The Euro Tour: A New Race Series To Unify The European Paddling Community (And Help Settle The Board Class Debate?)

 
Connor Baxter wins SUP Race Cup Beach Race

France’s SUP Race Cup has a rich and colourful history (photo: Michel Terrien)

Some very cool news out of Europe today, with word of a new, unified tour coming together this summer that’s set to feature many of the region’s biggest and best races.

Dubbed simply the Euro Tour, this new series aims to unify the Europe’s best standalone events from mid-May til the end of June. Covering eight races across six straight weekends, the Euro Tour will hit six different countries and bring some much-needed structure to the fragmented racing scene on the continent.

These races include Europe’s premiere events such as the Lost Mills in Germany and the Bilbao World SUP Challenge in Spain. The 2015 Euro Tour begins May 23rd on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Majorca, before hitting France for the long-running SUP Race Cup. There are also stops in the UK and Italy, while the final race in Namur (Belgium) on the last weekend of June.

All of the events have one thing in common: They’re the big, well-attended races that support the sport and help grow the European paddling community from the grassroots level up. In fact that seems to be a theme for this whole Tour in general: As the very cool-looking new Facebook page says – “Whether you’re an international athlete, a hometown hero or a first time paddler, the Euro Tour is for you.”

Lost-Mills-Stand-Up-Paddling-Race-Germany

The Lost Mills is kind of like the European version of the Carolina Cup. It’s grown over the years into an elite international event while still attracting a huge band of weekend warriors. (photo credit: Ernstfried Prade)

The Euro Tour will also feature a comprehensive rankings leaderboard, which will give us an unbiased ranking of the European race scene for the first time.

So now there’s a new prize for the stars of Europe as well as the visiting internationals to chase. Though it’s not only for the serious adults: The Euro Tour will also feature a ‘Grom Race’ junior series, which will give the stoked out kids across Europe a chance to legitimately compete on the same stage as their heroes.

Though perhaps the most exciting news is that the Euro Tour organisers – this series is being run by a non-profit “collective” that features many of Europe’s most experienced paddlers – have somehow managed the impossible: Unifying all of these standalone events onto a single and very logical board class, the 14 footer.

Finally, we can race all across Europe for a month and a half with just one single board, rather than switching back and forth every other weekend between 12’6 (which I felt never had a place in the flat waters of Europe anyway) and 14.

And finally, there’s no more confusing “race within the race” scenarios where different competitors are racing alongside each other in different board class divisions. A race is just a race. First over the line is the winner, 10th over the line is 10th. Simple. Ride whatever you like up to 14 foot in length.

Which all means… We may be getting closer to settling the board class debate as well!? (A man can dream…)

Bilbao World SUP Challenge Guggenheim

The Bilbao event sees paddlers race past the iconic Guggenheim Museum

But it gets better: The Euro Tour crew have even organised board transport between each of the major races. And it’s totally free for competitors.

This is huge…

Now all you have to do is get to the first race, drop your equipment on the trailer and jump on one of Europe’s famous cheap flights to the next destination. This will be unbelievably helpful for both the international athletes that come to Europe for a few weeks in the summer, as well as the serious locals who want to hit up as many races as possible without the huge hassle of traveling with a race board.

In fact you don’t even have to get your board to the first race – there will be Euro Tour “board collection points” in Bilbao, Barcelona and hopefully elsewhere, which will be loaded onto trailers heading to the first event of the Tour. I believe this board transport is so far guaranteed between the big races in Mallorca – St. Maxime – Lost Mills – Bilbao, with hopes to extend it right through to the final weeks in Italy and Belgium.

St Ives Bay Cornwall Celtic Cup Stand Up Paddle Race

The St. Ives Bay “Celtic Cup” is the only non-established race on the 2015 Euro Tour, however judging by this photo I don’t think it’ll have any problem attracting the paddlers…

I’m pretty damn pumped about today’s news: Europe has always had great events and produced plenty of world class talent, while every summer a bunch of international stars come over to compete. However we’ve never really seen a legitimate, cohesive tour before. It’s always been “big race here”, “big race over there”, etc.

While the “Euro Tour” is new in 2015, the general concept has been running in the shadows for years. I nicknamed SUPracer.com’s European summer coverage the “Euro Tour” last year, while EuroSUPA had a similar thing in the works years ago. There’s always been a loose collection of big European events around June, so it makes perfect sense to unify them.

There have been other attempts to create a Europe-wide race series in the past but nothing like this, so I get the feeling this new Euro Tour will set a solid benchmark. The crew behind the Tour are keeping things simple as well: There’s no crazy big promises, no empty hype and marketing, just the simple but effective idea of unifying the classic, standalone races in Europe to support the sport and help grow the local paddling community.

Organisers will also be working with a professional photography crew at each race. This media will be packaged and given away free to the paddlers, the brands and all the main SUP websites/magazines as well. This will help boost coverage of the sport in Europe while making it easier for the teams and the riders themselves to promote their efforts.

Port Adriano Mallorca Spain SUP

Port Adriano: The beautiful location for one of my favourite races of the year

Not every big European race could be included in the inaugural Euro Tour: The SUP World Cup in August and the classic 11 Cities in September immediately spring to mind, while every weekend right through summer there’s a fun race happening somewhere across the continent. However the 2015 Euro Tour does hit all the major stops in the front half of summer (mid-May til late June), which is the traditional European racing season.

And while the Euro Tour covers several great events and many corners of the continent (I’m particularly looking forward to the Port Adriano race – a super fun event held in a stunning location), I believe the headline act will be the Lost Mills + Bilbao double header on the first two weekends of June. These will be the two biggest races in terms of prestige, prize money and level of competition.

