After two days of racing and a week of international travel I am feeling pretty fried. According to the race organizers and everyone I spoke with, The Mediterranean SUP Cup was the ‘Battle of the Paddle’ of Europe. All of the top standup paddlers from across the continent were in France to race this past weekend. Both days of racing were on 12’6 race boards, so I knew I had a little extra work to do if I wanted to win.
Saturday was the 6-mile course race with 7 buoy turns each lap for a total of four laps. To keep the spectators involved, each paddler would run on the beach between laps with board in hand. Strict French marine laws meant we would also be required to wear a leash during the race. I was a little skeptical of running with my SUP while attached by leash, but it ended up not being a huge problem. I could have done without hauling my board up the beach, but it’s always fun to have a new format to keep the races interesting.
As we were on ‘French Time’, we did not start the race until about 5 PM. This was about 7 hours later than most of the races I have been to. On the positive side it gave me ample time to stretch, eat, relax and repeat. The race got under way with around 90 of Europe’s top male and female paddlers. After two laps I was sitting in 6th place and trying to make a move on the paddlers in front. The pace of the race was a full sprint for almost the entire time. The water was a little choppy, which allowed for us to catch some small bumps in-between the straight-aways. On the last beach run my hand slipped on the handle as I threw the board back down. This allowed for the guy behind to pass me with a good run and jump onto his board. After around an hour of sprinting, I ended up in 7th place overall in the course race. The distance race would be coming up on Sunday. I was ready to seek revenge on the tiny paddlers who buzzed around the course a little more efficiently than an oversized American on a 12’6.
After an amazing awards party on the beach Saturday night, it was time for the distance race. We got things started at a more reasonable time of 10 AM. Around 100 paddlers took to the water for the 10-mile race up and down the jagged coast of Southern France. I had a decent start but was not sitting exactly where I would have liked. You can see from the picture that there was definitely some drafting going on. I enjoy the strategy of drafting in a race. I think it makes it more interesting and challenging for competitors. The first 5 miles of the race there were about 20 guys in various draft trains right on top of each other. As we approached the half way mark a few of us were able to separate and cut the field in half. Coming back toward the finish line I began to time my move on the top 4 paddlers just in front of me. With some stored energy from my drafting I made a sprint for the front pack. After about 10 minutes I caught the leaders and began to pick them off. Soon I was sitting in second place behind Eric Terrien, the top European paddler and a fixture on the podium at the Battle of the Paddle. We rounded the last buoy with about a mile left and inches separating the top 4. Eric caught a few bumps and began to pull ahead. Another French Starboard rider was also able to edge me out as we came to the finish. I ended up finishing in 3rd place around 10 seconds behind Eric.
The level of the standup paddlers here was as high as any race I have ever been to. The top 10 paddlers on both days were very impressive. It was great to be able to race against the best paddlers in Europe to see what the level is like. The entire event was well run and full of stoke and the SUP community here in France is open and welcoming. I think you would be searching for a lifetime if you wanted to find a group of paddlers that wasn’t friendly and fun to be around. We have definitely made some new friends here in France.
Today we will catch a train to Switzerland with a stop in Paris for a couple of nights. In Switzerland we will hike and enjoy the mountains before making our way to Germany for my pro-clinic and the Lost Mills distance race. I am looking forward to racing my 14′ race board against all of the same top paddlers. Stay tuned for updates from the Swiss Alps!
Click here to read Part III.
Click here to read Part II.
Click here to read Part I.