The New Year brings with it fresh new excitement and anticipation, so today I’m starting a new feature called ‘Next stop…’ that will focus on the races I’m really excited about traveling to and being part of in 2017.
Over the coming weeks and months, I’m going to highlight several awesome international events that offer incredible experiences. These won’t be the usual suspects; while I love the Carolinas, Gorges and Dohenys, this year I also want to focus attention on some of the lesser-known but equally amazing races around the world, especially those with an adventurous theme.
And my first stop in the new year is Lake Annecy, France for the GlaGla Race on Saturday January 21st. The 4th annual edition of this unique event looks set to attract one of the largest fields in the world, with a stunning backdrop of snow-covered mountains providing a picturesque paddling experience for the 300 plus competitors expected on the start line.
The GlaGla Race is definitely not your average SUP race. While paddleboarding usually conjures up images of boardshorts, sun and sand, GlaGla takes the opposite approach. Instead of sand it’ll be snow, and in place of boardies you’ll find full-length winter gear.
But those paddlers who aren’t afraid of the cold will certainly be rewarded: Lake Annecy (or lac d’Annecy) is a beautiful part of the world, with the Alps rising high above the lake to create lasting imagery.
Named after the French equivalent of “Brrr, it’s freezing!” the “GlaGla” race will be a very special way to kick off the new year. For those who can make the trip to the Alps near the border between France and Switzerland, the event offers a full day of winter racing with several different courses on offer, while the sight of 300+ paddlers charging off the line will surely be something to behold (let’s get those drones going).
The first thing you’ll notice about the GlaGla Race is that everybody on the start line is covered in full-length gear. January temps are usually hovering around zero, and while the lake itself doesn’t freeze it’s not far off. The water will be about 3 or 4 degrees (~38F), while the 2015 edition was famously blanketed in a thick layer of snow.
The permit this year allows up to 400 paddlers, however 300 of those spots have already been filled and the event is still almost three weeks away. That means GlaGla will not only be one of the most interesting races on the international calendar but also one of the biggest.
(There’s something about paddling in the freezing cold in France that draws a massive crowd; the GlaGla Race is building a similar following to the largest race in the world, the 600-strong Paris Crossing that was held last month.)
Why is it so popular? That’s a good question. Selling out 300+ registration spots is surely every race organiser’s dream. I’d say the success of the GlaGla Race is a combination of a big adventure in an epic location, professional organisation and the momentum of running a great event for three years in a row already (not to mention a very reasonable entry fee).
The main event at GlaGla is a 13km (8 mile) distance race that weaves around the edge of the lake and takes in the incredible scenery surrounding Annecy, including La Tournette, the 2,351m (7,700ft) mountain that imposes itself over the entire region.
There’s a shorter 5km version of the distance race, while there’s also a ‘Beach Race’ style showdown in the afternoon, where I’m sure we’ll all be focusing on our balance around the buoys (either that or busting out the thick neoprene).
The GlaGla Race is the biggest and best known stop on the Alpine Lakes Tour, an adventurous race series held in France and Switzerland each year that also includes the awesome “Bat Race” (aka the world’s first underground SUP race).
And in a refreshing change to the theme of events becoming more and more expensive, GlaGla registration starts at just €10 (about $10) and the most expensive race package is only €35.
Yes, it’s going to be absolutely bloody freezing, but it’s also going to be a great big beautiful adventure. This race has been on my bucket list for a couple of years now, so I’m stoked to be heading over to France in two weeks to experience it for myself.