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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokatopia outdoor adventure festival holds first stand-up paddleboard race in Spokane River

UPDATED: Sun., July 14, 2019

Travis Prewitt made the last turn and final straightaway on his stand-up paddleboard look easy. He beamed as he ran up the beach and through the inflatable finish line.

The 67-year-old from Liberty Lake took first overall in the recreational division of the Spokatopia Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP) Cup at Boulder Beach on Sunday afternoon. It’s the first time an SUP race has been held on the Spokane River, organizers and participants said, though yoga sessions on the watercraft have also taken off in recent years.

Last weekend Prewitt wrote in to The Spokesman-Review calling for more entrants in the 60-and-older age division: “Some competition please?”

No one else entered.

“So I tried to beat the young people, too,” Prewitt said after the race.

Prewitt was asking the same thing — for more competition — two years ago when he first began stand-up paddleboarding. He had to head into Canada to find the next upcoming race.

Over the past few years, the Spokane area lost the Coeur d’Alene SUP CUP and Aloha SUP Race Series at Liberty Lake. That meant the closest summer competitions were in Lake Chelan and Missoula, Montana.

Spokatopia, the outdoor adventure festival, introduced stand-up paddleboarding as it expanded to a second day, bring back something locals have been missing.

“It’s a rare thing to have a city where you can paddle, mountain bike, trail run and rock climb all within a mile or so,” Alan Shepherd, a Spokatopia board member and SUP Cup organizer, said.

Between the recreational, elite and kids races, 38 people signed up to compete.

“It’s the first one I’ve ever seen,” said women’s recreational champ Jessica West, 41, of Spokane.

West said her family has been paddleboarding for the past few years and it was the first time she’d raced anyone other than her kids. She said she was excited to see elite paddlers “move like nobody’s business.”

By choosing paddleboarding, festival organizers said they were looking to add a competition that had a low barrier to entry, as opposed to kayaking or canoeing, as well as the possibility for an elite division of racers.

Paddleboarding has “definitely grown a lot in the last five years,” Lacy Gannon of SUP Spokane said.

Gannon said she and her business partner Sara Murphy initially bought paddleboards to teach SUP yoga sessions, but they’ve expanded to offer rentals, gear and lessons.

Gannon’s daughter, CJ, won the kids race that ran the same course as the 1-mile adult recreational race.

“I was happy to beat my brother,” the 11-year-old said. Rocco Gannon came in second.

After the kids finished, elite racers from around the Northwest hopped into the water to take on the 4-mile course that ran two laps between Boulder Beach and the Upriver Dam.

Brett Saguid, 42, of Coeur d’Alene took home the $500 first prize for the elite men’s division after paddling neck and neck with fellow racer Dan Miller the whole race.

“The course is fun and challenging,” Saguid said, who has won several races over the past nine years. “As far as what we’re given, the river is awesome.”

Saguid is also the former organizer of the Coeur d’Alene SUP CUP. He said he wants to help grow the Spokane competition next year by getting his former sponsors involved and offering advice from lessons he learned organizing his race.

Eva Scherer, 33, of Vancouver, Washington, won the women’s elite competition. With the Spokane River and all of the lakes in the area, she said she hopes Spokane can develop a strong paddling community like Portland.

“Anything that teaches people to get out on the water safely is a beneficial thing,” she said.

Prewitt said he hopes the SUP Cup can develop like Bloomsday or Hoopfest after their first years as emerging competitions.

“Spokane has a great tradition of supporting its community of athletes,” Prewitt said.

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