The Lost Mills has long been Europe’s big international race, drawing a stellar crowd of famous faces and local heroes to the Bavarian countryside.

Bilbao is really stepping it up this year as well, with what is probably the highest prize money in Europe all season. Last year’s Bilbao World SUP Challenge was one of the most well-organised races on the entire international calendar and 2015 looks set to be even bigger and better. I get the feeling Bilbao will be one of the main factors deciding the success of this new Tour. In fact I get the feeling Bilbao could be one of the biggest and most competitive races in the world this year, at least outside of the States.

Deep SUP Race in Noja, Spain

The excellent “Deep SUP Race” in Noja, Spain has a classic, laidback vibe to it.

These two headliners will follow on from one of Europe’s best-known and longest running grassroots community races, the SUP Race Cup in St. Maxime, France at the end of May.

And these big races won’t just have a large impact on the Euro Tour rankings either, they’ll also have significant weighting for the SUP RACER World Rankings.

In addition to the three big ones (St. Maxime, Lost Mills, Bilbao), plus the great opening act on Majorca (Port Adriano), there are also events in the UK (the new St’Ives Bay Celtic Cup, which looks like it’ll be held in a pretty epic location), Belgium (the classic Namur race), the Adriatic Crown in Italy and the beloved community race in Noja, Spain.

I also hear that some of the race directors are working with the Euro Tour crew to introduce innovative new race formats, rather than just sticking with the same old “course + distance” combo. Bilbao, for example, is planning to spice up their event with a unique new course.

Finally, there will be two “split weekends” where there are race options in two different countries. This gives more of the locals that can’t travel a chance to be involved (this tour isn’t just about the pros, it’s about the grassroots level of the sport) while also increasing the reach of the Euro Tour.

The overall Tour points and rankings will be based on the level-of-competition at each race (similar to how our SUP RACER World Rankings are calculated), which will ensure the best paddlers are ranked at the top of the European leaderboard. So if you’re an elite pro that can only fly in for the three biggest races, you’ll still pick up plenty of ranking points.

Though perhaps the coolest part is that the locals at each of these individual races will collect points as well, which will see them ranked on the same leaderboard as their international idols (albeit perhaps a little bit lower down the order…).

Port Adriano SUP Race Mallorca

The Port Adriano SUP Race takes in some pretty epic scenery on the Mediterranean island of Majorca (or “Mallorca” in Spanish)

So this whole concept is sounding pretty cool whether you’re a weekend warrior or a big name elite.

No, there’s no big prize purse for the overall champions, but again this isn’t primarily about the pros: The Euro Tour is first and foremost about the supporting the sport and growing the racing community in Europe from the grassroots level up. That’s why there are kids races on the schedule – they are the future after all. And that’s why there’s free board transport included, to encourage the locals from France to race in Spain, the Germans to travel to Italy and vice versa.

The races that are part of the Euro Tour are the ones that already attract large numbers of weekend warriors alongside the big names. And I believe those are the types of events we should be supporting right now.

And let’s not forget: Each event has its own prize money in place already (the Lost Mills + Bilbao double header alone is over $40,000), so there’s still plenty on offer for the top contenders.

My hat really goes off to the Euro Tour organisers for convincing all these standalone races to work together as one series and to back a common board class. Europe is one continent but it’s many different nations and cultures, so to get all of these big races on board is a huge ask. With everyone working together and combining forces, I think we’re going to see the best summer of racing in Europe yet.

The crew behind the Euro Tour are a non-profit collective of experienced European paddlers and race directors. The “Paddlers’ Collective” I guess you could call it. Their goal is simple: Give some structure to the racing scene in Europe and help grow the sport in a positive direction. Nobody “owns” the Tour and there’s no empty hype or baseless marketing, just a simple but effective vision to support the sport and help and grow the European community.

The Euro Tour collective will also work closely with SUPAA (the Stand Up Paddle Athletes Association) to further unify these events. As a result, all of the races will use the SUPAA rule book to bring uniformity to the tour and ensure the smooth operation of every event.

Lost Mills SUP race Germany

The Lost Mills has become Europe’s premiere international event in recent years (credit: Homeally Photography)

While more news is expected to drop in the coming weeks and months, from what I’ve already heard the Euro Tour is looking pretty cool. So whether you’re an international star or a hometown hero, pencil in Europe for May and June.

I’ve already booked my tickets for the first four weeks and can’t wait to get back to my old stomping grounds in Euro Land. There’s no better place than Europe in the summer time…

Anyway check out the calendar below and give the Euro Tour a Like on Facebook to follow this new adventure as it happens.

Each of the races below deserves a post of its own, so if you’re not familiar with any of these events I’ll have an in-depth, race-by-race preview of the Euro Tour in a few days.


2015 Euro Tour

WEEK #1: Port Adriano SUP Race
– Mallorca, Spain, May 23 & 24

WEEK #2: The SUP Race Cup
– St. Maxime, France, May 30 & 31

WEEK #2: St’Ives Bay Celtic Cup
– St. Ives, UK, May 30 & 31

WEEK #3: The Lost Mills
– Brombachsee, Bavaria, Germany, June 4-6

WEEK #4: Bilbao World SUP Challenge
– Bilbao, Spain, June 13 & 14

WEEK #5: The Adriatic Crown
– Marotta, Italy, June 20 & 21

WEEK #5: Deep SUP Race
– Noja, Spain, June 20 & 21

WEEK #6: Happy Summer SUP Race
– Namur, Belgium, June 27 & 28