The 2016 ESF European SUP Championships, aka EuroSUP, aka The Euros, officially began here in Lacanau, France today, with the opening ceremony giving the approximately 13 assembled nations a chance to fly their national flags before competition begins tomorrow.
The Euros, which are basically a European-only version of the ISA Worlds, are happening from Monday to Thursday in the laid-back surf mecca of Lacanau, and will feature short and long distance racing alongside SUP surfing. Each nation will have two guys and one woman per event, with the whole show mirroring the format of the ISA Worlds (minus the prone paddleboarding events).
Not to be mistaken with the excellent EuroTour, which unifies 14 standalone races across the continent all summer long, “The Euros” are a one-time showcase being sanctioned by the European Surfing Federation (ESF) and organised by the iconic Lacanau Surf Club.
This is the inaugural event, and although a few of Europe’s finest are missing, there’s a pretty solid field assembled so we should be in for a great few days of paddling.
Team France will start as red-hot favourite to take out the inaugural Team Championship, with Les Bleus a realistic chance of winning every single gold medal. The other strong SUP nations in Europe, which includes Italy and Spain, will give them a good push, but with Titouan Puyo, Arthur Arutkin, Olivia Piana representing the French in the racing, and Antoine Delpero, Benoit Carpentier and Caroline Angibaud flying the flag in the surfing, I can’t see any nation overcoming the home team on the overall leaderboard.
It’ll be a lot closer within each individual event though, as we’ve got top world ranked athletes such as Casper Steinfath (Denmark), Leo Nika (Italy), Paolo Marconi (Italy), Roman Frejo (Spain) and many more from across the continent joining Titou and Arthur on the start line.
My tip is for Titou to win gold in the distance race, which is tentatively forecast to be a downwinder, though Casper probably has a slight edge in the surf race, which, at just 3km in length and with a small swell running, will be a short, sharp, high-paced affair.
On the women’s side, look for the in-form Olivia Piana to be out front for the home team, with the likes of Susak Molinero (Spain) and Marie Buchanan (England) trying to give her something to chase.
Apart from France, Spain, Italy, England and Denmark, other nations I’ve already run into around this rad little town include Sweden, Germany, Portugal, Wales, Ireland and Belgium (I’m still waiting to hear the final count, but I suspect around 12-14 nations will be competing).
With this being the first ever event of its kind, nobody is entirely sure what to expect, however with good weather and good waves forecast for the week, and with dozens of paddlers from far and wide converging on the town, we should be in for a great time.
Although the ‘European Summer of SUP’ is getting extremely busy these days, this is a very unique event – outside of the Worlds, the Euros are the only chance paddlers have to compete for their national teams – so I hope it’s a big success here in Lacanau over the next few days.
We’ll keep you posted with how it all goes down; Monday afternoon is the course race (it’ll be a straight up final), while Wednesday is the long distance event, which is set to be a hot battle as the mercury will be peaking above 33 degrees (91°F).
In the meantime, there are plenty more pics from the opening ceremony up on dropbox.