Three Quick Questions with Bart de Zwart

Photo: Mayola Dijksman
Photo: Mayola Dijksman

Bart de Zwart is fast. Not just on his SUP, where he’s earned the nickname “The Flying Dutchman,” but also in responding to the request for this interview, which he did within minutes of us hitting him up on Facebook. In addition to winning multiple races in the recent 11-city SUP tour in his native Holland, De Zwart, who is based in Hawaii, has completed two of the longest, most arduous paddles ever: 100 miles from England to Holland and then 300 miles from Hawaii’s Big Island to Kauai (the latter won Top Expedition at the 2011 SUP Awards). De Zwart took time out of preparing for his next, semi-secretive Arctic Crossing expedition (follow it soon on supthemag.com) to talk about the race scene in his homeland, the future of the sport and how on Earth someone completes such extreme distance challenges. —Phil White

SUP mag: What was the most difficult aspect of your crossings?
De Zwart: Being wet for five days and being cold at night. Although that crossing was in Hawaii, I had a winter wetsuit and several other layers because if you’re wet and you rest during the night, your body cools off a lot.
The 100-mile North Sea crossing was difficult because the weather was challenging. When I crossed I had winds from all sides and in my face, and even some dense fog. I knew the temperature during the night was a lot lower, so I decided to paddle the whole night through and stay warm that way. In the 38 hours it took me, I took just two 30-minute rests. For my next crossing I will be using a new dry suit from SUPSKIN, made with the latest materials, super light and comfortable.

Photo: Lost Mills Race
Photo: Lost Mills Race

SUP mag: How is SUP racing growing in Holland?
De Zwart: The 11-city tour is one of the best race series because it has all the components: a high level of competition, nice scenery, camaraderie, sprint, long distance and endurance, all in one event. There are a lot of tactics involved as you’re racing every day for five to hours, for five days. There are a lot of small decisions to make: when do you go in front? Do you try it alone? What pace do you go? When, when do you start the sprint near the finish? It’s a race everybody should do at least once.

SUP mag: How do you think competitive standup paddling will advance in the next few years?
De Zwart: I think SUP will become an Olympic sport and there will be two kinds of races included. The first would be a short sprint race in separate lanes, and the other would be a one to two hour distance race, where you’re all together and can draft like a cycling road race.
Apart from the Olympics, I think there will be four kinds of races:
1) Sprint races with lots of buoys on lakes or in the shore break on 12’6 boards, 10 minutes to 45 minutes long.
2) Long distance races on 12’6 or 14′ boards, one to two hours long.
3) Marathon, adventure or open ocean races, like the 11-city tour in Holland, M2O in Hawaii or the new Muskoka river X adventure race in Canada. These are anywhere from four-hour to 24-hour races, and I’m all for using 14’ boards so that riders from different countries can be competitive.
4) Inflatable SUP races on 12’6 or 14′ boards, in 10- to 60-min sprint races with lots of buoys, indoor or outdoor, anywhere in the world.

Photo: Jimmie Hepp
Photo: Jimmie Hepp

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