To Draft, Or Not To Draft

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I enjoy taking photos, especially of sports events, as I can capture moments of struggle, loss and victory, not to mention breath taking vistas. At a recent race I followed the course, snapping photos and noting the leaders and different strategies. Something that stood out to me; there was draft train in a certain order for a long portion of the race, that draft train finished in the reverse order, meaning, the drafter became the victor, enjoying the spoils and glory of victory, while the drafted took “first loser” trophy after leading the race for a majority of the course.

You can see here that I am leaving out names and locations, not because I am worried about a kick back, but more because I do not want to come across like any one athlete was less suited to win or lose, but there was a clear strategy that played a part in the outcome. Some might say that the drafter executed a perfect strategy, or that the drafted had a deserved result for not losing the draft. Others would argue that the drafter should have offered to draft or to pull off the draft after a certain time period, to equal the effort and expense going into the finish push, for an up’n’up fair fight.

I took part in another draft argument where there were very strong feeling both for and against drafting. There has been a number of articles written on the subject but none of them really define a compromise.

What say you? As a community, how do we democratically unify on this subject?

Category: Tags: asked April 15, 2013

11 Answers

2
accepted

My background is in road bike racing.  Drafting is a part of that sport and is what makes it fun and interesting.  But there are unwritten rules like not sucking a draft the whole race to just come around at the end.  The reason these unwritten rules seem to work is because of karma.  You won’t make friends if you always sit behind drafts, and depending on the race sometimes you need to work with someone else to distance yourself from the pack.  If you’ve screwed people over in the past, it will come around to you.  (Road bike racing is often done on teams as well, and I wonder if SUP racing will move that way eventually.)

My opinion is that SUP racing should be similar.  I don’t think there should be official rules on when you can and cannot draft.  We are a small community of SUP racers and what you do in one race doesn’t necessarily end there.  We will race with and against the same guys next week.  So although in the short term view it may look good to draft the whole race and pass at the end, you may need to work with that same guy in next week’s race to distance yourself from the pack.  The notion that the sport will get “dirtier” is ridiculous, and I hope that is not were it goes.  More strategic, sure.  But the strategy should come through working with other racers and at the end of a close race (e.g., Danny Ching catching the right wave to the beach to get a gap at BOP.  Note that prior to that Danny, Connor and Kai were really working together to get distance from the others).  And a little cat and mouse for a sprint finish is totally legit and part of the fun of the sport.

3

That’s a tough question to answer. I guess it all depends on the situation. Theres soo many variables out on the race course and it all depends what kind of race it is. For  Short course races with alot of buoy turns,  its a tough one to judge for a drafting persepective. Usually the race course is pretty tight and Drafting is inevitable weather you like it or not and making it tough to pass someone as well..   But for a longer course race around 8miles or longer, Thats where Drafting can get frowned upon. Utilizing a Drafting opportunity to save some gas at the end can come across some racers  mind if the situation arises..  My thoughts on Drafting is Mixed. It’s a good and Bad Part of Racing but it’ll always be apart of racing. I know i’ve drafted in a few races, and i’ve been drafted on as well. Some races i’ve teamed up with another racer and shared the amount of drafting and pulling to gain some ground and save some gas at the end. Me personally, i could never draft a person for most of the race and pass at the end to win but some people have different views and could be more competitive and would’nt care at all to draft all the way to the end and pass at the last second.  Weather we like it or not, It’s a part of racing.  Maybe a race organizer for a small and particular race or a Major SUP Race Organization can make a set of rules for  drafting to eleminate  unwanted and unfair drafting.. Till then i think it’s all up to every individual to be responsible for there own ways on drafting and comply within the racing rules that is stated for the particular race they’re in..

3

Try drafting like that in Hawaii. It’s not usually a factor there because hardly any races are held in really flat water, but if you draft there the whole race and then sprint out for a cheap victory you will get cracks. There’s etiquette involved in drafting, and in sports. Even in the Tour de France if guys are going at it on a big climb or something and someone gets a flat the other racer will wait. It’s all about respecting your sport’s traditions. SUP doesn’t really have traditions, but it basically came from the outrigger paddling world, and in that world drafting is strongly frowned upon, putting it mildly.

