How I Created a Wave for SUP
Surf culture in a landlocked state? Sound strange? Well, it did to me just four short months ago. In 103 days, I went from not knowing stand-up paddle board (SUP) racing existed to being the race director of Missoula’s first Windermere SUP Cup. With the help of a dedicated committee of three plus 30 volunteers and local businesses, we attracted professional SUP racers from all over the Western U.S., introduced numerous Montanans to the sport of SUP racing, raised money for local nonprofits and ultimately hosted 64 SUP racers on the Clark Fork River in July.
Personally and professionally, this has been the biggest undertaking of my life. Here are eight key principles I learned on this ride.
#1 Be Creative
With hundreds of events in Missoula each year, it can be challenging to come up with an idea that stands out among the crowd. Begin by determining and understanding your target audience and setting clear objectives. Then, pull together a diverse group of people for a creative brainstorming session. Advise them of your audience and objectives and then encourage them to share all ideas. The challenge here is to harness enthusiasm in order to keep the event simple and manageable.
#2 Do Your Research
Search for similar and not-so-similar events to see how they handle the details. I researched everything from SUP-specific races to road bike races to marathons, learning how to manage various areas of the event. If you find a good one, follow its lead.
#3 Be Organized
Ask any event director or participant about what makes a successful event: they will all say organization. Make a detailed list of all tasks — from securing permits to buying tape — and assign individuals to each task. Doing this right the first year is insurance for the future.
Part of good organization is a detailed budget. This will help you determine entry fees, set sponsorship levels and establish participation goals. You should identify areas where it is important to spend the extra cash to go first-class (for me it was the timing & event registration services) and areas where you can be more frugal.
#4 Boost Your Sponsors
Sponsors are the lifeblood of any good event. Develop your sponsorship packet so it educates potential sponsors on the type of audience they will reach and entices them with a variety of unique marketing opportunities (see #1 Be Creative). Recruit a motivated team dedicated to securing sponsorships, and start this early. This team should develop a qualified list of businesses that would be interested in reaching your target audience.
#5 Love Your Volunteers
Treat your volunteers like royalty. They are offering the most valuable donation — personal time. Have a volunteer coordinator who defines tasks, manages time commitments and communicates with all volunteers. Provide all volunteers with a gift such as lunch, ice cream or anything that makes them feel special.
#6 Brand It and Promote It
Everything you do should match the overall brand and personality of the event. For the SUP Cup we focused on a mix of Montana lifestyle and surf culture. Our logo is a buffalo on a surfboard, leis were given to race finishers, we served up pineapple and a Montana-style luau for the post-race celebration. By being consistent with everything you do, the event will appear professional and first-class. And don’t forget advertising and promotion in your budget. Sponsors expect it, not only for recognition but also to increase event participation.
#7 Be Optimistic, Be Passionate and Be Stubborn
While the guidelines above will help create a successful event, nothing substitutes for pure passion for what you are doing. It’s what keeps you going when you are low on sleep and there are still hoops to jump through. The first year of any good event will require optimism and stubbornness to keep moving forward when challenges present themselves. Dig your heals in and stay on course; your hard work will pay off.
#8 Show Up Next Year Better Than Ever
We learned a lot during the first year of the Windemere SUP Cup, and by the looks of things it is here to stay. And that means I look forward to learning even more next year. Mark your calendars for July 20, 2014, and follow us on Facebook!
Interested in trying SUP? Contact me and we’ll get you on the water.