The first ever Northland regional schools Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Championships will take place on the first Saturday of the 2019 easter school holiday, on the safe, sheltered waters of Waitangi Inlet…

All equipment will be supplied by the organisers – there is no requirement for schools to provide anything.

Racing will be in each of the four standard age categories:  Yr 7&8, U14, U16, U19.

Each competitor will get 3  races, each lasting 10-15 minutes, with a decent rest period in between.

Overall positions will be decided by the combined overall score from all three races.

The event will finish with an inter-school team relay race.

1st, 2nd & 3rd place medals for boys and for girls in each of the four age categories, plus trophies for:
* Overall top school  – based on top finisher (boy or girl) in each age group.
* Team relay.   

The event will coincide with Day 1 of the NZ SUP National Racing Championships, which will be happening on the adjacent stretch of water, so there will be plenty going on, (accompanying parents, teachers, and experienced students will be very welcome to take part in the championship racing too, if they have their own equipment),  and a great opportunity for the youngsters to see (and hopefully be inspired by!) what SUP racing looks like at top level.

In More Detail

Stand up paddleboard (SUP) racing is a great sport for youngsters; fast and physical, yet safe and low-impact.

There are also strong cultural connections, there is not fundamentally much difference between the single bladed paddle of SUP and that of waka ama or outrigger.

However, SUP racing is not an easy sport for schools to get involved in, due to the cost and time  requirements for specialist equipment, training etc.

Consequently, despite the sport being well established in New Zealand, with our country already having produced a number of world champions on the international racing scene, it has not until now been a recognised secondary school sport anywhere in NZ.

This will thus be the first inter-school event, and the format has been specifically designed to allow any school to take part, whether or not they have access to paddleboarding equipment and expertise.  All the equipment will be supplied by the organisers, and the racing will thus be well within the capability of any reasonably fit student.

Each competitor will get at least 3 races, and the event will finish with an inter-school team relay race, so it will be a full and fun day for the competitors.

It will be possible to organise training and practice sessions using the exact type of board that will be used for the racing. Please contact the organisers for more details on this.

In the FAQ below, we will attempt to answer all the most likely questions, but if you do require any further information or clarification, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


What will be the format for the races?

Students will race against others in their age group, with a maximum of around 20 competitors per race, all using identical boards provided by the organisers. Races will start at the water’s edge (on a sandy shallow shelving beach), followed by multiple laps around a shortish box course, over a total distance of somewhere between 1-1.5km, depending on the age group. Races will finish back at the shore, with a running finish up the beach. Each race should last about 10-15 minutes,

How many races will each student get?

The aim is to ensure that each student gets at least 3 races, and ideally against a different line-up each time, so that everyone gets to race against all the other competitors in their age group at least once.

What equipment will the students be using?

The boards for the racing will be Red Paddle Co Explorer+ (13’2 long x 30” wide). These boards are inflatable, thus very safe in the event of collisions or falls, but still fast and high performance, with a similar feel to a full-blown racing board.  Paddles will be a standard adjustable-length fiberglass/nylon paddle, again with everyone using identical equipment.

Are the boards difficult to use?

They are no more difficult than any regular recreational paddleboard. Anyone who has already been on a paddleboard should have no problem using them.

What about safety equipment for each competitor?

Each competitor will be required to wear a safety leash, attaching them to the board.

Because of the very safe nature of the venue, with shallow water in a sheltered enclose lagoon, safety boats patrolling the course, constant observation throughout and competitors never being more than maybe 200m from shore anyway, it will not be compulsory for lifejackets to be worn. (It is not a legal requirement to wear a lifejacket on a paddleboard in Northland, as long as a safety leash is used).  It will be left to the discretion of each school as to what their policy regarding the wearing of lifejackets. (Permanent-buoyancy lifejackets are not that well suited to paddleboard competition, as they can be uncomfortable, hot and restrictive to paddle fast in, and actually make it harder to get back onto the board after a fall).

What skills do competitors need to have?

