The sun rises over the frosty fields of ‘Friesland’, the Dutch province famous for its farms, phonetics and flat-water canals that play host to “The Ultimate Challenge” in the world of stand up paddling — the SUP11-City Tour.
Standing at more than 200km and now in its 12th year, the 11 City Tour – originally an ice-skating race founded in 1909 – is not only one of the longest SUP races in the world, it’s one of the longest-running...
An event that’s both loved and hated for its merciless mix of long days, cold nights and incredible adventure comes in two flavours: The traditional five-day stage race, which begins next Wednesday and sees competitors paddle 5-8 hours per day. Defending champ Bruno Hasulyo returns looking to equal Bart de Zwart’s record of four titles. And the crazy, nightmarish, mind-boggling ‘Non-Stop Tour’.
race adventure is exactly what it sounds like: Foolhardy souls will paddle all day, all night and, depending on your speed and stamina, all of the next day to finish the course in one single, unbroken odyssey that can last as long as 36 hours 😳
The image up top, captured by @bennyjansen72 during the 2018 event, shows Frenchman Olivier Darrieumerlou and Dutchman Niek van der Linde (who was the defending champ that year) paddling in sync after surviving the long night. Olivier would go on to win the race by just 20 seconds — easily the closest finish in non-stop history. Niek earned his second title 12 months later, claiming the 2019 edition in a time of 24 hours, 20 minutes. His record from 2017 still stands as the only paddler to ever finish in less than a day (23 hours, 59 minutes). Niek will be back to defend this year.
Given the extreme travel restrictions around the world, obviously not everyone will be back this year. Like most of the sport in 2020, the ’11 Cities’ won’t look quite the same — the fact it’s happening at all is the biggest story. The volunteer army of organisers have pulled off a minor miracle to ensure this classic event, with its myriad logistics, continues. And it all begins today in Friesland (or “Fryslân”) as 19 non-stop competitors embark upon their quest from the start/finish city of Leeuwarden (…many of the 11 “cities” are actually villages). Paddlers will set off early Saturday and should finish some time on Sunday afternoon (*should*).
The non-stop event is as epic as you might imagine. I experienced it myself last year, setting an inglorious record as the first paddler to ever finish on the Monday in the process. It was brutal. I loved it.
I’m stuck in Australia this year, but I’ll still be streaming on Facebook each day and crossing live to Friesland to find out who’s leading, who’s surviving and who’s got the most blisters on their hands. Because there’s just something special about the 11 Cities… It’s equal part race, challenge and adventure in a beautiful part of the world alongside an awesome group of inspiring paddlers.
UPDATE: I just went live with the crew in Friesland for a quick preview from the non-stop start line — watch the 15-minute replay on Facebook
UPDATE 2: You can follow the non-stop competitors with live GPS tracking
2020 SUP11-City Tour
Non-stop: Suptember 5 & 6
Five-day: Suptember 9-13