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SUP Surf Racing Secrets with Slater Trout

Slater Trout is an accomplished surf race veteran, and one of the top contenders for a title at the upcoming Pacific Paddle Games. The guys at SUP the Mag tracked him down to get his two cents on all things surf racing, from the technicality of surfing a race board to the luck-versus-skill ratio to advice for landlocked racers. Contenders, heed this man’s wisdom.

What makes surf races like Pacific Paddle Games unique?

The main thing is the technicality of it. It’s a lot more difficult to balance on your board than it is in a flatwater race. Physically it’s different because you’re punching through surf and doing buoy turns in whitewater. Experience surfing and a solid understanding of the ocean makes it a lot more comfortable.

What’s the best way to physically prepare for a surf race?

Technical surf races usually have some kind of beach sprint involved, so I like to do land workouts as well as paddling. You have to keep the legs strong and the cardio up. Things off the water like swimming and going to the gym for high-intensity training is a big help.

How does surfing a race board differ from surfing a regular SUP surfboard?

You have a lot less maneuverability than you do on a surfboard. On a race board, you’re just trying to keep the thing steady and stay on top. The main thing is staying back to keep the nose out of the water because they’re really long and flat. It’s also important not to tip the rails too much and keep the board as level as possible under your feet.

What about the racers who don’t have access to surf for training?

If you don’t have waves, just focus on fast buoy turns. Get comfortable getting your board on rail, getting back on the tail, and maneuvering quickly. When you catch a wave on a race board, you really need to on the tail. Put yourself in unstable positions on the tail of your board to simulate being on a wave.

What’s the most important skill to bring to a surf race?

To be competitive in a surf race you have to be good at all aspects. You can’t be really good at one thing and not good at the others. If you’re training for a week, spend one day on your starts, the next two on your buoy turns and another few going in and out through the surf, punching through waves out and surfing back in.

How much of the result is luck versus skill?

I’d say 50-50. You have to be really fit and be a good paddler to do well in these races, but that can all be out the door if the last lap of the race you don’t get a wave when ten other guys do. You can also come from behind and win. Technical surf races are definitely a mixture of luck and skill.