Any prior paddleboarding experience will be beneficial, as indeed will experience of other paddlesports such as waka ama etc.  If there is the opportunity to train specifically for the event, then practicing line starts (competitors standing by the board in shallow water, awaiting the start signal, then jumping on and accelerating quickly up to speed), and being able to do fast 90 degree turns in either direction, will be good skills to practice.

Will any pre-event training be available?

It will be possible to book training sessions run by qualified coaches using the boards that will be used at the event. These can take place wherever suits you, ie at your local body of water, or indeed at the race venue. Contact the event organisers to find out more about these.  

How big can our school team be?

Because the event is based around equipment being provided by the organisers, there is a maximum number of competitors the event can cater for, to ensure that each competitor gets at least 3 races. This cap will probably be at around 160 competitors, allowing for 40 places places available for each age division. Schools are welcome to enter as many students as they like, but if the cap is reached, then schools may be restricted to teams of a maximum of 8 (ideally one boy and girl in each of the age divisions.) The aim is to allow as many schools to compete as possible.   To ensure maximum competitiveness in the relay, it will be beneficial (but not compulsory) to enter teams with at least one competitor in each age group.

Can our competitors bring their own boards?

The racing for the event will all be on the boards provided, in the interests of fairness. These boards are significantly faster than any family/all-round board anyway, you certainly wouldn’t want to be racing on anything else, unless you have access to a proper carbon/epoxy dedicated racing board – and know how to use it!  However, if there are enough students who do have access to a dedicated racing board, know how to use it, and are able to bring it to the event, then we will be happy to run a one-off open race for these students. Any school that has students in this situation should contact us so that we can assess the demand.

What do competitors need to bring?

There is no specific requirement for the competitors to get wet as part of the racing, other than standing in knee deep water at the start and finish. The water at the venue is very warm in April, and paddleboard racing is strenuous activity that tends to generate plenty of body heat. Therefore there is absolutely no requirement for the wearing of wetsuits.  Depending on the weather on the day, then either suitable sun protection clothing, or something slightly warmer to protect against wind or rain will be required. However, bear in mind that there may be half an hour or more between heats for each competitor, so they will require clothing to remain warm and comfortable while onshore between their heats.

It will be the responsibility of each school to ensure their students are well protected from the sun and adequately hydrated throughout the event.

What do the competitors do between heats?

Support their team members! If a school enters a full team of 8 (two of each age group) then the chances are that each school will have somebody on the water racing at any time. Schools are encouraged to cheer their team mates on, wave flags, set up ‘school zones’ on the shoreside, etc (gazebos welcome!).

What facilities are there onsite?

The Waitangi Holiday Park has an ablutions block, there will be extra toilets on site, and concession trucks (coffee, ice creams, food etc).  A Countdown supermarket is just 500m away, along with all the shops and facilities of Paihia just a bit further down the road.

What will be the format for the relay race?

Each school can enter a team of four students (if we have less than 20 schools participating, there may be the opportunity for schools to enter a second team). Each student will be required to paddle their board out around a course and back to the beach, then hand the board over to the next team member. A team has finished when all four members of the team have completed the course.

What will our school relay team need to consist of?

Each relay team must comprise one member from each age group, ie one yr 7 / 8, one U14, one U16, one U19. The member from each age group can be either a boy or girl.  If it isn’t possible to present a competitor in each age category, it is permissible to replace one with someone from a lower age group. Ie if you don’t have an U19, you could enter another U16, or U14, etc.

Our school/staff members have paddleboards. Can we use these and do our own training?

Of course! Any time spent on paddleboards will be beneficial. We can supply (FOC) a sheet with some suggestions for practice drills.

Risks and Safety Considerations

A full safety management plan has been submitted to NSSSA and is available for all schools to inspect.

Weather Conditions / Alternate Venues

The main weather condition that would cause problems with running the event would be strong winds from the north or north west. Wind maximums have been specified in the safety management plan. If these maximums are in danger of being breached, we will look at moving the event further up the inlet, to the Haruru Falls basin. It will be perfectly feasible to run the event from there, if necessary.


Should an extreme weather event be forecast then the event may have to be cancelled. The decision would be made no later than noon on the day before the event, and all schools will immediately be notified.

Other Questions?

Please contact us.