Thursday, November 09, 2023

Contest ...... or Operating Event?

That's the question that rears its head many times and seems to divide the ranks of POTAteers (at least on Faceboook, anyway.)

Some, who have competitive genes running through their bodies, are into it because they love the short exchanges, the ability to accumulate high numbers of QSOs in a very short amount of time, and love the awards and the leaderboards and rankings and statistics like to think of POTA as one huge contest.

Others, who like POTA for getting the chance to operate outdoors, enjoy the scenery, sunshine and fresh air feel that POTA is an operating event. Indeed, for some of our fellow Hams living under strict HOA regulations, POTA is a lifesaver, and provides them the opportunity to enjoy the hobby on a continual basis away from their homes.

There's even another group who seem to love POTA for the opportunity to fine tune and enhance their skills and gear for operating "off the grid" should that ever become necessary. Maybe we should call this group the "preppers" or "survivalists" or "minimalists".

In my most humble opinion, I regard POTA as an operating event. I'm more of the mindset of the second group that I've described - perhaps with a little bit of the third group mixed in. I love operating outdoors, getting in some fresh air and sunshine. If I make 10 contacts at a park or 500, I'm just as happy with either outcome. The fact that I've successfully set up a portable station, got it working and that I have communicated is far more rewarding and gives me more satisfaction than any plaque, certificate, or statistical outcome could provide.

So why does any of this matter at all?  Why am I even writing about this?  I know to some it seems a waste of time and maybe even ridiculous and unnecessary.

Two reasons that I can think of, the first being that newcomers to Amateur Radio are often confused as to what the purpose behind POTA is - is it indeed just an operating activity or some huge contest? How do we adequately explain it to them? How do we explain it to people that we are trying to attract to the hobby?  POTA and all its activity is a huge selling point to potential licensees. Seeing someone operate in an outdoor location and not cooped up in the concept of a "traditional shack" is very appealing and intriguing to a lot of people. This is especially so for those who regard Amateur Radio as something antiquated and stodgy.

Secondly, it matters because there are rules and "gentlemen's agreements".  If POTA is indeed a contest - then it needs to be defined as such and POTA activity should never show up on the WARC bands. Like it or not, regard it as silly or not, that's the current rule / conventional agreement we live under. If it's an operating event, much like DXCC is, then POTA activity can operate freely and unfettered on any band that is available to us. If it is a contest, then we'd better confine the activity to 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 Meters.

When one thinks about it, there are many similarities between POTA and DXCC and even the DXCC Challenge - awards, certificates, plaques, leaderboards and "Honor Rolls". POTA activations in and of themselves are quite like mini-domestic DXpeditions with pileups and more often than not, a huge sum of QSOs worked in a very short amount of time. The similarities between these activities are what form my opinion. I do not believe the DXCC Program has ever been regarded as a contest, and so therefore I do not regard POTA as one, either.

In the end, I guess it comes down to whatever floats your boat. However, as one who has a high regard for rules and organization, I'll continue to think of POTA as an operating event. Should 30 or 17 or 12 Meters be open, I can work those bands as well with a clear conscience, knowing I have not violated any rules or agreements.

72 de Larry W2LJ

QRP - When you care to send the very lest!


  1. Anonymous6:48 PM

    Well said Larry!! I have operated my POTA activations as "operating events"....not as a contest, and always will. As you state, I too am happy to get 13 or 100 contacts, some individuals need to understand it's not a race to fill your logbook. de Bill VE3FI

  2. Martin, PE1EEC1:27 AM

    I made a similar comment on Xwitter recently. The major outdoor activities seem to have turned into a boasting contest nowadays: "I activated 5 summits in 10 hours", "That's it? I did 10 in 5 hours and made 782 QSO's". It would be great if there would be a separate section for the radio-sporting outdoor operators where they can work on improving their position on the leader-boards to keep them seperate from the little guys & gals who are there for fun and enjoying nature. 73 de PE1EEC

  3. Anonymous6:18 AM

    Good morning Larry just wanted to put my two cents worth in. First off Larry very good post on the subject. I am not a POTA guy but am a big contester. The way I see a contest is everyone meets for a defined time, defined mode (in most cases) rules regarding exchange, band changes, dupes and finally point are given for correct contacts and remove for incorrect contact. POTA to me are more free wheeling and not as structured. I will say they seem as popular as contests but POTA are in a league of there own.

  4. K8HTL8:27 AM

    Good Morning Larry, I like your comments. Here are mine about POTA. I change my attitude about it from one day to the next. Bottom line is, I use it any way I feel at that particular time. If newcomers can't determine what POTA is all about, I don't let that bog me down. My fleeting thought is if the newcomer doesn't immediately get it, perhaps later on they will. If they never figure it out, they will never miss it. POTA is for me and I get to choose how I want to do it as long as I follow the rules.