Park City SUP Festival returns to Jordanelle for seventh year |

Park City SUP Festival returns to Jordanelle for seventh year

Denise Higgison after winning the open race on Saturday.
Ben Ramsey/Park Record | Ben Ramsey/Park Record

The Park City SUP Festival came to the Jordanelle Reservoir on Saturday, drawing stand up paddle boarders and beachgoers to the shore near cabana 5.

Race director Trent Hickman stood on the bank near the festival’s large, inflatable start/finish gate with a layer of sunscreen over his face, and called commentary and encouragement through a megaphone, as he has done for the previous six festivals.

“Nice work Richard!” he called to competitor Richard Trump, who had pulled into the lead in the open category race. “Stay with it! Good job you guys, good job you guys.”

Each year, the race and accompanying party are held on one day of the third week in June, when snowmelt has filled the reservoir, allowing more room and options for setting the course. This year, the course was shaped like an hourglass.

Paddle boarders started at a buoy just off the bank in overhead water and formed a long side-by-side line extending offshore. At the sound of a siren, the racers paddled north along the shore, around another buoy near a small peninsula, then pinched in through a gap in a line of floating markers before going out into the lake for the other two buoys, making the top of the hourglass, and returning through the pinch to the start.

On Saturday, Hickman said there were approximately 50 racers running five races: a surfboard race, a youth fun race, an open race, an elite race, and a 10-mile race.

As he watched the racers compete in the open race, he pointed out some of the factors that separated the novices from the advanced competitors.

“To be a fast paddle boarder you need to have a good stroke on the water,” he said. “There’s more to it than people think, but you can see when the top racers come around, their hands are really well spaced on the paddle, much like they would be if you were scooping something heavy with a shovel. If you’re hands are too close together there’s no leverage.”

The trick, he said, is generating power through the whole body, not just the arms, and maintaining a rapid cadence – the stroke should stop at the rider’s feet.

“Anything past your feet and you start scooping water up and out, and it increases friction on your board,” he said.

And for some people, that’s a bigger issue than others, because the board sizes and shapes vary greatly.

In the open category race there were a broad range of boards from a various manufacturers, from those more suited to yoga and lounging, to narrow, rail-like racing boards that more resembled a sport rowboat than SUP’s surfing roots.

And that’s a lot of the reason why Hickman likes it – the sheer versatility of the sport.

“I can come out and flat-water paddle, I can do yoga, I can go down a river, I can compete in a race, I can go surfing in the ocean and catch waves on a paddleboard, I can go out with friends and go to Mirror Lake and look at the Uintas, I can fish off a paddleboard,” he said. “The sport is so diverse it offers something for everyone.”

Soon, he was cheering Denise Higgison on as she rounded the last buoy, hopped off her board and ran through the inflatable finish gate.

“That went surprisingly well,” Higgison said. “I didn’t have any plans for today, I just wanted to come and have some fun.”

Though the race seemed strenuous, she said she was taking it easy because she was training for the Sa-Lo cycling stage race in Salem. The paddle boarding races were just cross training for her. Maryln Marner took second in the women’s competition, followed by Tessie Palczynski. Richard Trump took first for the men, followed by Mike Bhanos and Joe Signor.

For Higgison, the first-place finish was a surprise mainly because she had been training for cycling, and wasn’t “board fit” at the time.

But she said the two sports do feed off each other.

“I’ll always do both of them together,” she said. “It’s helped both sports – the paddling helps the cycling, the cycling helps (the paddling).”

She said the paddle boarding helps build a strong core, which is “incredibly important” to all sports, she said.

“It’s important to be strong and fit as a person first, then you can go out and do any sport you like,” she said.

Before long, Hickman announced that the next race, the two-miler, was about to begin.

He asked Higgison if she was going to race.

“I’ll just see how it goes,” she said. She didn’t want to exhaust herself during what amounted to a training session.

“It’s only six laps,” he said.

Soon, she was back in the water, waiting for the sound of the siren to signal the start of the next race, in which she again took first among the women. Roxy Christensen took second and Izzy Akers finished third.

Michael Tavares finished first for the men, followed by Eric Hockridge in second and Josh Surkes in third.

While no women competed in the 10-mile race, Christian Mullholland took first for the men and won overall, followed by Hockridge in second and Grant Cooper in third.

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