How to Shoot Stand-up Paddle Competitions

By Andrea Monti

Shooting Stand-Up paddle is complicated because, like in motor sports, things go on largely even until, all of a sudden action erupts. In other words, boredom is the first and foremost enemy of the photographer: it shuts down concentration because it is not possible to keep the focus (pun unintended) for too long.

It may worth shooting a single athlete, for instance capturing an intense moment or a fall.

However the final result will become more interesting if there is something (or somebody) else in the composition.

The first key moment in an SUP challegne is the start. Once the signal is given, the athletes start running a few steps in the water, pushing their boards.

They then mount over them and start paddling furiously.

In a few seconds, a line will form. The athletes’ stamina levels will determine how quickly this happens.

In general, it worth paying attention to the crowded part of the line. If one athlete takes the lead and stays well ahead of his competitors there is not so much to photograph. A word of caution, though: a fall or other unwanted accidents may happens also to the first in line, so even if the eye is looking at the other athletes struggling for a better placement, it is always necessary to pay attention at what is happening in more ‘calm’ waters.

The race path is not straight. This means that at a certain point athletes must turn. They need to reduce as much as possible the angle of the bend while staying close to the buoy the marks the turning point. This is the moment when all scores could be reset because of a mistake.

Once the turning point is passed, the race enters its more dramatic phase. The athletes are all in because there are no other obstacles that may alter the course of action. They need to give all they can and just paddle faster and more powerfully than the others.

In the final part of the race, the athletes jump in the water and run for the first 50 metres or so to the finish line. This is when everything is decided.

Competition apart, it is also important to pay attention to context shots such as athletes reaching the starting lane

Or a race officer who is not paying attention

Regarding the gear, I used a Fuji X-T5 and a Fujinon 150-600.

It goes without saying that in such kind of competition the more the camera and the lens are protected, the better. Even if the gear is labelled as ‘All-Weather’, ‘Tropicalised’ or similar classification, it is advisable to take extra step, especially if the day is windy. Secure the camera in a transparent plastic bag with an elastic band around the lens to keep it safe.

When it comes to choosing lenses, the longer the zoom, the better. However, if the photographer is authorised to enter the water or stay on board of the race officer boats, a shorter zoom with a wider aperture (the classic 70-200/f2.8) is the way to go. Overall, It may be better than a 150-600/f8.

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About The Author

By Andrea Monti
My name is Andrea Monti. I’m an Italian free-lance journalist, photographer and – in my spare time – an hi-tech lawyer. The works I am more proud of are covering live jazz, pop and rock concerts for an Italian online music magazine and Opera and prose for a 200 years-old theatre. I also do sport photography mainly in athletics and fighting disciplines. You may find out more about me on
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Jeffery Luhn on How to Shoot Stand-up Paddle Competitions

Comment posted: 04/07/2024

There are some good shots there. I like your postings. Keep it up! One thing: Your photos seem to be consistently dark. It's not my monitor, because everything else looks fine.

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Andrea Monti replied:

Comment posted: 04/07/2024

Jeffrey, Thanks, they actually are test shots I did to find a proper exposure. I have used them because they served to illustrate the concepts.


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