In a major and very interesting announcement, the Lost Mills, one of Europe’s premiere SUP events, has become the first stand up paddle race in the world to be sanctioned by the International Canoe Federation (ICF), instantly elevating its status at home in Germany while setting up an interesting debate about the future of governing bodies within our sport.
The Lost Mills, which will see its 5th annual edition run from May 26th-28th this year, has established itself as one of Europe’s largest and most elite stand up paddle races over the past few years. The marquee event, held in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria, has been the #1 “most competitive” race in Europe for each of the past three seasons, with the 2015 event scoring 43.5% to rank as the fifth most competitive event worldwide on our Race Index leaderboard.
This year, the Lost Mills will be the headline act on the new-look EuroTour, with the “Battle of Bavaria” forming a European triple header alongside the classic SUP Race Cup in St. Maxime (the week prior to the Lost Mills) and the Bilbao Paddle Challenge in the Basque Country of Spain (the week after).
Former podium finishers at the Lost Mills include a who’s who of the SUP racing world, with the likes of Connor Baxter, Travis Grant, Danny Ching, Titouan Puyo, Chase Kosterlitz, Eric Terrien, Georges Cronsteadt, Casper Steinfath, Sonni Honscheid, Lina Augaitis, Angie Jackson, Fiona Wylde and many more of the world’s top ranked athletes having made the early summer pilgrimage to Germany at least once.
But while the Lost Mills was already well known as one of “the” races in Europe, this new partnership with the ICF will surely give it an elevated status, particularly at home in Germany where canoe/kayak is a big deal.
The International Canoe Federation, which is the official governing body for the sport and manages the canoe/kayak program at the Olympic Games, has a very strong presence in Europe. Canoe and kayak are major sports in many European nations, particularly in Germany and further to the East in places such as Hungary (home to Olympic gold medalist, renowned stand up paddler and Lost Mills veteran Krisztina Zur), while the majority of the estimated 8.5 million canoe/kayakers worldwide (a figure that dwarfs the participation in stand up paddling) reside in Europe.
I spoke with the Lost Mills organisers and they seem very excited about this development, suggesting it could be a big step forward in bringing the related worlds of canoeing and stand up paddling closer together. They also emphasised the significance of the deal, reiterating that the Lost Mills is the first stand up paddle race in the world to be sanctioned by the ICF.
In practical terms, this new partnership won’t really change anything for Lost Mills race itself. It’ll still be the same classic, grueling, 18km long distance event that we all know and love (or hate, depending on whether or not you hit the wall before the finish). There won’t be any new rules, and paddlers won’t have to join the ICF to compete in this year’s Lost Mills event. The deal is simply designed to give one of Europe’s biggest SUP events recognition/promotion from a major international sporting federation.
Though an interesting footnote to this whole Lost Mills/ICF deal will be how it impacts the push to get stand up paddling into the Olympic Games. The International Surfing Association (ISA) has made it their own personal mission to get SUP in the Olympics, and will no doubt raise an eyebrow if the ICF becomes more involved in the sport. It will be interesting to see exactly how much more involved the ICF becomes, and whether or not it has one eye on the Olympic Games itself.
While the ISA has made it clear they plan to be the international governing body for SUP as far as the Olympics are concerned, the Swiss-based ICF is well-established in the Olympic world, having run the canoe/kayak events at every Games since 1936. The ISA, on the other hand, is recognised by the International Olympic Committee but is not yet in the Olympics proper, though they will likely get a seat at the table via the all-but-guaranteed inclusion of surfing on the Tokyo 2020 program.
The Californian-based ISA runs the annual Stand Up Paddleboard World Championship (scheduled this year for Fiji in November), and has also secured a place for stand up paddling in the 2019 PanAm Games, which is a potential stepping-stone for Olympic inclusion. So it could be said the ICF is a little late to the party.
But let’s leave the politics aside for now and simply look forward to the 5th annual edition of Europe’s premiere stand up paddle race.
Who’s going to “Conquer the Lost Mills” this year? Having spoken to most of the world’s top athletes over the past few weeks, I can say the 2016 event is probably going to be the most competitive edition yet, and will surely be a highlight of the Euro Tour (which itself is shaping up to be a great series).
Either way, one thing’s for sure: It’s definitely going to be a great “Summer of SUP” in Europe this year.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article stated the Lost Mills would be held May 28th-30th; the correct dates are May 26th-28th