And just like that, a cold water race on a quiet lake in the middle of the French Alps has become one of the largest stand up paddle events on the planet.
The 2018 edition of the GlaGla Race is going to be huge. The event has already attracted over 450 paddlers, including Molokai hero Travis Grant, and the contest is still 10 days away. There’s an outside chance it’ll hit 500 participants by race day (January 20th), which would put the GlaGla Race in ultra-rarefied territory that only 3 or 4 other events have ever reached.
But no matter what, one thing’s for sure: This event is special. The “GlaGla” is more than just a race, it’s an adventure. One look at the location – the French Alps – will tell you that. Almost all of the participants would classify themselves as amateurs, and there’s virtually no prize money or financial incentive to compete. People simply do it for the fun and the challenge, and at the end of the day isn’t that what SUP racing is all about?
And speaking of challenge: What a great mental test this race is. The GlaGla Race is held on Lake Annecy, which which holds a body of water that can best be described as “f&#$ing freezing!” Most competitors wear dry suits, while the ground at the start/finish line is usually blanketed in a thick layer of fresh snow.
For those who aren’t paddling at 100% race pace and can actually afford to stop, look up and enjoy the scenery, the view is spectacular: Alpine mountains ring the lake in a setting that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Game of Thrones episode. The iconic ski resort of Chamonix is just down the road.
The GlaGla Race is the main event on the season-long “Alpine Lakes Tour” that, as the name suggests, hosts races in some of the highest (and most beautiful) bodies of water in Europe.
I chatted with Travis and asked if he was excited or nervous at the prospect of racing in the freezing cold French Alps, and as always the humble Aussie champion (who now calls the warm waters of Hawaii home) saw nothing but positives:
“I’m actually quite excited to come and race in France in the freezing cold. Really I am. This is definitely not my kind of usual race. I’ll admit i’m very much an ocean guy (and warm water guy haha). But I really want to see what all the fuss is about and also see how I paddle in a dry suit instead of boardshorts (thanks to SupSkin for keeping me warm).
I’m taking my family and we’re staying a week to go skiing and enjoy this beautiful part of the world. That’s what I love about these events that its not just the race, it’s the destination.
Also I’m excited to be on the water with hundreds of paddlers that are just stoked on racing. that’s what makes our sport so special yeah? So please come up and say hi if you see me at the race. And if you have tips on how to actually paddle in 2 degree water please share.
I think we’re also doing a fun little tour paddle on Friday afternoon with the event crew (day before the race) so I’d love to see everyone come down, say hello and share in the adventure of this crazy thing called the GlaGla Race.”
The current world number also three donned the beret (though he was missing the baguette) and recorded this intro vid before jumping on the plane for France.
Trav won’t have it all his own way at the front of the pack though, with several of Euro’s finest, including six-time Italian champ and last year’s runner-up Leo Nika, eager to take down the three-time Molokai champion.
And just to add a little icing on top of this delicious cake, the 2018 GlaGla Race also has the honour of being the first “points race” of Season 2018.
The SUP Racer World Rankings are going to evolve into something fresh (and, dare I say it, pretty exciting) this year, and with that there’s going to be a much bigger emphasis on supporting the amazing grassroots/mass-participation events such as the GlaGla that truly are the core of our sport. You’ll hear a lot more about this next week.
The “GlaGla” (I’ll never get tired of saying that name) is also the first SUP Racer live stream event of the year, with the whole crazy, snow-filled showdown streaming live on our Facebook page on the morning of Saturday January 20 (the long-range forecast is already calling for snow). The main event begins at 10:30am French time (that’s really early in America, sorry, but it’s prime time in Australia and that part of the world — 6:30pm Japan; 7:30pm Saturday QLD; 8:30pm NSW).
Lake Annecy (or Lac d’Annecy if you want to sound like a local) will play host to both a 6km open race and 14km long distance grind, however both events start at the same time to create the amazing sight of 450+ paddlers charging off the line at the same time (see below). If you want to be one of those paddlers, there are still a few spots left over on the registration page. If not, simply tune in to SUP Racer on January 20th for your front row seat.