The 2016 stand up paddle race season is starting to take shape, and today another key piece of the puzzle falls into place. The new look EuroTour has just been announced, with new races, new countries and a whole bunch of cool new features set to make Europe the place to be this summer.
The EuroTour is a collection of standalone races spread across Europe from May to July, offering a unified platform to help the events, the athletes, the brands and the local paddling communities grow the sport from the grassroots up.
With origins going back to the loose collective of events that run every summer between 2011 and 2014, the EuroTour was officially launched last year featuring 8 races in 6 weeks. Connor Baxter, Titouan Puyo, Travis Grant, Arthur Arutkin, Leo Nika, Sonni Honscheid, Angie Jackson and Lina Augaitis were just some of the world-beaters to impress, with the Tour helping bring a certain level of unity to the fragmented European SUP racing scene.
Now in 2016, the EuroTour is set to go next level. Starting in early May and running right through til he end of July, the Tour will feature 13 races in 13 weeks, spread across 9 countries from the UK to Croatia and almost everywhere in between.
The 2016 EuroTour begins on May 7th in Portugal, hitting a new destination every weekend before wrapping up with the São Jorge 2 Pico Channel Crossing on the Azores Islands. In between, the EuroTour will include most of Europe’s biggest races, including a three-week run of headline acts that are sure to attract the international athletes: The SUP Race Cup in St. Maxime, France, the Lost Mills in Germany and the Bilbao Paddle Challenge in the Basque Country of Spain.
WORLD’S BEST PADDLERS (AND A FEW DARK HORSES…)
While not every top paddler in the world will compete in Europe this summer, a lot of them will. Over the years, virtually every big name on the sport has graced the sands of Euro land at one point or another. Last year, many of the world’s top 10 were part of the Tour, and this year I’d expect another strong turnout (I know that top paddlers will be receiving personal invites this week).
But the thing I loved most about the 2015 EuroTour was watching all of the “second tier” athletes step it up and compete with the big guns. Last year we saw unheralded names from Italy, Spain and beyond go head-to-head with the superstars of the sport.
I clearly remember the huge starting line at the Lost Mills race in Germany last summer. In the days before the event, we were actually worried the race wouldn’t have a big turnout. But on the morning of the main event – the classic 18km distance race between the two lakes of “Bromabachsee” – a tonne of paddlers came out of the woodwork and we had close to 100 guys entered in the elite division alone (making it the second largest elite race in the world last year, even topping the Pacific Paddle Games). The drone footage of the mass start is still one of the coolest images I’ve ever seen in the world of stand up paddling.
I was in that race myself and finished around 45th, as guys that even I had never heard of came whizzing past. I didn’t even finish that low at the Carolina Cup, which just highlights how strong the talent pool in Europe is these days.
After several emerging stars made a name for themselves last year, I can’t wait to see who steps it up this year.
The Euro Tour Leaderboard will return in 2016 to give the elite athletes a legitimate crown to chase. It’ll also give the amateurs and weekend warriors a chance to have their own mini battles down the order, while also allowing them to rank on the same leaderboard as the pros.
Once again it’ll be based on the SUP Racer World Rankings Race Index, which gives every race in the world a % score based on the elite level of competition on the start line. The higher an event’s score, the more points on offer for the athletes. Or in other words: The more competitive a race is, and therefore the harder it is to win, the more points you get for winning.
The 2016 EuroTour will count every event, though unlike last year there won’t be a guaranteed minimum % score. So however competitive a race is, that’s how much it’ll be worth in terms of leaderboard points. The smaller events will probably score ~10% while the headline acts will be some of the most competitive in the world. Last year, the Lost Mills was the biggest event on the EuroTour, scoring 43.5% on the men’s side.
Obviously nobody expects paddlers to do all 13 weeks of the EuroTour (though I’ll personally give you a prize if you do), and the Leaderboard will reflect this. Every single paddler that competes in at least one race will feature on the 2016 EuroTour Leaderboard, however to be competitive you’ll need to hit at least three stops: Whether you do 3 or 13 races, it’ll be a “Best 3 results count” system.
