Welcome to Ultra Month. Over the next 18 days we’ll see close to 1000km paddled across six adventures in five countries, and the first of those is arguably the toughest.
The non-stop edition of the famous SUP11-City Tour is happening in the Dutch province of Friesland this weekend, 4-5 September. And it’s tough. It’s really, really tough. Competitors paddle all day, all night and all day again. Many won’t make it to the finish, and those who do will usually have hands covered in blisters and feet so swollen they can hardly walk.
For some context: I attempted the 11 Cities non-stop in 2019 just a few months after doing the 715km Yukon River Quest, and I can say without a doubt that the non-stop was harder…
The entire route is a little over 200km (around 130 miles) and retraces the course made famous by the “Elfstedentocht” ice-skating marathon over a hundred years ago. You’ll pass windmills, you’ll pass fields, you’ll pass so many sheep as you paddle through the rural fields of Friesland. And you’ll also pass 11 towns and villages that give this great event its name (“cities” is a bit generous — something gets lost in translation I think).
If you want to look through the window into this mad, crazy adventure, here’s how to follow the race updates all weekend.
– The race starts in waves on Saturday morning with the slowest usually setting off around 8am and the fastest departing at midday.
– The Netherlands is European Central Time (6 hours ahead of Florida, 9 ahead of California, 8 hours behind Eastern Australia; or just Google “What’s the time in the Netherlands?“)
– The official website will have live GPS tracking
– The SUP11 Facebook page will have brief live shows at the start, finish and throughout the weekend
– The @sup11citytour Instagram is always full of great stories and updates
– And I’ll be bringing you the official non-stop recap show after the weekend (tentatively scheduled for Tuesday morning Dutch time)
But who exactly is braving this incredible feat? The defending champ and undisputed king of this event is Niek van der Linde. I doubt anyone will be able to stick with this guy — there’s no drafting in the non-stop race, meaning you’ve got to do all the work yourself. Niek holds the course record of 23 hours 59 minutes (you know it’s a crazy race when the fastest time is still an entire day).
I’m also very curious to see how Casper Steinfath’s little brother Peter handles this epic quest. Casper famously took a third- and then second-place finish at the 11 Cities behind Bart de Zwart back in 2011/2012, but this will be the first time in almost a decade the Steinfath name has been on the start line.
And getting extra special mention are the three competitors signed up for “The Double” — both the non-stop and five-day tours — including 11 Cities veteran Göran Gustavsson from Sweden who actually came up with the tagline of the Ultra Paddle League that sums up the world of the ultras: “It’s more than a race.”
Unfortunately I believe quite a few of our British friends have been stuck out of Holland with travel restrictions, but this is the latest start list from the official site.
See you on the weekend.