British Columbian paddleboarders have a new place to show off their skills on the waves.
For the first time, the Canadian National Stand Up Paddleboarding Championships is being moved from Tofino, B.C. to the Saanich peninsula.
The town of Sidney will now host the event, running May 25 to May 27, and crowds of people are expected to watch the races while celebrating the relatively new sport of paddleboarding.
"It might have started out where you're on the lake with your buddies and you go for a bit of a race," said Dan Tarnow, the director of Surf Canada.
"Since then, it's exploded into a pretty mainstream paddle sport."
Tarnow said the event had to be moved to Sidney because Tofino was too inconvenient for participants to travel to.
"There's one long highway to get in there. We have to be open to everyone in Canada. For people flying, that's just one more leg of the journey."
Because it's a national qualifying event, Tarnow said ease of accessibility is important — more spectators will come to Sidney.
The competition's accessibility has never been more important, he said, because more people are realizing the fitness benefits of paddleboarding and getting interested in the sport.
Thanks to paddlers with "competitive edges," there is now a wide variety of events to participate in, said Tarnow.
The weekend's races will include an 18-kilometre endurance race, a four-kilometre technical race, a 200 metre elite sprint race and a one kilometre recreational race.
'Board over board'
"It's pretty much elbow-to-elbow, board-over-board," said Tarnow. "As a spectator sport, it's really exciting because you never know what's going to happen."
Tarnow said paddleboarding attracts all sorts of athletes, including gymnasts and runners.
Many participants come from the world of surfing, because they're already accustomed to balancing on a board.
Many recreational canoe paddlers have turned to the sport as well, said Tarnow.
The beauty of planning a paddleboarding event, said Tarnow, is that most weather is favourable.
Clear conditions will showcase participant's training and craft, while windy conditions will showcase their bravery, he said.
With files from On the Island