Competitors scything through the water, trying to gain an advantage at the Surf Canada Stand-Up Paddleboard championships, held in Sidney. (Submission/ Nat Klein)

Organizers aim to boost festival status in wake of world-class SUP event in Sidney

Dominant performances from winners, but could on-shore festival atmosphere be fostered?

In the wake of the Canada Stand-Up Paddleboard championships last weekend, some Sidney residents want to see the event built-up as a central highlight in the sporting calendar.

The May 25–26 event saw entrants from all over the country battle it out in three disciplines, with the winners being eligible for Team Canada.

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Stand-Up Paddle (SUP) is one of the fastest growing sports in Canada, as it can be practiced without swell or wind, perfect for the country’s many lakes and sheltered bays. As a result, top national talent is first-rate.

Surf Canada, who held the event, say that with such high-level athletes, their focus has to be on the competitors. Despite this, they provided activities for spectators, encouraged vendors and food stalls, and laid on a beer garden. However, spectator turn-out wasn’t quite as high as expected, largely hampered by poor weather on Saturday.

“Sunday really showcased us, once the weather had turned a little bit, the community got a bit more involved and there was a really great vibe,” says Contest Director Dan Tarnow.

“The event has always had the potential to turn into a festival, especially as it’s an international platform. We are not festival organizers so we put all efforts into making sure the athletes have everything they need and so we have a great contest. As for all the rest of it, we really need someone else to see the same potential that we see and then I think it will grow as big as Sidney is willing to allow it to.”

Some residents are calling for commercial partners to step forward, to help the event hit its stride and become an annual attraction that could significantly boost the local economy.

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“We’re always looking for more outside influences. Especially when you’re an organization coming into another town, we’re very conscious of the fact that we’re guests in that area, so we don’t pretend to have the authority to say who we’re going to bring in or how we’d like to run it,” says Tarnow.

Surf Canada praised the help they received from their existing local partners, such as search and rescue and especially Mill Bay Marine Group and Port of Sidney who they described as going “above and beyond.”

Susan Simosko, President of the Sidney BIA, has some advice for the organizers. “Surf Canada is run by volunteers, they either need to support their volunteers or find a paid part-time promotional employee. We’re excited that they’re here and this event takes place in Sidney, but it is their responsibility,” she says.

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When contacted, the Town of Sidney said they were pleased top events like the SUP championships were attracted to the town and welcomed any commercial initiatives to bring in more visitors.

Veteran competitors Mike Darbyshire (North Vancouver) and Lina Augaitis (Vernon) dominated, both winning the Distance, Technical and Sprint events, making them the male and female overall winners, on points. Both will now represent Team Canada at the 2019 Pan-American Games.



nick.murray@peninsulanewsreview.com

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