2015 Nautic Paris Crossing Recap
Looking Back at The River Steine SUP Race--A Standup Tradition In the Wake of Terror
Danish SUP sensation Casper Steinfath was no stranger to Paris when he first registered for the Nautic Paris Crossing in 2011. Growing up, he often vacationed in the City of Lights during his family's travels. But it wasn't until he started competing in Paris' premier SUP event that Denmark's SUP all-star found a view of France's capital foreign to even to most Parisian locals...from a standup paddleboard floating on the River Seine.
The Seine is off-limits to paddleboarders 364 days a year, but in recent times, French authorities have opened up access to an 8.5 mile stretch of the river for the season-ending Nautic SUP Paris Crossing, now in its sixth year.
"The city seems bigger and even more vibrant when you're on the Seine, passing Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and all the other famous landmarks," Steinfath told SUP mag.
Tragically, this year's race was nearly cancelled in the wake of the recent terrorist attacks that plagued the city less than a month before the Crossing. Circulating rumors in the days leading up to the race had its 500-plus entrants guessing the verdict until the eve of the event. But then organizers gave the green light, and on December 6th more than 500 competitors for the sold-out race converged at the start line, located by the The Bibliothèque Nationale de France (the National Library of France).
Before the race, participants bowed their heads for a minute of silence to honor victims of the November 13 atrocities. Steinfath has participated in several meaningful ceremonies before big races, but this one, he says, was particularly moving.
"Coming together in this way with 500 paddlers was touching," he said. "The attacks in Paris and in Copenhagen earlier this year were awful, but you have to stand up - literally - for what you believe in."
After the ceremony, the racers got underway. From the beginning it was clear that the men's title would come down to a two-way tussle between Steinfath and New Caledonia's Titouan Puyo, just like in 2014.
"Last year Tito and I broke away from the field and we figured that we wouldn't get away with it again," Steinfath said. "But we managed to open a 20-meter gap fairly early on and then just kept building on it. At the end, it turned into a stroke-for-stroke sprint, again."
Though he put in a valiant effort, it was Puyo who crossed the finish line near the Quai De Javel first, the 11-second gap making him back-to-back champion. Behind Puyo and Steinfath came French mainstays Arthur Arutkin and Gaetan Sene. Rounding out the top-five was their 16-year-old countryman Martin Vitry, who surprised everyone as he moved up through a tough field of seasoned pros from around the world.
"I bet that at the start of this season very few people had heard of Martin, but he did a tremendous job and I'm sure it's just the start of a great career," Steinfath said.
The women's race was equally exciting, with just six minutes separating the top five finishers. In the end, two-time French national champion Olivia Piana pulled ahead of her compatriot Celine Guesdon, with Spain's Susak Molinero putting in a strong showing to claim the final place on the podium. For Piana, the biggest battle was with the ever-changing water conditions.
"I was surprised to discover that the conditions were super choppy at the start," Piana told SUP mag. "The first three kilometers were downwind, and the rest of the race was flat. With the current and counter-current it was a technical challenge to just keep our boards going the right way."
Steinfath views the Nautic Paris Crossing is a barometer for the continued growth of SUP in Europe. This year's race sold out mere seconds after registration opened, and that indication combined with the mounting momentum of both the Euro Tour and the Standup World Series, all indications point to big things coming with the European SUP season in 2016.
Video highlights from the 2014 Nautic Paris Crossing.
Not familiar with France's SUP scene? Get the insider info from French SUP charger, Eric Terrien.