The South Shore’s waters will churn with the strokes of hundreds of paddles when Race the Lake of the Sky, one of the world’s premier stand-up paddle events, returns to the area this weekend.
The World Paddle Association-sanctioned event attracts athletes from all over the country who will compete in a variety of races, from the 14-mile distance race to the unique SUP cross. Some of the fastest paddlers in the world will attend the event.
“It’s going to be way bigger. I’m guessing there will be 250 to 300 people just in the first race,” said Race the Lake of the Sky founder Chris Brackett. “I just got another registration from Florida. I got people from South Carolina, Oregon, Southern California, Wisconsin. I mean people from everywhere are just coming in.”
Brackett expects hundreds of paddlers to compete and thousands of spectators to attend the event based at Lakeview Commons. Numerous races of varying lengths and styles make competing accessible to anyone, he said.
Race the Lake of the Sky will kick off with the El Dorado 5-mile distance race on Saturday. SUP cross, paddling’s equivalent of boarder cross, and the Grom Race for children 12 and under will follow on the same day. The event will wrap up with the “Sweet Move Contest,” the Team Relay Race, and the 14.4-mile distance race to Emerald Bay.
“We think it’s one of the most fun, best organized contests we attend all year,” said Mike Muir, president of Riviera Paddlesurf, one of the event’s title sponsors. “The way it’s set up with the paddle cross and the location, it’s fun for everybody, both the spectators and the racers.”
Last year’s event attracted a couple hundred athletes and about 1,000 spectators. Because of the acclaim the event received within the sport, this year is going to be bigger, Brackett said. He’s expecting around 500 athletes and more than 2,000 spectators, he said.
Race the Lake of the Sky received a lot of attention within the stand-up paddle world after its first year. Anthony Vela of Supconnect Live, one of the sport’s most well-known shows, rated Race the Lake of the Sky as the No. 1 stand-up paddle event in the world last year.
Vela, also a competitor, had good things to say about the organization, the variety of courses, the unique vibe, the spectator-friendly venue, and, of course, the race’s organizers.
“I think what makes Chris different is he invests so much of his time, his heart and his family into this,” said Dreu Marin, Race the Lake of the Sky announcer. “He puts so much into it.”
Brackett started the race last year with the help of his family, a few staff members and a crew of volunteers. He’s been planning for this year’s race for about 10 months, he said.
“This is crunch week,” Brackett said. “Basically, 10 months of planning is finally coming all together. It’s show time. And we’re way ahead of where we were last year.”
Brackett believes that last year’s race was a success not only because of the beautiful venue and the way it was organized, but also because of the people involved.
“The reason it was No. 1, honestly, was the community, and the volunteers, and all our friends, and everyone that made it happen,” he said.
When he started the little stand-up paddle shop four years ago with his wife and children, Brackett, a former construction contractor, never anticipated he’d help turn the South Shore into a destination for stand-up paddling with a world-class event.
“No way we thought it would get this big,” Brackett said. “Twenty-seven years as a builder. Now we’re building a different type of thing with different tools.”