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Upgrade Your Adventure: Fabio Barbosa on SUP Challenges & Endurance Racing

Posted by Lydia Burdett

Fabio Barbosa is a paddleboarding machine, sweeping up top three places in recent SUP races across the UK. He hasn’t always been into SUP racing, but has grown to love pushing himself hard in the endurance side of the sport. He tells us how he started, offers some top tips, and encourages you to set yourself a SUP challenge too...

How did you get into SUP racing?

I used to be a leisure paddler (have been doing it since 2017) but spent a lot of time on the water – always improving my paddle technique and trying to learn as much as possible. In 2020, after paddleboarding’s big boom, I joined a few group paddles in my area, West Sussex, and met some like-minded friends who shared the same passion. That made me push a little bit more, and we decided to sign up for Head of the Dart (just for fun). I got a good result and then decided to start exploring more and sign up for bigger events; Trent100 was the first long one. I signed up for the Great Glen 2023 at the same time – and had an amazing result in that race, finishing first in the inflatable category. That made me sign up for more events, but longer distances as that’s what I like to do. I have a few more in mind for the next couple of years. This keeps me fit and motivated to get out and do what I love.

What are your top training tips for an endurance race?

The best tip I can give is to spend as much time as you can on the water and push yourself a bit more. Try to do high-intensity paddles. Even if I can only get out for 10km during the week, I always try to do a longer distance at the weekend. I also do a bit of gym and exercise classes to help with fitness levels, so I can keep up cadence and pace. Eating healthy and getting good rest is also part of the process, it’s all important for general well-being.

What’s your board of choice?

I’ve always been a fan of Red Paddle Co boards since I first got a 10'6" Ride. After that, deciding I wanted to do more adventure / touring paddles, I got a 12'0" Voyager – the perfect board for all kinds of conditions. It’s very fast, stable, and comfortable when paddling long-distance barefoot. I tested that board against a few competitors on the market, and nothing came close, so the decision was easy. More recently, I’ve upgraded to a 14'0" Elite, and I’m very impressed with how quick and effortless it is compared to other boards and brands. This will be my board of choice for future races.

What advice can you offer to anyone looking to get involved with SUP racing?

I’m not a professional or instructor, so there are more capable people to talk about technique than me. Everyone has different styles and techniques when paddling, so it’s important to find what works best for you. In my case, I use the big muscles (back, legs and core) to avoid fatigue, and keep me going for longer periods of time. Finding your own pace and looking at the data are the best ways to improve. Understand what you’re doing wrong, where there’s room for improvement, and keep practicing. The more you do the easier it gets – and the better / quicker you get. You should always challenge yourself. And if you can, join a group of friends that makes you push a little bit harder.

What’s your preparation the night before a race?

That’s a very tricky one. I get very nervous before a race or event, so I don’t have the best sleep. I try to get everything ready for the next day, so I won’t have to rush around in the morning. I prepare my drinks and food as necessary for the distance I’m paddling. Long distance events always start early in the morning, so I make myself go to bed very early to try and get some sleep. I don’t do anything crazy as I know I’ll have a long day ahead and need to be fresh.

Fabio’s SUP Palmarès

HOTD 2022 – 3rd place, leisure category
HOTD 2023 – 3rd place, leisure category
Trent100 2023 – 10th place (team challenge, not a race!)
Great Glen 2023 – 1st place inflatable
Race to the Castle 2024 – 1st place under 12'6"

Follow Fabio on Instagram