“Wherever it Goes, it Brings a Bit of Life” – Exploring the Niche Watersport That Was Popularised During Covid

Patrick McCormack in paddleboard action. Photo: SUP11 City Tour

When you think about sports in Ireland, GAA, soccer and rugby are the obvious ones
that come to mind. But what about those who dislike running around a mucky field?

Limerick Voice reporter Saul Mezzapelle spoke to one paddle boarder who’s trying to
make the niche watersport more popular.

A native of Waterford, Patrick McCormack was always interested in water sports but
over a decade ago he discovered paddleboarding.

In November, he won Stand-Up Paddleboarder of the Year at the annual Canoeing Ireland Awards.

“I’ve been paddling canoes, kayaks, things like that since I was about six months old,
so a long, long, long time. I’ve been paddleboarding the last ten years or so”.

So why paddleboarding? “I just got more into paddleboarding in terms of using it for
fitness, and then racing, that’s another challenge”.

McCormack, who teaches paddleboarding and other watersports with his company, was speaking in November ahead of the first leg of the SUP Race
Winter Series in Vicarstown, Co. Laois, an event which he helped found in 2021.

The buzz and excitement in the small village created a great atmosphere ahead of
the first race of the series. One might expect a low turnout, yet there were dozens
lined up to watch on the bridge overlooking the canals and along the waterfront,
despite the chilly conditions (much to the dismay of one unfortunate racer, who
accidently took an early bath at the start line).

Stand-Up Paddleboard Race in Vicarstown, Co. Laois last November

“It’s probably the biggest watersport to come out of the pandemic. Every second
person almost has a paddleboard or knows someone with one” explained
McCormack when asked about the size of the paddleboarding scene in Ireland.

Paddle boarders of all ages compete in five races across the country, with races in
Dublin, Mayo and Northern Ireland taking place until April.

“The race scene is relatively small, but it’s like every other sport that isn’t a big
traditional sport for Ireland” he conceded. “Right now, you’re looking at maybe 25, 35
competitors for an event”.

And one need not worry if they lack the level of experience McCormack holds.
People of all skill levels are encouraged to take part in the event.

“We have a novice category with shorter boards, they do usually 5-6km, and then we
have a more experienced race with long boards, and they do 10-15km”.

But even in defeat, there’s no hard feelings, as the series is more focused on “fitness and fun”.

McCormack, who helped to transform what was a range of independently organised
races across the country into the SUP series, opted for a realists’ view on whether
paddleboarding could break into the mainstream.

“Mainstream? No, probably not!” he exclaimed, seemingly laughing off the idea as
being totally and utterly ridiculous. “It will probably stay a relatively fringe, small
sport, but it’s growing, and hopefully it will continue to grow”.

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