Sarasota's Last Paddler Standing

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Pictured: Second place finisher Alex Somoano (left) speaks with winner Blake Carmichael (right) during the Last Paddler Standing race. Photo courtesy of Last Paddler Standing.

“Standup paddle boarding (SUP) is a relatively young sport. It’s really only in the last 15 years that it’s become a sport at all,” says Greg Wingo, organizer of the Last Paddler Standing race. “Traditionally speaking, SUP races are typically done in either a sprint style–something fast and not very long distance–or are more technically focused, which are still pretty short races that feature buoys and other obstacles in the open water. There are some longer distance SUP races around the world, but they tend to be somewhere in that six to twelve mile range. There are not many ultra distance SUP races.”

That is, except for the one that took place in Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park this past Saturday. Last Paddler Standing returned to Sarasota for its second year of determining who is the toughest paddle boarder out of some of the sport’s top athletes. Created by Wingo, a long-time ultra runner and full-time organizer of endurance races, the Last Paddler Standing, to put it lightly, is the hardest thing anyone will ever do on a paddleboard. The endurance race is a test of strategy, stamina and mental fortitude: racers must paddle a 3.33 mile loop around the lake within a one-hour period, with each consecutive loop beginning on the hour. At the 48 hour mark–and yes, the race has gone for that long–the length of the loop is increased to 4.9 miles. Racers must dismount their boards and get out of the water after completing each lap. The last paddler standing wins.

“This concept of a last man standing style event exists in other sports but not within the paddle boarding world and so I took my knowledge of directing other races and basically just tried to see how it could be created within the SUP world,” says Wingo. “Pretty much everybody quits or gets timed out in the process of the race happening and you’re left with one person at the end. It’s pretty unique and pretty insane.”

This year, Blake Carmichael proved to be the Last Paddler Standing out of 31 competitors after completing 50 laps, with two extra laps of 4.9 miles after the 48 hour mark. In a test of strength, stamina and just plain grit, Sarasota’s Last Paddler Standing race stands alone.

Pictured: Second place finisher Alex Somoano (left) speaks with winner Blake Carmichael (right) during the Last Paddler Standing race. Photo courtesy of Last Paddler Standing.

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