Should Drafting be outlawed?
Drafting in Stand up paddle racing has become as mainstream as it is in cycling or motorsport, but is it really fair?
It's sparked quite a heated debate in the Stand up paddling forums this week, where it's really a 50/50 divide between people for and against the technique of drafting in stand up paddle racing. Quickblades Jim Terrell shares his opinion in the video below, and comes across as overly accepting of the technique. Not only does he say it's good for competitors, by introducing another element of tactics, he also says it adds a huge element of spectator excitement when competitors are paddling so close to one another. This added enjoyment for the spectators could be the key to the whole debate, as ultimately the spectators decide the fate of the racing discipline. Without spectators, sponsors aren't interested in providing support to events, television coverage will wane because nobody watches it, and the discipline could face the same fate as windsurfing, and nobody wants that!
What is drafting? And how do you do it? The short answer is that drafting involves following another paddler very closely, using the wash and turbulent water behind them to make paddling easier for the follower. You can either draft by sitting directly behind their board, or slightly off to the side and use their wash to keep you going. Although this technique doesn't help competitors get into first place, it conserves energy and allows them to put in a final sprint for the finish. Because they've been conserving so much energy by drafting, the person behind has more 'left in the tank' than the leader, and can often pass them during the final race leg.
Despite the obvious advantages from drafting a stand up paddle board, it's actually very difficult for race organisers to do anything about it. Due to the congestion around buoys and start lines, the ability to define drafting is difficult, and enforcing such a rule is even more so. Several have proposed ways to enforce the rule, including the use of jet ski's and red flags, instant disqualification or time penalties, but at the end of the day it's just too hard to monitor every paddler during a race.
Seabreeze users are both for and against the technique, with the overwhelming response being that if they are the ones drafting, its fine, but if someone is drafting behind them - "oooooh no he di'n't".
It's quite a riveting debate however, so if you'd like to check it out, click here to visit the Stand Up Paddling forums
and have your say on the matter.