The 'Last Paddler Standing' race was the last of my 'Big Hairy Audacious Goals' (BHAGs!) of 2023. I entered the race back in January 2023 when entries opened, after being captivated like so many others by the SUP Racer live stream that ran for nearly 50 hours during the inaugural race in December 2022.
An event created by Greg Wingo, Race Director of the Alabama 650 (the longest paddle race in the USA); Last Paddler Standing (LPS) is an endurance SUP race at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota, FL. Nathan Benderson Park is a world-class rowing and aquatic sports venue known for hosting a variety of rowing, kayaking, and other water-based events at both the national and international levels.
Unlike any other endurance SUP race, LPS is a race of both stamina and strategy with more than a nod to classic trail running races such as the #berkleymarathon; as racers paddle a 3.33-mile loop course, starting and finishing the loop within one hour. The next loop begins on the hour and the race goes until only one paddler is left standing. At the 48-hour mark, the length of the loop increases to 4.9 miles. In 2022 the race went on until the 47th lap!
Following my successful endurance races this year (Yukon 1000, 1000 miles in 8 days, 13 hours, and 11 Cities Non-Stop 207km in 33hrs 25 mins) I was confident that I should be able to perform pretty well in this race - but it turns out that not all endurance races are the same! Until this race my endurance challenges and expeditions have all been from 'point A to a point B'; races where you can put your head down and just grind out the miles; never seeing the same bit of scenery twice. LPS however meant going around the same course in 45-50 mins, then sitting on the beach for 10 minutes waiting for the next lap to start. I had assumed this little rest would be great, but for me it didn't work. I found it hard to get lost in my own thoughts while paddling the same course, and then my body cooled down and struggled to get going again each lap. After 8-hours I was done, I just couldn't muster the motivation or get in the right mindset to carry on. So instead I joined the livestream team and ended up co-presenting for nearly 42 hours straight!
This year the race went on for 50 hours and it was such an epic roller coaster of human endurance. I even shed a tear with Alex as Blake finished the final lap to take the title (the finale to explain why can be watched below!)
So this race wasn't for me, but I had the most amazing time in Florida with some truly exceptional and inspirational people. I also discovered that I don't mind talking (lol) and looks like you may see me presenting at a few more events in 2024....Sorry!
Oh, and I was reunited with my Yukon 1000 board which is now back safely with me in the UK ready for some new adventures next year…