The Ultras…

 


 
There’s something special about ultra-marathon paddling… There’s some kind of feeling you can only get after six or seven hours on the water. Some sort of spirit you can’t generate without a bit of suffering. Tales that can only be told after you’ve paddled beyond the horizon and past your limits.

Whether you do it for the challenge, adventure or simply “fun,” the ultras are so much more than just a race. They’re an experience. They’re a saga. They’re incredible and intolerable, highlights and horrors, mostly memorable and partly miserable… From five days on the canals of Friesland to the freezing-cold rivers of Canada, the “ultras” provide the ultimate test and produce some of the most unreal moments in our sport. And that’s why I love ’em.

SUP Racer is almost 10 years old. It’s been a good innings, but instead of paddling off into the sunset for good, I decided to have a crack at another decade. It’s definitely time for something a little different though, so while it’s been great to watch the sport reawaken I have little interest in going back to the old ways of doing things — we’ve gotta try new methods and share new stories if we want to stay fresh and motivated. So that’s why I’m going to give most of my attention to the ultras from now on: For me, that’s where the most interesting stories in our sport are hidden. The ones that can not only inspire other paddlers but leapfrog outside our little tribe and connect with a wider audience.

I’m going to share something tomorrow that we’re building and that I’m pretty excited about. A little plan for the future 😉 If you’re a fan of the ultras or just love paddling stories, I invite you to follow along and be part of it.

In the meantime, here’s an iconic image from the SUP11-City Tour (with “King of the Ultras” Bart de Zwart leading the way). When it comes to the ultras, the 11 Cities is arguably the grandest of them all — one of the longest-running and *longest* races in the world of stand up paddling. And this photo by Steve West from the 2014 edition has always been one of my Frisian favourites…