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The app that’s taking SUP racing virtual

Falmouth-based Paddle Logger is the Strava of the sea for stand up paddleboarders

For the past 23 years, if you wanted to compete in the world’s most challenging SUP championship, you’d have to book yourself and your board on a flight to Hawaii.

This year, things are different. With much of the world in COVID-19 lockdown and as many as 80% of passenger flights grounded, the annual Molokai to Oahu Stand Up Paddleboard race is going virtual. Contestants can complete the 16-mile race at any location in the world, and upload their time as a .GPX file to the M2O website.

One of the apps that’s making virtual SUP racing possible is Falmouth-based Paddle Logger. The world’s only tracker app designed specifically for paddlesports, Paddle Logger is the brainchild of long-time SUP enthusiast David Walker.

He’d been trying to keep track of his time on the water using apps like the cycling tracker Strava, but found none of them were really geared to paddlesports. “It’s a real pain to use a touchscreen phone in the water,” he says. “You can’t have small, fiddly buttons – there needs to be one big button.”

You can’t have small, fiddly buttons on the water – there needs to be one big button

david walker, founder, paddle logger

David enlisted the help of healthtech app developer Lewis Smith, and they got to work on a tracker app with ‘one big button’ – closely followed by a ‘delay’ feature that gives you time to get into the water before the app starts tracking your activity.

“I can set it to start in two minutes, and I can put my phone away, get my equipment ready, head down to the water, and get on my board. When I hear a beep, my session has started to track,” says David. “It sounds simple, but no one else did that at the time.”

Paddle Logger has ‘one big button” to start tracking time on the water

Paddle Logger’s simplicity has been the key to its success, with its stripped-back functionality making it the app of choice for people who’d rather be riding the waves than faffing about with their phone. In just a couple of years, David and Lewis had built up an international community of users, and were busy adding new features like the ability to notify someone if you got into trouble on the water.

New safety features for socially-distanced paddling

Then COVID-19 struck, with lockdowns around the world. “We thought that if no-one can paddle, we might need a plan B,” David says. “We actually very quickly built a second product aimed at runners. But we’ve never had to launch it, because bizarrely, we’ve had our best two months ever.”

Mindful that social distancing might mean more people are out on the water alone, David and Lewis have revamped the ‘paddler in trouble’ feature. It’s now PaddleLIVE, with live GPS-based location sharing to let friends and family know where you are and when you’re likely to be back. A ‘virtual flare’ feature, meanwhile, will send an alert if the paddler fails to check in at a pre-set time.

Like every other aspect of Paddle Logger, PaddleLIVE uses a ‘set and forget’ design ethos that means the paddler doesn’t have to think about their phone while they’re out. “Other fitness apps have started incorporating watersports now, but they’re very busy,” says David. “We just want paddlers to have an awesome time on the water.”

Featured image credit: Jiyanca Lazarus

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