The 11 Cities is a unique race.
First: It’s long. Very long. Over 200 kilometres all said and done. Second: It’s held across five days, in five different stages. It’s like the Tour de France of SUP.
It’s also one of the only races where you literally spend 24/7 with your fellow paddlers: Apart from racing together for between 5 and 8 hours each day, most competitors stay on one of the big, oldschool Dutch boats that follows the course.
The SUP 11 City Tour is long. It’s painful. You’ll hate it. You’ll love it. You’ll make great friends. Lasting memories. Sore muscles. Big smiles. You’ll test yourself physically. You’ll test yourself even more so mentally. Oh and your hands will be full of calluses.
The 11 Cities is an amazing event and one that you should definitely add to your bucket list.
It’s a crazy adventure through the beautiful countryside of the Friesland province. And it’s one I can’t wait to go back and do all over again in twelve months time…
This year I was very lucky to have the full support of Mistral SUP on my side. That included having Steve West and his Wife Mandy (along with @thegirlfromsupanema) following me each day. They were not only shouting out priceless moral support at almost every bridge we passed, they were also capturing some epic photos of the race.
So here’s a collection of 219 of the best images from the SUP 11 City Tour, including a brief recap of how each day went (we literally had thousands of pics to choose from… Westy was busy).
If you want more, check out our 11 Cities Live Blog archive to see how it all went down.
All pics are copyright © Steve and Mandy West
Click on any image to start the uber awesome slideshow
Stage 1: Leeuwarden to Sloten
Wednesday September 3rd
43kms (27 miles)
Stage Winners: Bart de Zwart (4:45:28) and Janneke Smits (5:33:20)
Boss Man’s Time: 5:21:17 (14th)
This was a tough stage. Stage 2 was one of the longest courses we paddled all week and also featured “The Lake” (that bloody lake…), complete with a stiff sidewind, right near the finish. After bolting in the first half of the stage and opening up a four minute gap, defending champ Peter Bartl was eventually reeled in by Bart de Zwart right before the line.
Stage 2: Sloten to Workum
Thursday September 4th
45kms (28 miles)
Stage Winners: Peter Bartl (5:02:42) and Janneke Smits (5:36:44)
Boss Man’s Time: 5:36:46 (16th)
Stage 2 was long. The longest course of the week and the only time that nobody finished in under five hours. The First half was relatively easy (we even had a mini downwinder in the first few kilometres) however the final 8-10kms were punctuated by a solid headwind, which broke several paddlers (yours truly included) and opened up some big time gaps on the overall leaderboard.
Stage 3: Workum to Franeker
Friday September 5th
42kms (26 miles)
Stage Winners: Bart de Zwart (4:40:51) and Janneke Smits (5:06:07)
Boss Man’s Time: 4:56:25 (11th)
Stage 3 was a lot better, at least for me personally. I’d finally gotten over the hump of the first two days and started getting into a nice rhythm. The stage was long, however times were noticeably quicker than the first two days thanks to the wind backing right off. The day’s stage was highlighted by a never ending channel in the final 5-10kms, which created an optical illusion that made you feel like you were paddling uphill (the reverse current didn’t help either).
Stage 4: Franeker to Dokkum
Saturday September 6th
43kms (27 miles)
Stage Winners: Bart de Zwart (4:43:49) and Janneke Smits (5:05:40)
Boss Man’s Time: 4:51:48 (11th)
This was my favourite stage of the race. By the finish, it felt like I’d been sprinting for five hours straight. The main draft train went through a series of sprints, breakaways and counter-sprints that made it feel like a rollercoaster. Oh and there was a portage section at around the 14km mark that sent paddlers in all directions and totally splintered the trains.
We finished in Dokkum, on the day of the city’s biggest festival, one that just happens to be centered around the patch of water that we were finishing on. It made us feel like we were entering the Colosseum as we sprinted the final few hundred metres. Pretty cool.
Stage 5: Dokkum to Leeuwarden
Sunday September 7th
27 (17 miles)
Stage Winners: Bart de Zwart (2:53:48) and Janneke Smits (3:17:00)
Boss Man’s Time: 3:00:57 (12th)
Finally the race was over. The last stage from was a “short” course from Dokkum to Leeuwarden – just 27 kilometres. However that almost made it worse, because the pace never let up the whole day. I managed to hang onto the lead draft train by a fingernail right up until the final kilometre, when the pace finally saw me drop.
The relief at crossing that finish line – fittingly, the exact same spot we’d started at five days earlier – was hard to describe. This crazy/awesome/painful race had finally come to a close. As soon as I stepped foot on land I knew I wanted to come back and do it all again in 12 months time. Who wants to join me?
And as a footnote: Here’s a before and after of myself with the now four-time 11 City Tour champion, Bart de Zwart. If only I knew what I was in for in that first shot…