2

Eh it’s part of the game. But personally I won’t draft if I can’t take my turn up front while holding the pace of the draft group. Even then I still feel a little cheap drafting. There isn’t any way I would draft someone for the entire race and pass them at the end. Sometimes though it’s a good thing if you have a group that all know each other, and agree ahead of time that you’ll all take turns to better all of your results. Usually when this happens you have a marker that you’ll break up on (say the last two miles) and it’s everyone for themselves. That is fair in my opinion.

2

I am not a SUP racer but I have raced road bikes, snowboards and running. Not that any of these compare to drafting SUP’s really (accept maybe road bikes) but they all have there basic rules and any other strategy is fair game.Drafting is a strategy and should never be frowned upon or illegal. I say if you don’t like being drafted or don’t think it’s fair then don’t let anybody draft you and don’t draft! Simple.

2

Drafting is a hot potato for sure. Coming from the triathlon world there are pretty specific rules about bike lengths and what is acceptable and what isn’t. I wonder as races gain popularity this will be more what race directors do.

As a rookie to the sup race scene and usually in fierce battles for last place – I learn tons by trying to hang on to other racers even if only for a minute. Would I hang on for an entire race and pass at the end for the win — nope. That will come back to haunt you.

SUP racing is too much fun for bad karma.

— Troy

1

Coming from my background of Sprint Racing I was taught a lot about dafting. I draft every chance I get. anyone passing me im on their wake. The only time i consider switching is if we have talked about trying to catch someone that farther ahead. you save so much energy and you get into the mind of the competitor and to me thats what racing is about. But my background also allows a lot of dirty racing which has not been introduced to SUP yet. in the coming years im sure racing will get more fierce.

1

While that is true, drafting does exist in other sports, I would argue that passing someone is much easier and requires much less effort to hold a lead than paddling. Let’s say you have a bike race, and the leader is 50 yards in front. You can close the distance much easier than paddling. And that leader is also able to hold a lead much easier. So if you have three bikes and the third place guy uses the second place guy to draft, when he takes the lead you can bet there will be another lead change in the race. I’ve also seen a leader hold off someone using drafting much easier in other sports than SUP. If someone is going to draft the entire race and then pass at the end, that isn’t fair or sport of any kind in SUP. That isn’t racing. Also that doesn’t prove who the best or strongest racer was. I think that races over 4 miles or so should have no drafting in the last one or two miles. Everything before thats fine. I guess it all comes down to what the SUP community will deem fair. It’s a lot more in depth than just not letting someone draft you. If thats what it comes down to, why race at all? Why bother paddling very hard at all if someone is going to ride your efforts and pass you at the end? Is that racing? Is that moving the sport forward? In my opinion if some rules aren’t put into place it will actually hinder the sport as a race sport. It would be very easy to push people in as they try to pass. Whoops, oh that was just my paddle(or board), honest accident. How is that fun? How is that racing? Another thing to think about is if we let racing get more and more physical, why would people buy a $3000 board just to have it ruined in one race?

1

This Past Gig Harbor race i was da victim of being drafted for most of the race  and passed at the end after the last buoy turn but i really didn’t take it personal or got fired up about it. I know the guy and we chatted back n forth. It was all good with me, made me push harder to hold on to the lead at the end.  Me personally i could’nt do that but it’s all part of the game. I was talking alot of smack though during the race! :-) Not gonna mention any names but that guy owes me some gear or a free entry to one of his races! haha! :-)

0

I agree with Renick – for long races – anything over 4 miles or so – at a reasonable point (mile before the end) drafting stops and then it is every man or woman for themselves.

-3

if you can pull off drafting the entire race and pass and work your opponent and still beat them i think that is the best way to become a good racer. its all about racing smarter not harder. I do think the sport will become more physical. as it becomes more international and more competitive the racing will get dirty. boards get trashed. it happens. at my age i have had a large amount of racing experience. when you race in Europe in long distance races stuff happens. people chop other peoples boats apart with paddles. my buddy got his thigh hacked open with a paddle cause someone was angry. if people are fired up about the sport and want to do their best you need to use the tools that are next to you while racing.

on the other hand i can totally see how a begineer SUP racer would not enjoy this type of racing. everyone needs to know their limits and not get into something they cant handle.