The New River Gorge SUP Race has become the epicenter of whitewater paddleboard racing in the Eastern US, but not because of a cash purse (there isn’t one!) or fantastical prizes. Instead, this race has ingrained itself in the hearts of a community that it has helped to grow since its inception in 2011. The setting itself could be attributed to the race’s popularity. The New River Gorge and Fayetteville, the adjoining mountain town, is a quintessential hub for adventure and natural beauty. Still, the underlying values and genuine love that race founder, Melanie Hames, puts into this event is the defining ingredient. The West Virginia SUP scene is filled with passionate people like her, and this event has drawn competitors from around the world that all want a piece of it.
As the racers make the first turn in the PA SUP Championships at Moraine State Park, they are met with the sound of live music from the main stage of the Regatta at Lake Arthur. Thousands of people are sprawled out listening to the music, sifting through food trucks, and watching the sailboats, paddleboards and windsurfers jetting by. A backdrop of thick conifers gives way to blue skies above the horizon of the lake and this is only the beginning.