This is to encourage the international athletes to be part of it when they can only visit for a few weeks, while also giving the local chargers room to shine. Though with the incredible level of talent in Europe these days, the pros from Hawaii, Australia and the US might need to extend their trip in order to guarantee a trio of good results.
THE PRIZE MONEY
The EuroTour is about much more than pro athletes and prize money, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. All said and done, the 13 events will offer athletes over €80,000 ($87,000) in total prize money, with many of the world’s top ranked paddlers expected to be chasing that figure.
The Bilbao Paddle Challenge in the Basque Country (an event I’ve affectionately nicknamed “Pintxos & Patxaran” in honour of the local gastronomical delights), will have the highest prize money. That’s the only event that hasn’t confirmed its total, but it’ll be somewhere north of 10k (confirmation by end of Feb). The Lost Mills will have a minimum of €8,000, while the 4th annual Sieravuori SUP Masters in beautiful Finland – a newcomer to this year’s Tour – will have the third highest payout at €7,500. The majority of events are pegged at €5,000 (around $6,000).
The EuroTour isn’t just about unifying the racing scene in Europe; one of the other goals is to help organisers produce top quality events. In terms of prize money, all payments will be made to athletes at the awards ceremony directly following each race, with no exceptions (there will also be no tax on the advertised prize money totals this year). In another ‘best practices’ move, the EuroTour has also guaranteed that no event will lower its prize money before the race. Timely and accurate prize money payments have been a big issue at events around the world in recent years, so it’s great to see the Euro Tour taking a stand.
IT’S A SUMMER HOLIDAY IN EUROPE
The EuroTour is about far more than just the elite paddlers and their prize money. In fact, the EuroTour is about more than just stand up paddle racing in general. Not only does the Tour embrace the grassroots nature of the sport and seek to grow the local paddling communities across the continent, it also offers something truly priceless…
From the beautiful Mediterranean island of Mallorca (Port Adriano) to the iconic South of France (SUP Race Cup) to the picture postcard perfect coasts of Croatia (Porec) to the ‘Land of 1,000 Lakes’ in Finland (Sieravuori) to the…. you get my point. The EuroTour is more than just a SUP racing tour: It’s a summer holiday in Europe.
I know of many paddlers that do the EuroTour not because they think they’ll win, but because they just want to hang out in countries like Spain and France in the summer sun. Scoring some great racing action against great athletes to provide exposure for yourself and your sponsors is a huge part of the draw, but I think the destinations themselves are just as much of a motivator.
Being one of the ‘weekend warriors’ in the EuroTour field, personally I’m most excited about hitting the new destinations that I’ve never been to, such as Portugal and Italy. I’m also really keen to get up to the race in Finland for the first time in its four year history, while Croatia doesn’t sound like a bad stop either. Then we’ve got the familiar stops of Mallorca, St. Maxime, Germany and Bilbao, all of which offer as much off the water as they do on it.
Also keep an eye on the new race in San Sebastian – one of the coolest cities in the world (and the official 2016 ‘European Capital of Culture’), while those of us who explored St. Ives last summer all came away very impressed with that little corner of England (fortunately that race has pushed back to July so the weather should be slightly more favourable than it was in 2015!).
FREE BOARD TRANSPORT
One of the biggest headaches with stand up paddle racing is getting your board to the event. When you’re doing a multi-stop tour, getting your 14 footer from one destination to the next can be a downright nightmare. That’s why it’s so cool to hear that the Euro Tour Trailer, which made a brief appearance last year, will also be getting a major upgrade in 2016. The trailer will be at all 13 events, shuttling boards from one race to the next.
The best part? It’s free for athletes.
Free as in you don’t have to pay anything. Nada. You could literally leave your board on the trailer for 13 whole weeks if you like, and the EuroTour crew will pick up the tab for you.
This is huge.
No more worrying about which airlines will take your board, no more crazy excess baggage fees, no more begging the hire car company for roof racks. The Euro Tour will take care of it for you. And because this year there is only one race each weekend (last year we saw a couple of ‘split round’ weekends), it’s simpler and easier than ever to get around Europe.
UNIFIED BOARD CLASS
Speaking of boards, the EuroTour will once again have the same board class at every single race. And once again it’ll be 14′ for both men and women, which makes it a lot easier for the athletes (and their sponsors) to plan the summer. No more “12’6 one week, 14′ the next” headaches.
