I was recently emailing back and forth with John Beausang, the man behind distressedmullet.com, possibly THE "go to" website for SUP news and insights, particularly here on the east coast. There has been a lot of talk about the breakdown of the divisions for SUP races...14', 12'-6", unlimited, rec boards versus race boards, etc, etc. Who gets the best prizes...who gets the money...how are things evolving? What size / length board to buy?
John then wrote a "spot on" article about the current state of this topic last night. Please see it on his website, http://www.distressedmullet.com/?p=12887.
Bottom line - there are lots of opinions. There are MANY factors at play. My current opinion is that the take home is to ride what feels good to you, do your best, have fun and try to keep the sport as positive as possible. Hop on as many different boards as you can...keeping versatile, trying various shapes and sizes. At the same time, it is tons of fun to go out and compete against the "best", see where you stack up, if you can do better than your last race, etc. Maybe you'll win a prize...maybe not. But, the key is to keep having fun. Be serious....but maybe not TOO serious, particularly when the race is over. No one is going to support their family income by being a SUP racer, at least not most of us. BUT, that's not to say it can't be fun to travel around to various races and events and race your heart out and see how far you can push your body (and mind).
Some concern seems to center around who is getting the prizes, the recognition, the money. Do you race the elite course with a long race board and see how you do against the "best guys out there"? Or, use a shorter race board, race the rec course (against racers on planing hull / rec boards), and have a better chance of winning prizes, money, etc. Probably no "right" answer. No one should get angry if someone fast drops down to the short course for a particular race...just as in running or cycling, there are people who like to mix up sprinting with longer races. If everyone keeps a positive attitude, the sport will continue to grow, attract new people, good energy, and that's really the goal.
And, our sport is still very, very young with regard to the racing and competing side of things. So, a lot of this is yet to be seen and decided. Fun to talk about, though.
Many thanks to John, and others like him, who are doing great things to advance stand up paddling, raise these topics, and organize great events.
Make sure you check out his website (www.distressedmullet.com). Particularly, this most recent article with the link posted above.