Up for a unique paddling adventure next June? Want to spend a week on a beautiful island in the Mediterranean? Of course you do, and now here’s your chance.
The Vuelta Ibiza, a little-known but very enticing race on the Spanish island of the same name, has just partnered with the classic SUP 11 City Tour to create a double header of epic stage races in Europe next year.
The 125km (78 miles) race circumnavigates Ibiza across five stages in five days, passing some of the most beautiful beaches and coastline in Europe along the way. Just like the 11 Cities, competitors start at the same time each morning and have their daily finishing times combined on the overall leaderboard.
The Vuelta Ibiza has actually been around for a few years now, however it looks set to become far more prominent in 2017 with the organisers of the 11 City Tour becoming involved in helping run and promote the event, and in doing so setting up a double header between the Netherlands and Spain (the official event name is “Vuelta Ibiza powered by the SUP 11 City Tour”).
But whereas the 11 Cities stretches more than 200km and is an almighty challenge both physically and mentally, the Vuelta is “only” 125km and doesn’t cover more than 30km in any single day (most stages are around 25km/15 miles). So while it’s still not going to be a walk in the park, the Spanish version will probably be a lot easier on your body and mind.
It’s also hard to argue with the location. While I’m a huge fan of the Dutch province of Friesland (home of the 11 Cities), I’m pretty sure sun-drenched Ibiza in June is an easier sell. It’s also in the ocean as opposed to the endless flat-water canals of Holland.
Think of the Vuelta Ibiza as a more enjoyable (and much warmer) version of the SUP 11 City Tour.
Although it’s a standalone event, the Vuelta Ibiza falls right in the middle of prime EuroTour season, with the five week run from early June to the beginning of July hosting the biggest races in Europe next summer. That’s both a good and a bad thing for the Vuelta: It should attract more amateur paddlers but it’ll also clash with one of the EuroTour’s biggest elite races: Bilbao.
So while the Vuelta won’t be one of the big elite money races in Europe, I expect it’ll get a good turnout of the more adventurous types. There isn’t even any prize money on offer: You do this race for the fun, the challenge and the holiday in the Mediterranean.
The five-day event runs from Wednesday June 7 to Sunday June 11, so pencil it in your calendar.
However those final two days also mark the Bilbao weekend, so keep that in mind if you were planning to do the EuroTour. Though if you can’t make up your mind between Ibiza and Bilbao, and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous: Just do both.
That’s my plan anyway. I’m really excited about the Vuelta and will be in Ibiza for the first three stages, before hopping on the late Friday evening direct flight to Bilbao in time for some pintxos and patxaran on the other side of Spain. Travel wise it’s actually a pretty easy combo to pull off.
The term ‘vuelta’ roughly translates to ‘around’ or ‘tour’; as in the tour around Ibiza. The word is synonymous with one of the most famous bike races in the world, the Vuelta a España (aka La Vuelta), which is Spain’s answer to the almighty Tour de France and stands as one of the three ‘Grand Tour’ cycling events alongside Le Tour and the Giro d’Italia.
While it’s a bit premature to call Ibiza a ‘Grand Tour’ on the same level of paddleboarding prestige as the long-running and classic 11 Cities (which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2018), it’s certainly a big step in the right direction. As an added thought: Now that SUP has its two big stage race events, will we get a third tour to mirror cycling and complete the set?
I think these stage race formats are a great part of the sport. The challenge is big, it’s unique, and it calls for new types of race strategies that don’t exist in “normal” events. I believe it’s also the perfect format for teams racing, a concept we talked about recently that could add a whole new dynamic to flat water racing.
Plus I mean, c’mon, it’s the Mediterranean in summer… Do you even need an excuse to go?
If you sign up for the 2017 Vuelta you’re pretty much guaranteed to score a lot sun and some spectacular scenery. There will also be plenty of complimentary bonuses for the athletes, including the daily massages that have become a famous feature of the 11 Cities. You can also sign on for the official hotel and stay with the other competitors, while daily board transport and storage will be taken care of as well.
The Ibiza race, just like pretty much all events in Europe, uses the standard “Anything up to 14ft” board class for both men and women.
While Ibiza has a reputation in certain parts for being the home of EDM and dance parties, outside the main tourist traps and rave towns it’s actually a fairly mellow and very beautiful island. That’s a similar story to its Balearic Islands neighbour and another fine place for a paddle race, Mallorca, where we’ll be in May for the annual Port Adriano race.
Follow the Vuelta Ibiza on Facebook for more
Race registration is now open on the official site