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Race Report: Bewl Bash 2024 - GBSUP National Series

Having not been able to attend this race in 2023 we were looking forward to it, especially as it was the first race of the GBSUP National Series. 90 paddlers attending is not a bad start and the weather was looking mighty fine. Winter in the UK can be tough for paddlers, with incredibly windy days on the coast and red boarded rivers! So, hats off to everyone who came. 


The event village looked great with support partners Black Project SUP, Paddle Logger, Oscar Propulsion, Bucanneer Sessions, Red Paddle Co, British Stand Up Paddle Association and Epic Life Kent all in attendance on the “beach”. 


There was a nice amount of time in the morning for racers to get ready and chew the fat about how the training is going together with course and kit chat. This is what these events are good at, bringing together our wonderful SUP community. 


Bewl Water is a beautiful location – the largest reservoir in the South East so plenty of scope for great racing. Bewl is like a huge dinosaur footprint in the landscape and the course was set along one of the “claws” with a pretty simple rectangle course of 4 km. 3 laps of the full course for the race fleets and 3 half laps for the challenge fleet.

The weather was beautiful in the morning with the wind getting up slightly for the start of the race. I was lucky enough to be on the boat for the race start with race director, Scott Warren, and Antony was positioning himself along the bank and jetty, for testing out the new camera and lens. 


It was the 14’ men's fleet out first and a draft train immediately formed between Hector Jessel, Damian Warner and James Rowe that is until the end of lap 1 when Hector took a wider turn than necessary around a boat and Damian then took the lead. After the next lap, Hector was back in the lead with James off the train but still in third place. The confusion and excitement came to a head when Hector and Damian were coming towards the finish line. Hector believed the finish was between the two buoys, Damian knew it was around the top buoy and past the jetty. Once Hector thought he had finished, Scotty explained where he should have gone, and he quickly backtracked and went to finish the course properly. Damian then waited without crossing the finish line, to ensure that Hector won. What a wonderful act of sportsmanship – Damian believed that Hector deserved this race, so made sure he won the race! 


Such an exciting and beautiful end to the men’s race. Things would be a little clearer cut in the ladies! Ginnie Betts was defending from 2023 and shot off like a rocket and never really looked back, taking the win with a very clear margin. Michelle Kimbler, current National Champion, paddled hard for second place and Claire Terry came in a credible third. There had been a little bit of drafting, but it didn’t take long for things to string out and for Ginnie to take the win. 


Next up were the inflatable fleets – Jonny Hebert took the honours for the men with James Grant and Simon Webster taking 2nd and third. The incredible Helen Trehene finished 1st (and 4th overall) some 15 minutes ahead of second place lady Michaela Afford and third went to Julie Poole. The iSUP fleet was healthy and raced strong. 


Finally, it was the Challenge Tour – 26 entered and a huge group of those were from Epic Life Kent, a local SUP school and shop. This is really what it is all about, those that either don’t want to race or who just want to be a part of the event – hopefully some of them will love it so much they will transition over to racing! It was great to see them finish with only one DNF. 


Some wonderful racing with strong performances which can be taken into the next round of the series which will be held at Cardiff on 5th May. 


The Team at GBSUP put on a wonderful event – a relaxed prizegiving which was over far too quickly and then thanks to all who attended, volunteered to help and for the venue and that was it! Such a big build up, such a great race and here’s looking forward to the next one – see you all in Cardiff! 

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