Just when you thought the SUP racing season might be winding down, BANG!
It looks like the next two days will be the biggest weekend of the year as six international events take centre stage. From Scotland to Sardinia and Osaka to the Alps, let’s call it “Super Saturday” in September (even though one of these events insists on running Sunday).
Here’s what to keep an eye on.
SCOTLAND: Great Glen Challenge
I’ve become addicted to the “ultras” this year.
“The world’s longest races, the world’s biggest adventures,” I like to call them. I find these ultra-marathons so interesting that we’re even building a whole new series on The Paddle League called “The Ultra Paddle League”.
And it seems that September is “ultra month” with five races combining for a total of 1,771 kilometres (or precisely 1,100 miles).
We started September with the non-stop 11 City Tour (205km), continued with the Muskoka River X (223km), the five-day 11 Cities (205km), got a glimpse of the new AL650 race in Alabama (a staggering 1000km plus adventure) and now we find ourselves in the Scottish Highlands for the Great Glen Challenge (“only” 92km).
As if paddling 92km through the Scottish Highlands wasn’t already enough of a story, the Great Glen gives competitors the ultimate bucket list experience of paddling the famous Loch Ness. Even the trophies for this event are fashioned in the form of the famous Loch Ness Monster.
The Great Glen Challenge features a “leisurely” two-day option or the more direct “non-stop,” which begins at 3am Sunday and should finish some time in the late afternoon.
After the bagpipes finish playing, fried Mars Bars, haggis and Scotch whiskey are all on the menu at the after party ;-)
I’ll be there along with “King of the Ultras” Bart de Zwart and 119 other very adventurous paddlers to cover this epic ultra from behind-the-scenes, so tune in to the Insta Stories on @paddleleague over the next 48 hours.
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🏴 ULTRA ALERT 🏴 The Great Glen Challenge is a classic, 92km paddle race through the Scottish highlands happening in September. Competitors paddle from one side of Scotland to the other (literally) including a passage through the iconic Loch Ness. It's long, it's often cold and it's always an adventure! And we're excited to say it will also be part of The Ultra Paddle League — the new platform to help celebrate and promote the world's longest races. The Great Glen is happening September 21 & 22 and you can race in either the "Non-stop" or "Two-day" divisions. The event was already full (with 102 paddlers pre-registering), but the organisers just opened up 18 extra spots to celebrate today's announcement. So be quick if you want to be part of the fun. Swipe up in today's Stories to hit the event page and register 🏴 #greatglenchallenge #paddleleague #ultrapaddleleague
ITALY: Alpine Lakes Tour
What is probably the best “tour” in the world, the awesome Alpine Lakes Tour in the French and Italian Alps, continues this weekend with a new event: The ‘Alpine Paradise Race’ high in the mountains of Italy.
Filled with turquoise blue waters that look like something straight out of a photoshop commercial, the location itself becomes part of the event. Just getting to the start line requires a solid hike, and paddlers even have the option of camping out in one of the alpine refuge huts after the race.
I don’t think any other race series has managed to attract as many paddlers and as much buzz with so little fuss as the Alpine Lakes Tour. The organisers put on about half a dozen races each year that are both cheap to enter and fun to be part of. They’re virtually all bucket list events starting with the grand-daddy of the Alpine Lakes, the mighty GlaGla Race in January.
GREECE: Corinth Canal
The event I like to call the “World’s Straightest SUP Race” returns this weekend.
The Corinth Canal SUP Crossing is an 8km drag race through the steep cliffs of the Corinth Canal, and it’s an event that produces some of the most epic photos ever year as photographers perch themselves on the bridges high above the canal for a virtual drone-like view of the action.
But the novel title of “World’s Straightest” may not be enough for the Corinth Canal SUP Crossing, because this event is fast becoming the “World’s Largest SUP Race” as well.
All 500 spots on the start line have sold out this year, and while it still sits a few hundred behind the behemoth that is the Paris Crossing, Corinth is already on par with the other mega mass-start events such as GlaGla and Chattajack.
Unfortunately the Corinth race is on Sunday, which kind of ruined my whole “Super Saturday” theme, but we’re running with it anyway because it sounds better than “Super Weekend”.
SARDINIA: Open Water Challenge
Could we even find Sardinia on a map? It’s next to Corscia. Yeah, exactly.
But while Sardinia is actually one of the largest islands in Europe, this place seems so far out of the way. The Italian oasis is famed for its beaches and foodie culture, but it’s also home to a small and passionate surfing and paddling community.
Most of the 11 Cities top guns including Bruno Hasulyo, Paolo Marconi and Martino Rogai all jumped on the plane straight to Italy after their week in the canals of Friesland, and they’ll be joined by Olivia Piana and pretty much all of the continent’s top names …except for those who are committed to the Alpine Lakes. Or Greece. Or Scotland. Or Japan. Or China.
You get the point. Busy weekend.
JAPAN: The APP
The APP money tour continues its series of hyped-up, elite-only showcase city SUP festivals this weekend in Osaka, Japan, where a $50k prize purse has attracted a who’s who from the elite racing world for one of the most-competitive events of the year.
Despite the over-hyped nature of APP events being a turn-off for some, this series is essentially the last bastion of a dying breed: a place where “professional” SUP athlete can actually earn some serious prize money.
With the PPGs dying an unceremonious death earlier this year, and the other US-based majors such as Carolina and the Gorge fading in terms of funding, the APP is one of the few series pumping big money (millions per year, by some accounts) into elite racing.
How long it lasts this time is anyone’s guess (the APP was the phoenix that rose from the ashes of the old Stand Up World Series), but there is, at least for now, plenty of money in the bank and plenty of smiles on the faces of the athletes that win the big cash prizes.
Osaka joins the APP’s other elite events in London, New York and the infamous Red Bull Heavy Water in San Francisco.
The Tianfu Greenway SUP open in Chengdu, China is quite possibly the most surreal event of the year. It’s a 6km course consisting of four laps around a little lake in the middle of a city in the middle of a country that’s never been in the middle of the global SUP scene.
But that’s the brave new world we live in.
After the ISA Worlds and now the ICF Worlds looked to China for a host that could afford them, China is on the verge of becoming a mainstay of the SUP racing scene.
We all know that if SUP ever makes the Olympics the Chinese government would pour millions into the sport in hopes of gold, and the groundwork for that distant dream is being laid now as the domestic scene starts to grow and the cash on offer to international athletes starts to swell.
The Tianfu Greenway event is not only putting up about $13k in prize money, the organiser also offered to fly in as many as 20 international athletes. That offer was slightly complicated by “Super Saturday” and the spread of athletes to all four corners of the map, but it’s still very interesting to see money being thrown at the sport from a new corner of the map.
Did I mention Chengdu is nearly a thousand miles from the nearest ocean?
This weekend’s race is also affiliated with the EuroTour just for some added surrealism. Last time I checked, China isn’t actually part of Europe, but let’s not let geography get in the way of a good story.
My good friend Kelly Margetts is one of the athletes on the plane to China, so we’ll get a first-hand account of this bold new event after the weekend.
Check back on Sunday and Monday as results start to drop from Super Saturday