The biggest race in the world is about to get even bigger: the Paris Crossing has added 100 additional entries this year, breaking its own previous record and setting a new and rather incredible mark of 700 paddlers standing on the same start line.
Offering the unique opportunity of paddling down the River Seine past the Eiffel Tower and other iconic landmarks, the Paris Crossing has quietly built itself into a mammoth event over the past few years by focusing the race on being a memorable experience. It’s a true “Bucket List” race if there ever was one.
Held as part of the big Paris Boat Show (Salon Nautique Paris), the Paris Crossing is so popular that organisers now employ a lottery system to award entries (previous editions sold out within minutes). This year’s lottery was held a couple of weeks ago, with a four-day registration window attracting almost a thousand entries — and keep in mind we’re still two months away from race day.
With those golden tickets awarded and 600 paddlers now officially signed up (100 places are reserved for event partners and VIPs), along with another few hundred already on the waiting list, there’s no reason this event couldn’t crack the 1k mark in the future.
And I believe that’s actually the long-term goal: adding 100 paddlers a year until the Paris Crossing hits 1000 competitors circa 2020.
The mass start at this race is quite the spectacle to behold (see the video below) as hundreds of paddlers – ranging from superstars to first timers – charge off the line in the French capital’s grey, early morning light, all of which turns the River Seine into a sort of “fun run on water.”
While the attraction of this race is obvious – participants go by some of the world’s most famous landmarks on a stretch of water that’s strictly off limits the other 364 days of the year – it’s still pretty damn impressive just how big this race has grown. Not only does the race tower over the big U.S. events like Carolina, Chattajack and the PPGs, you’ve gotta keep in mind it’s also held in the first week of December (Saturday Dec. 3rd is this year’s race day) when it’s freezing cold in Paris.
I think the simplest answer to “Why?” is that the Paris Crossing offers paddlers an experience. It’s the Bucket List. Sure, the organisers are blessed to have the Eiffel Tower as a drawcard, but race directors the world over could still apply the same basic logic to attract more paddlers: make your event a “destination race” and offer some sort of unique experience above and beyond a simple race.
So at a time when the entire sport is focused on how to get more amateur participants into the sport, the Paris Crossing has to be commended for getting so many people on the water at once. And of those 700 people that’ll be paddling through Paris in a couple of month’s time, about 600 will be total amateurs or first timers that are purely in it for the fun rather than the competition of the race itself.
Though there’s definitely still a race happening at the pointy end of the field, with many big names saving a last bit of energy for the final event before the new year’s break. The defending champs are ISA gold medalist Bruno Hasulyo and European dark horse Susak Molinero, while other recent winners include Titouan Puyo, Olivia Piana and Casper Steinfath.
But no matter who’s on the start line one thing’s for sure: the Paris Crossing always makes for some good Instagram shots.