board as he floated the last few feet to shore, then fell into the shallow water before jumping up to run across the finish line.
He finished with a time of 20 minutes, 38 seconds, followed by Ryan Trump (20:58) and Roxy Christensen (22:10). Bill Johnson took third among men (22:24). Izzy Akers finished second among women (24:08), and was followed by Sloane Johnson in third (26:13).
Fowler stood in the finish area, and explained his handstand as a slight rain started to fall.
“I was a little hot, so I figured I needed to get in,” he said.
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Dave Hanscom announced last month he was retiring as volunteer race director of the Wasatch Citizens Series after 30 years in the position.