You Need to Have The Wildflower Experience

The legendary triathlon and endurance sports festival returns in a big way in 2018

Created in 1983 in rural central California, the Wildflower Triathlon has been dubbed “The Woodstock of Triathlon” for its friendly, fun-loving vibe and festival-like atmosphere. Everyone camps out for a full weekend of racing and (family-friendly) socializing around crackling campfires. Wildflower racers tend to return every May, drawn in by the unique appeal of this iconic multisport tradition.

So, when organizers announced that last year’s race was canceled, people freaked. A prolonged drought in the region had made it increasingly difficult to produce the event, and its former owner, Tri-California, decided to pull the plug.

But to the relief and rejoicing of triathletes everywhere, Wildflower is back for 2018. It’s been revamped into The Wildflower Experience, and will take place May 4-6. “By taking the year off it has allowed us to keep our key traditions and evolve into our future festival vision,” says race director Colleen Bousman. (The event is still operated by Tri-California but is owned by Denver-based Motiv Sports, parent company of MotivRunning.com.)

Here are 10 reasons you don’t want to miss out on the new and improved Wildflower.

Photo: Wildflower/KaoriPhoto

1. You can dive right in—literally.

California water levels are back up, and Lake San Antonio is ready for swimmers, stand-up paddleboarders and boaters. This year, you’ll be able to rent a SUP board or kayak onsite and explore some of the lake’s 350 square miles.

2. The party got even bigger.

Think live bands jamming on stage, a Firestone-Walker beer garden, wine tastings, food trucks, cornhole tournaments, multiple expo and activity areas and more. “One of the key new things for Wildflower 2018 are additions that also focus on entertaining friends and family throughout the fun-filled weekend,” says race director Bousman.

Photo: Wildflower/KaoriPhoto

3. It’s not just about the swim, bike and run.

In addition to the legendary Wildflower Long Course, Olympic and Sprint (on- and off-road) triathlon races, Wildflower will also have 5K, 10K and 10-mile trail runs, stand-up paddle (SUP) board events, and yoga sessions throughout the weekend.

4. There’s a spa!

You can book a book a post-race massage or pedicure at the Wildflower Wellness Spa. You’ll never feel so pampered while “roughing it.”

5. You can go shopping!

Shopping…at a campground? Why not. You can peruse the Wildflower Marketplace and pick up handcrafted triathlon-related creations from local artisans. You can also test out the latest training gear from featured brands inside the three expo areas.

READ MORE: Why You Should Train for a Triathlon

6. Oh, heli-yeah!

You’ll be able to get a bird’s-eye view of the iconic Wildflower venue and surrounding vineyards and farmland during a guided helicopter tour. The chopper takes off lakeside for a 20-minute flight that’s open to all ages. Cost is $99 per person, and you can save $20 by booking your ticket by March 1.

Photo: Wildflower/Brittany App

7. Got kids?

They will have a blast at Camp Wildflower, a kid zone with a playground, art-and-crafts area and interactive games. And what kid doesn’t want to roast s’mores under a canopy of stars?

8. Camping is cool!

This year, there’s a camping option for everyone. If you don’t want to pitch a tent during race weekend, there are a couple “glamping” (glamorous camping) options: canvas yurt-like tents or Tinker Tin trailers. If you want all the comforts of home, Getaway RV can drop a motor home rental right on your assigned site. And if you want to avoid the campsite feels altogether (you’re missing out!), book a hotel room or vacation rental in nearby Paso Robles, a charming wine-country hub.

9. Race among the stars!

You can race with world-class triathletes—including former champion Jesse Thomas, who is expected to be at the 2018 edition. Wildflower is a “bucket list” event for the pros, too, because “it’s symbolic in the sport, triathlon in its essence,” Thomas says. If you go, be sure to check out the Stairway of Champions, a tribute to all the past winners.

Photo: Wildflower/KaoriPhoto

10. The vibe is contagious!

The team spirit is second to none. Wildflower is host to the Collegiate Championship and Triathlon Club Competition, which take the race energy to the next level. Whether you’re competing solo or on a team, you’ll never hear louder cheers, especially on the notoriously touch sections of the course like Nasty Grade.

For 2018 race details and to register, visit wildflowerexperience.com.

READ MORE: Train for Your First Triathlon

Julia Beeson Polloreno

The former editor-in-chief of Triathlete magazine for a half-dozen years, Julia Polloreno is a freelance writer and endurance sports nut. She lives in Encinitas, Calif, with her husband and two kids.