Bart De Zwart Talks About His Latest Marathon Paddle

Photo: Mayola Dijksman
Photo: Mayola Dijksman

Maui’s Bart de Zwart is known for his expedition paddles and being the top contender at the Netherlands’ five-day race, the SUP 11-City Tour. The guy has successfully crossed the North Sea, paddling 100 miles from England to Holland, and has gone even further, paddling 300 miles from Hawaii’s Big Island to the island of Kauai, not to mention his four overall wins at the 11-City Tour. De Zwart just keeps going, and recently, he paddled for 28 hours and 21 minutes to complete the 220-kilometer SUP 11-City Tour course nonstop, and set yet another record.
After some much needed rest with 11 hours of shuteye, the record-setting paddler caught up with to share his experience. —Shari Coble

SUP mag: Why did you decide to complete the 11-City Tour course nonstop?
De Zwart: After doing the 11-City four times, I have always asked myself how it would be to do it in one go. The last years I have been looking for new challenges, expeditions and crossings, and this one seemed to be the right one for me— especially after Jasper [van Overbeek] did it in the beginning of this year in 37 hours. I wanted to set a fast record and with the Starboard Sprint 14′ I knew that was possible.
Another reason I do those extreme long distances and crossings is that it changes you. After you have done something hard, life is even more beautiful after that.

Photo: Mayola Dijksman
Photo: Mayola Dijksman
SUP mag: Did you talk to Jasper van Overbeek prior to the expedition or receive any pointers from him?
De Zwart: Yes, I know Jasper from the last two 11-City Tours. I talked to him last year about doing it nonstop; he was the one who did it first though, and thanked me for inspiring him with all the expeditions I do. I met him three days ago in a Dutch race, the Battle of the Coast, where he wished me luck.

SUP mag: How did you prepare for the 28 hours of nonstop paddling?
De Zwart: For something like this you have to be fit, but the most important [aspects] are food and mental strength. When I am home in Maui I train every day, and when I get closer to the 11-City Tour I start training a couple times a week with the longer distances (three to five hours). To paddle for 28 hours you have to eat and keep eating, so I always make sure I have enough [food] and enough variety. I use Hammer products (Perpetume, Heed and Recoverite), but also use solid foods, like pasta, avocado, and nuts, for longer races or expeditions.
Most important is your mental ability to grind. It is hard when it’s dark and you are tired, cold and wet. You have to want it really hard to do this. Your mental state is harder to train or prepare for— you have to build this little by little, and you to have it in you a little too. Half the mental preparation is being trained and having everything else organized and prepared. When you are sure you can do it when you start, you will do it.

SUP mag: What was the most difficult leg of the journey?
De Zwart: The last couple of hours during the night. I was paddling for 21 hours, and it wasn't because it was dark, rainy, and cold, but I was getting sleepy. Sleep comes and goes, you fight it for 30 minutes and then you are good again for a while, but it always comes back. It got a lot better when it got light again and I smelled the finish line.

Photo: Mayola Dijksman
Photo: Mayola Dijksman

SUP mag: How did this expedition compare to your others?
De Zwart: In some ways this was easier because it wasn't open sea, there is no navigation, and I didn’t have to bring a ton of gear on my board. In other ways it was harder; I wanted to do it as fast as possible so the record stands for a while, so I paddled hard from the beginning, which is a lot harder on your body than with a crossing or an expedition, where the challenge is the main purpose and not the speed.

SUP mag: What role does your family play in these expeditions?
De Zwart: My wife plays a very big role. She supports me with everything I do. She helps me with publicity, keeps our windsurf/SUP shop in Maui running when I am away, and organizes when I am unorganized. My dad helps me with logistics and had food ready for me along the route.

Photo: Mayola Dijksman
Photo: Mayola Dijksman
SUP mag: What do you do post-paddle to help your body recover from 28 hours of nonstop paddling?
De Zwart: I would say rest, massage and food. I had a good, short massage right after finishing and a longer one today (the day after). I slept for 11 hours and I eat and refuel.
After two days of rest I start paddling again. Tomorrow I go to the SUPCUP, so I will start trying a little to get up to speed again for the races there in the weekend.

SUP mag: Do you have another expedition in mind?
De Zwart: I have an Arctic Crossing from Canada to Greenland, but I am still working on that one since there are many factors involved, logistics and weather being some of them. Starboard is making me a special inflatable for that one, but in temperatures like that, there are many more details. But I am getting organized, SUPSkin designed a special drysuit and Patagonia is getting me warm clothing.

SUP mag: What plans do you have for the next few months?
DeZwart: I will be doing races in Holland, France, and Germany, and working in the shop. The Arctic crossing is in July, and the 11-City Tour in September. After that, there is a Muskoka River X expedition race in Canada and another adventure at the end of the year with Connor [Baxter] in Africa.

Photo: Mayola Dijksman
Photo: Mayola Dijksman

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