Paddleboard racing | Training for one’s personal best

Kayla Anderson training for a SUP race.

It is the beginning of May and I’m the only one on Lake Tahoe, cruising on a stand-up paddleboard from Waterman’s Landing in Carnelian Bay to Mourelatos Lakeshore Resort in Tahoe Vista and back. I’m training for my first 3-mile race of the season, the Tahoe Cup Series Stop No. 1, which was held at Waterman’s Landing in Carnelian Bay.

No matter how much you train, there are always unknown variables such as timing, weather, changing water conditions,
race organization, equipment
and other issues that can
affect performance.

I just started getting into SUP racing last autumn, which is the tail end of paddleboarding season in Tahoe. However, I quickly became hooked as I realized what a great place Lake Tahoe is to train for SUP. It provides a convenient way to enjoy the lake and affords great camaraderie between fellow athletes. As we get into summer and more SUP races in the area pop up, here are some tips on how to have a successful paddleboard race.


Get a good coach & set realistic goals | Sometimes it’s hard to know exactly where to start in training for a SUP race and a coach can guide you in the right direction. Fortunately, my training grounds are home to two renowned paddlers: Jay and Anik Wild. As owners of Waterman’s Landing, along with Kina Nemeth, who runs the cafe, they have a vested interest in developing healthy athletes and growing the sport.

The Wilds offered advice, encouragement and motivation practically every time I got on and off the water. This not only helped me prepare for my race, but also kept me safe. Also, a good coach can help you set realistic goals. When I was training for my first paddleboard race last autumn, I originally set a goal to not come in dead last. That was not setting the bar very high. I changed it to focus on setting a new personal record, which allowed me to focus on something substantial and concrete in training and in the race.

Jay also told me to not beat myself up if I didn’t meet my goal and reminded me that every competition is a learning experience. With that being in mind, don’t enter an intense race like the 22-mile race in the fall without being prepared. A good coach can help motivate you in training, diet and accountability while keeping you engaged in the sport.

Train in advance | When to start training depends on a person’s lifestyle and how active he or she is but, generally speaking, one should start training for a short-distance SUP race at least four weeks out. Allow at least six months to a year to train for a long-distance race. Personally, it would take me at least a year of regular on-water training to prepare for the 22-mile Fall Classic in September.

To prepare for a 3-mile race, I try to get out on the water at least four days a week, keep my schedule flexible and constantly check for lake conditions. The key is to get out on the water as much as possible to build strength, balance and endurance.

However, that’s not always the case with volatile weather and water conditions. On those days, I try to go golfing, running or to the gym to keep my muscle memory up. Anik said that any type of cross training helps. She does CrossFit because it involves many muscle groups. It also helps having access to a rowing machine.

Go in with the right mindset | Since the point of SUP is to have fun, I try not to beat myself up if I didn’t do as well as I wanted to. No matter how much you train, there are always unknown variables such as timing, weather, changing water conditions, race organization, equipment and other issues that can affect performance.

For me, just committing to enter a race gets me out on the water more than I normally would. Jay once told me to have no expectations, to just go out there and have fun. So, I always try to give myself a pat on the back just for showing up and putting in the time. If I meet my goals, that’s a bonus.

July 21 | Waterman’s Paddle Jam
Aug. 11-12 | Ta-Hoe Nalu
Sept. 15 | Tahoe Fall Classic

Kayla Anderson is the author of “Stand Up Paddle Board Racing For Beginners” on Amazon.