While the 12’6 vs 14′ debate still rages on around the world, the humble 14 footer seems to have all the momentum these days, especially on the flat water races that Europe is famous for. Pretty much every major event around the world now uses 14′ as standard (at least on the men’s side): Carolina, the Gorge, Doheny, Race the Lake, West Oz Downwind Week, and now all 13 races on the Euro Tour.
Europe has followed Australia’s lead in making it 14 for both men and women, which I think is a great step. The USA, while it has embraced 14′ for men, still sets 12’6 for women, which can be a little confusing (and perhaps unfair).
Will Europe help end the board class debate? I doubt *anything* can end the board class debate, but this certainly seems like a step in the right direction. Racing in Europe, which is almost entirely on flat water lakes & rivers or calm open oceans, is made for the 14 footer.
The 2015 Euro Tour was a humble “collective” of paddlers working together to bring unity to the sport in Europe (I was one of those). However this year it’s going legit, with a proper full-time staff ensuring the European summer of SUP goes off without a hitch. The ‘Tour Manager’ is none other than nomadic Spaniard Belar Diaz, one of the most experienced paddlers who has a unique perspective from being both an athlete and part of the industry.
It’s worth noting the EuroTour isn’t organising each event; they’re simply offering a unified platform for the 13 different races spread across the continent. Each local race is still organised by the local crew, however the EuroTour will be offering strong support to make sure each event is fair and fun for everyone. The Tour crew will backup each event in case anything happens, but this whole European summer of SUP is just as much about the local organisers as it is the EuroTour itself.
Many of these events are completely run by volunteers, such as the classic Port Adriano SUP Race on Mallorca (one of my personal favourites). Port Adriano is organised by a local group of passionate and very dedicated paddlers, whose sole purpose is to help the local junior paddling program. Anyone that saw the classic Grom Race on Mallorca last year will know what an amazing job they’re doing over there.
This is one area where a lot of great stand up paddle events fall over. How often have you seen it: The action on the water is great. The paddlers are all stoked. Everybody’s high-fiving at the finish line. But then we all go home and hardly anybody else hears about the race, simply because there was a lack of professional media.
The 2016 Euro Tour will look to solve that by sending out regular photo, video and race updates from Europe to the various SUP media outlets around the world. This will not only give the events more exposure but also the athletes and their sponsors.
13 RACES, 13 DESTINATIONS
So there you go. The 2016 EuroTour is set, and it looks like we’re in for a great summer of stand up paddling in Europe. Without further ado, here is the complete schedule.
If you’ve got any questions, you can hit up the Euro Tour Crew: firstname.lastname@example.org
UPDATE April 8th: View the updated/finalised 2016 EuroTour Stand Up Paddle Race Schedule
2016 EuroTour Schedule
WEEK 1 (May 7th): Six Bridges SUP Race
Oporto, Portugal // €6,000
WEEK 2 (May 14th): Port Adriano SUP Race
Mallorca, Spain // €3,500
WEEK 3 (May 21st): The SUP Race Cup
St. Maxime, France // €5,000
WEEK 4 (May 28th): The Lost Mills
Brombachsee, Germany // €8,000
WEEK 5 (June 4th): Iberdrola Bilbao World SUP Challenge
Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain // €10,000
WEEK 6 (June 11th): San Sebastian Paddle Tour
San Sebastián, Basque Country, Spain // €5,000
WEEK 7 (June 18th): SUPer Challenge Porec
Poreč, Croatia // €5,000
WEEK 8 (June 25th): Happy Summer Namur
Namur, Belgium // €5,000
WEEK 9 (July 2nd): The St. Ives Bay Celtic Cup
St. Ives, UK // €3,500
WEEK 10 (July 9th): IV Sieravuori SUP Masters
Finland // €7,500
WEEK 11 (July 16th): Noli SUP Race
Noli, Italy // €5,000
WEEK 12 (July 23rd): The Adriatic Crown
Marotta, Italy // €4,500
WEEK 13 (July 29th): São Jorge 2 Pico Channel Crossing
Azores Islands, Portugal // €5,000
You can view all of these races (plus 200 other events around the world) on the Rogue Race Calendar